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Vote Now: Who is the top returning player in Polk County, Florida for the 2023 season?

We have 20 players for your consideration out of the 863
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Let’s take a closer look at some of the best-returning players in high school football for the 2023 season out of Polk County (Florida).

Our list includes some of the best in the region and players who proved to be invaluable to their teams last season in making key passes, catches, runs, tackles and sacks at the end of the game, being clutch on offense or helping lead the defense as the top player in the county. 

Plenty of worthy names are on this list, so be sure to vote in our poll for who you think will be the top returning player for the upcoming season. Voting will close on August 31st, just in time for the start of the regular season.

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.

Markel Johnson, RB, Lakeland: As a junior on the Class 4S state championship team, Johnson rushed for 662 yards on 84 carries, nine touchdowns. 

D’Marius Rucker, RB, Lakeland: Rucker was the other tailback that did plenty of damage for the Dreadnaughts in 2022. The running back rushed for 940 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. 

Jamar Taylor Jr., WR, Lakeland: Get ready for a big season from Taylor Jr. after a quiet junior campaign. He’s next in line of Lakeland wideouts to have a big season. 

Carlos Mitchell, ATH, Lakeland: Mitchell can do just about everything coming over from Lake Wales to Lakeland. The athlete had over 800 yards receiving and eight interceptions.

Jameson Young, CB, Lakeland: In a loaded secondary from a year ago, Young returns with plenty of high expectations on his shoulders. Young is a Florida International commitment. 

Brayshon Williams, S, Lakeland: Williams is another key piece to an experienced Lakeland secondary. In 2022, Williams was apart of the rotation of defensive backs and is a 4-rated safety by 247Sports. 

Jaydon Williams, FS, Bartow: Williams just transferred from Lake Gibson to Bartow recently and is coming off a strong 2022 campaign. The free safety made 48 tackles and an interception last season. 

Alfred Smothers, RB, Winter Haven: The running back had a stellar 2022 season for the Blue Devils, rushing 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns. Smothers is back as one of the county’s top backs. 

Guiseann Mirtil, ATH, Winter Haven: Mirtil was a force on both sides of the ball for the Blue Devils. In 2022, Mirtil caught 29 passes for 466 yards, six touchdowns along with 44 tackles, 10 for loss and three sacks. 

Joshua Porter, WR, Fort Meade: The USF commitment comes back as one of the Miners top players. Porter in 2022 caught 38 passes for 635 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

Carson Montsdeoca, QB, Fort Meade: Throwing all those passes to Porter was the University of Florida commitment Montsdeoca. Last season for the Miners, Montsdeoca threw for over 1,400 yards, 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions. 

Nate Gabriel, DL, Auburndale: On the defensive line for the Bloodhounds, Gabriel was an absolute menace. Gabriel had over 50 tackles, 26 for loss and seven sacks in 2022. 

Johnquae Richardson, LB, Lake Wales: Richardson returns to the 2022 Class 3S state champions after a season in which he was one of the state’s top tacklers all season long. The linebacker made 163 tackles for the Highlanders. 

Messiah Marlow, LB, Lake Wales: Marlow was another linebacker alongside Richardson that had a big 2022 campaign. The hard hitting backer notched 100 tackles for Lake Wales last fall. 

Rashad Orr, RB, Lake Wales: Orr was at Victory Christian last season and now with Lake Wales after transferring during the offseason. The running back rushed for 1,030 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022. 

Zack Lester, RB/LB, Lakeland Christian: The Vikings have a pretty good defensive unit returning, with Lester being the centerpiece. Lester racked up 84 tackles a year ago. 

Joel Morris, QB, Lake Gibson: Heading into his sophomore season, Morris is primed for a big 2023 campaign and other the Braves. The signal caller already has offers from Ole Miss and UAB. 

Donavan Solomon, RB, Frostproof: Solomon is coming off one of the top statistical seasons for any running back in Polk County. The tailback rushed for 1,476 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Bulldogs in 2022. 

Martell Thomas, LB, Victory Christian: The linebacker comes back to the Storm as one of the club’s top players. Thomas recorded 112 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season. 

Aiden George, QB, Davenport: George orchestrated running the Broncos offense a year ago and could be in store for another big season. Last year, George threw for 1,243 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.