Even the greatest individual honor in S.C. high school football could not pull Gage Moloney from Rock Hill on Saturday.
Among five finalists selected for this year’s Mr. Football award, the Northwestern quarterback — instead of taking his seat with the group at the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl — was a few hours away, lending a shoulder to grieving teammate Jerry Howard, whose father was killed last week in a tragic act of violence.
“The funeral was today at 2 p.m., and Gage was planning to come here but he is a team player,” said Northwestern defensive coordinator James Martin. “Him and Jerry are very close, just like everyone else is at Northwestern. And Gage wanted to be there beside his best friend, Jerry.
“Jerry said ‘No, go down there.’ But Gage told him ‘ No, I’m not leaving your side,’ opting to miss this to be there for Jerry.”
Painted by coaches and teammates as a winner on and off the field, Moloney was selected as the 2016 recipient of the state’s Mr. Football award. The Northwestern quarterback was chosen over the likes of Wando wide receiver and South Carolina commit OrTre Smith, North Central running back Cedric Cunningham, Broome linebacker D’Marco Jackson and Greer offensive lineman Noah Hannon.
In two years behind center for the Trojans, he threw for 6,709 yards and 71 touchdowns. Last season, he led Northwestern to the Class 4A—Division II title.
“For Gage, this is about what the team is,” Martin said. “Gage wouldn’t be here or be a finalist, or accept the award if it wouldn’t be for his teammates on both sides of the ball or his coaches. He puts a lot of hours in in preparing for a game, his film study every day. … He is highly qualified to get the award, and to get it. So we’re happy to be here today.”
Moloney is the first Northwestern player to earn the Mr. Football award. Previously, three others were finalists for the honor, including quarterbacks Justin Worley and Mason Rudolph, as well as wide receiver Dupree Hart.
“You think about it over the years. Dupree Hart was a finalist … Mason Rudolph was a finalist … Justin Worley was a finalist,” Martin said. “But for Northwestern, people strive to be the best they can be. Gage was able to do that, and was elected by all the committees.
“There was a strong group of applicants, and any of them could have received this award. But I just think from Northwestern’s stand point, it shows where we are as a program and what we want our players to achieve on and off the field.”