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Vote: Who was North Carolina’s top freshman football player of 2023?

We give you 16 candidates to choose from

The 2023 high school football season is complete and we are going around the East Coast, reflecting on the last few months.

One of the big questions is what newcomers on the scene made the biggest impact to a football program or state even? That’s where freshman that saw extensive playing time come into the mix.

That’s why we ask the question: Who was the top freshman football player of 2023?

We will go state-by-state along the East Coast and once that voting is done, do a final poll including all the freshmen that won going head-to-head. 

We’ve selected 16 worthy candidates and ask you the fan to vote for who you think topped them all.

Voting will end on February 14th, 2024.

Editor’s note: Our corresponding poll is intended to be fun, and we do not set limits on how many times a fan can vote during the competition. This poll is specifically for fans to vote on the players that have been nominated and in no way discredits any other player that may not be mentioned in our poll.

Here are the nominees: 

JaRon Ward, QB, Hendersonville: Ward was solid under center this past fall for the Bearcats as the quarterback completed 94-of-158 passes for 1,357 yards and 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions. 

Tyson Broadway, QB, Southern Durham: Probably one of the most efficient freshman quarterbacks in North Carolina has been Broadway. The freshman signal caller completed 73-of-99 (73 percent) for 1,328 yards, 13 touchdowns to a mere two interceptions. 

Mason Holtzclaw, QB, Christ School: The Christ School freshman quarterback had a nice season in 2023, completing 118-of-236 passes for 14 touchdowns. 

Karvin Magwood, RB, New Bern: The 5-foot-9, 172-pound freshman tailback was hard tackle for opposing defenses in 2023. Magwood this past season has carried the rock 147 times for 948 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. 

Cameron Clem, RB, Murphy: The elusive running back proved to be among the best in the state among sophomores. Clem rushed for 940 yards and scored eight touchdowns. 

Calvin Lacewell, RB, Lakewood: One of the state's top freshman backs when it comes to yards per carry and finding the endzone is Lacewell. The running back rushed for 917 yards on 120 carries (7.6 yards per carry) and has scored 18 touchdowns. 

Otavio Oliveira, WR, Providence: The 5-foot-11, 150-pound wide receiver always was towards the top of the leaderboard for freshmen wideouts. Oliveira caught 41 passes for 672 yards and scored six touchdowns this past season. 

Talik McCollum, WR, Douglas Byrd: McCollum is another talented freshman wide receiver that came onto the scene and performed well this past fall campaign. The Eagles' wide receiver hauled in 22 passes for 481 yards and scored six times. 

Rakem Hammock, WR, Northwest Guilford: The fleet-footed wide receiver was another freshman that stood out in 2023. Hammock hauled in 28 passes for 498 yards and six touchdowns through 11 games. 

Bradley Byrd, LB, Oak Grove: If you're looking for a sure tackling freshman linebacker, you don't have to look any further than Byrd. The freshman linebacker made 151 tackles and eight have gone for a loss. 

Quinton Cypher, LB, Millbrook: Another strong tackler on this list is Cypher for the Wildcats. Cypher is the only other freshman linebacker to total 150 or more tackles and 8.5 have gone for a loss along with 3.5 sacks.

Jordan Hamm, LB, Wilson Prep: No freshman in the Tar Heel state can match what Hamm has done so far as a pass rusher. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker ended up racking up 16 sacks, leading all freshmen.

Judah Harris, DE, Hunt: Harris bolstered the Warriors' front seven in his freshman campaign, with the defensive end tallying seven sacks to go along with 48 tackles and 14 going for a loss. 

Griff Galloway, DL, Providence Day: With the ability to play inside or out for Providence Day, Galloway's size at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds is impressive for a freshman. For the 2023 season, Galloway has tallied 60 tackles, ninr for loss and 8.5 sacks. 

John Archer, DL, Seventy First: The freshman two-way lineman did most of his damage on the defensive side of the ball. Archer tallied 82 tackles, 29 for loss and three sacks. 

Zion Ikeme, DB, A.C. Reynolds: Among all the freshmen seeing time on varsity as a defensive back, Ikeme stood out among them all. The Rockets' defensive back has notched five interceptions, leading all freshmen. 

-- Andy Villamarzo | | @sblivenc