By Kris Freeman for White House High School
MURFREESBORO – White House High School quarterback Ranen Blackburn was named a semifinalist for the Tennessee Titans TSSAA Class 3-A Mr. Football Award for the 2021 season.
White House has one previous winner of the award when Ricky Ladd was honored in 2005. Ladd was a two-time nominee his junior and senior year, and won the award during his final campaign. Blackburn joins a long list of other nominees from White House High School but is the first since lineman Blaine Boone in 2008, and lineman Rogers Gaines in 2007.
The award no longer splits linemen and backs, and now has five semifinalists, which are then narrowed to three on Nov. 23rd, and then the winner is announced in a few weeks on Dec. 7th at Nissan Stadium, after the completion of the BlueCross Bowl weekend in Chattanooga.
The Ranen-Ricky Connection
Blackburn is connected to Ladd in more than just the award recognition. Ricky Ladd is the school record holder with 4,430 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns, and Blackburn currently has 4,167 and 46. He needs 264 yards and nine touchdowns to set both records. Ladd played two and half electric seasons for the Blue Devils after coming on early in his sophomore year. The tailback, built like a slot receiver, was a powerful weapon out of the backfield when the Blue Devils advanced undefeated to the Class 4-A semifinals against Memphis Melrose in 2004. But Ladd and the Devils fell short by just six points and he lost the award to a Melrose competitor. In 2005, the Devils were reclassified into Class 3-A and finished second behind Greenbrier in the standings. In the playoffs, Ladd and White House upset the Bobcats in the second round and he subsequently won the school’s first-ever Mr. Football trophy.
But Blackburn is in a class all by himself as a dual threat quarterback for the Blue Devils, becoming the first White House player to pass and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season and together in a career. While playing tailback his sophomore year, he then switched to quarterback.
A Season of Offense
This season, he has 57-of-102 passing for 1,063 yards and seven touchdowns. He has also rushed for 1,276 yards on 145 carries and 17 touchdowns. He leads the team in scoring with 104 points and has also punted 11 times for an average of 37 yards per kick.
The Blue Devils are on pace to surpass the 1998 and 2004 teams as the most prolific in school history. White House is averaging 385.3 yards per game, which would be a school record. The Blue Devils are also averaging a school-best rushing per game and rushing per attempt average.
All this, and Blackburn has a classmate and backfield teammate with over 1,200 yards rushing of his own. Reece McAfee and Ranen Blackburn are the only duo in school history with 1,000 rushing yards in the same season except for DeMarqus Payne and Bryan Dixon in 2007. Also in 2007, White House had Trox Greenwade with 1,000 yards passing. Blackburn and McAfee pulled off the same feat, both rushing for 1,000 yards and Blackburn passing for 1,000 this year.
Blackburn for his career is the school record holder with 21 career 100-yard rushing games. he has 4,167 rushing yards and 1,726 career passing yards with 63 touchdowns. He has rushed for 46, passed for 16, caught one touchdown, and rushed for four two-point conversions to give him 362 career points. Passing touchdowns do not affect point totals or passing yards do not count toward all-purpose yards.
White House is 9-1 overall and won the Region 6-3A championship. The Blue Devils will host Stratford Friday at 7 p.m. at Dewey H. Whitson Stadium.
Competition is Highly-Ranked
The four remaining semifinalists come from schools all competing for the Class 3-A postseason crown come this Friday.
Caden Buckles, the quarterback of top-ranked Alcoa, was the 2020 BlueCross Bowl Most Valuable Player even though a teammate won the Mr. Football Award last year.
Jacob Dooley of Waverly played against Ranen Blackburn at Nissan Stadium when White House won 36-34 on Sept. 16th. Dooley and Blackburn could meet again in week three of the postseason in a game that would be held at White House since the Devils won the first meeting. Waverly has to get through Jackson County and potentially East Nashville first. White House will have to beat Stratford then either Smith County or Fairview.
Jamarion Dowell leads Covington in West Tennessee, expected to be the favorite to compete with Dyersburg for a semifinal spot on the west side of the bracket. Dyersburg won the early meeting but Covington is 8-2.
Loudon’s Keaton Harig will try to lead his team into a clash with Alcoa on the east side. Loudon would be a Cinderella story to get through the Tornadoes.
All five players are from teams ranked in the top 7 of the Associated Press Class 3-A Top 10 poll.
For full information about the Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Awards, see the official release below from the TSSAA:
November 4, 2021
The Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Awards will be presented to the top football players in nine classifications of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. The top kicker in the state, regardless of classification will be recognized with a Mr. Football Award.
Five semifinalists are announced in this release for each classification and the Kicker of the Year category. There are six classifications in Division I and three in Division II. The three finalists for each award will be unveiled by Mike Keith and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel at 8pm ET/7pm CT on Tuesday, November 23. The announcement will be streamed on the Tennessee Titans website and the Titans social/digital channels. The three finalists for each award will be invited to attend the awards luncheon at Nissan Stadium on Dec. 7, where the winner of each award will be announced.
A committee of statewide sports writers selected winners based on performance in the 2021 regular season. Academics and character were also taken into consideration. High school head coaches and members of the media nominated the finalists.
“We are very excited and appreciative about being involved with the Tennessee Titans for the 15thconsecutive year,” stated Bernard Childress, Executive Director of the TSSAA. “They have helped make the recognition of these 50 student-athletes, their families, and schools possible. The sponsorship of the Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Awards and numerous contributions to high schools across the state since the team moved to Tennessee have meant a great deal to the member schools of the TSSAA.”
This is the 37th year that the Mr. Football Awards have been presented to Tennessee’s best high school football players. A Mr. Football trophy will be presented to the winners of each category. A Mr. Football plaque will be presented to the other two finalists in each category. The other semi-finalists will each receive a certificate.
Mike Keith, play-by-play voice of the Tennessee Titans, will emcee the awards presentation. A live videostream of the awards will be provided on the Titans website.
DIVISION I, CLASS 1A
Seth Birchfield, Cloudland
Khalik Ganaway, Peabody
De’Andre Kelly, South Pittsburg
Marquez Taylor, McKenzie
Thomas Wills, McEwen
DIVISION I, CLASS 2A
Cameron Huckabey, Meigs County
Aden Hutcherson, Huntingdon
Cameron Miller, MAHS
Luke Myers, South Greene
Ty Simpson, Westview
DIVISION I, CLASS 3A
Ranen Blackburn, White House
Caden Buckles, Alcoa
Jacob Dooley, Waverly
Jamarion Dowell, Covington
Keaton Harig, Loudon
DIVISION I, CLASS 4A
Bari’On Brown, Pearl Cohn
Shawn Gary, South-Doyle
Mason Gudger, Greeneville
Jaylen Lewis, Haywood
Kaydin Pope, Hardin County
DIVISION I, CLASS 5A
De’Sean Bishop, Karns
Jamarious Brooks, Memphis Central
Malaki Dowell, White County
Walter Nolen III, Powell
Jake McNamara, Page
DIVISION I, CLASS 6A
Jordan James, Oakland
Carson Jones, Maryville
Alex Mitchell, Riverdale
Destin Wade, Summit
Keaten Wade, Summit
DIVISION II, CLASS A
Kameron Boyd, Jackson Christian
Bradford Gaines, DCA
Steele Haynes, USJ
Na’Kelin McAfee, King’s Academy
Joshua Strickland, Jr., Nashville Christian
DIVISION II, CLASS AA
Alexander Broome, Lipscomb Academy
Craig Cunningham, Lausanne
Langston Patterson, CPA
Luther Richesson, Lipscomb Academy
Sean Williams, BGA
DIVISION II, CLASS AAA
Dallan Hayden, Christian Brothers
Kenny Minchey, Pope John Paul II
Levi Moore, Ensworth
Marcel Reed, MBA
William Riddle, McCallie
KICKER OF THE YEAR
Upton Bellenfant, Stewarts Creek
Justus Chadwick, Tullahoma
George Laster, Brentwood Academy
Andrew Southard, Pope John Paul II
Josh Turbyville, Knoxville Catholic