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Willie Ray Smith Awards honor Southeast Texas high school football players of the year

Two Southeast Texas high school football players were named the best in the area at the Willie Ray Smith Awards banquet.

While two players from Port Arthur and Mid County were finalists for the award, Silsbee defensive lineman Ayden Bell and East Chambers running back Ernest Ceasar came away with the honors on Monday night.

Silsbee’s Ayden Bell wins the Willie Ray Smith Award for best defensive player in Southeast Texas. (Chris Moore/The News)

Nederland linebacker Jaice Beck and Memorial quarterback Jah’mar Sanders were finalists.

Coaches from all across the area nominate an offensive and defensive player. From that list, local media members vote for the finalists.

Bell recorded 95 tackles and six sacks for Silsbee, while Ceasar accounted for 1,683 yards rushing and 33 rushing scores and 39 total touchdowns.

“I want to thank my coaches and my family,” Bell said. “My sister and my mom have been there for me for everything and after everything, they were always there to support me. I just want to thank them.”

Ceasar thanked everyone who voted for him.

Memorial’s Jah’mar Sanders, left, and Nederland’s Jaice Beck were named finalists for the Willie Ray Smith Award.

Sanders and Beck said they were happy to be nominated. Both juniors have a chance to win the award next season.

Sanders led the Titans to the first undefeated regular season in school history. The quarterback rushed for 1,163 yards and passed for 2,057 yards to go along with 37 total touchdowns.

Nederland’s Beck led the Bulldogs defense to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

The junior finished the season with 133 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, six tackles for loss and seven quarterback pressures.

Beck was named to the 5A All-State second team. Both he and Sanders made All District in their respective groups.