HUNTINGTON — Public tackle announcers typically mispronounce Jonny Aya-ay’s title, however for sure they gained’t overlook it.
Pronounced “Eye-uh eye,” the Huntington Excessive Faculty kicker’s title is etched in WVSSAC report books and West Virginia Sports activities Writers Affiliation annals because the 2023 winner of the Fulton Walker Award because the state’s premier particular groups participant.
Aya-ay was as constant as a dawn his senior season, making all 91 of his further level makes an attempt and going 5 for five on subject purpose tries.
“He’s automated,” Highlanders coach Billy Seals mentioned. “Jonny’s the very best kicker within the state. His confidence grew a lot from when he began kicking.”
Going again to his junior season, Aya-ay made 101 consecutive further factors. For his profession, he went 224 for 231 on conversion makes an attempt. Two of the misses have been blocked.
Aya-ay tied the state playoff report for longest subject purpose, 46 yards, sharing the dignity with former Hurricane Excessive and Marshall College standout Billy Malashevich. Aya-ay additionally broke the report for further factors in a season and consecutive made further factors.
“I’m grateful,” Aya-ay mentioned. “I had the very best particular groups unit.”
The late Walker, a former West Virginia College, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Raiders star, probably would have appreciated Aya-ay’s prowess on subject targets and additional factors. As a returner, Walker in all probability wouldn’t have preferred Aya-ay practically a lot, because the Highlanders’ all-stater routinely booted kickoffs into the top zone for touchbacks.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound kicker with a 4.4 grade level common is attracting appreciable faculty consideration. His sister, Sophie, performed soccer at Marshall, which has proven curiosity in Jonny.
The statistics and recruiting consideration are spectacular, particularly for a soccer participant who confirmed little curiosity in soccer till eighth grade when mates prompted him to attempt to kick a soccer by way of the uprights at Huntington Excessive’s Bob Sang Stadium. Kick it he did, precisely again and again from past 30 yards. HHS particular groups coach Bob Watts noticed Aya-ay and coaxed him into popping out for soccer the following season.
Aya-ay didn’t instantly fall in love with the game. He needed to stop as a freshman, however Seals satisfied him to stay it out. Seals and Highlanders’ soccer coach Thomas Warner labored to make sure Aya-ay might play each sports activities. The teenager excelled on the pitch, too, incomes second-team all-state honors this season after scoring two targets and making 5 assists.
Aya-ay helped Huntington Excessive to a state championship in soccer as a junior and to the semifinals as a senior. Aya-ay mentioned Seals, Watts and HHS assistant Cody Carter have been instrumental in serving to him change into the participant he’s.
Aya-ay shall be acknowledged on the 77th annual Victory Awards Dinner on Might 5, 2024 at River Metropolis in Wheeling.
Different gamers who obtained votes for the Walker Award embody Fairmont Senior’s Dylan Ours, Princeton’s Dom Collins, Riverside’s Bryce Inexperienced, John Marshall’s Connor Fitzpatrick and Martinsburg’s Sirod Musgrove.
By TIM STEPHENS/The Herald-Dispatch