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The people have spoken: Nipomo's Nick Kimball voted Player of the Decade after edging Mike McCoy in wild finale
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Player of the Decade

The people have spoken: Nipomo's Nick Kimball voted Player of the Decade after edging Mike McCoy in wild finale

From the Girls Basketball Player of the Decade: We continue the countdown of the area's greatest athletes series

The final round featured nearly 15,000 votes. The winner was decided by fewer than 200.

That winner is Nick Kimball. The former Nipomo High standout has been voted Player of the Decade. 

Kimball finished with 7,457 total votes, 193 ahead of the second-place finisher Mike McCoy, a former Santa Ynez High star. McCoy finished with 7,264 total votes. The two finalists were separated by barely a single percentage point (50.66 to 49.34).

There were tens of thousands of votes cast throughout the contest, which started with 16 candidates -- eight each from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. 

McCoy was voted the Santa Barbara County Player of the Decade. Kimball won the SLO County honor and then the area-wide distinction. 

Kimball and McCoy both were effective in drumming up support throughout the competition despite facing tough odds. Kimball was the No. 8 seed in San Luis Obispo County. McCoy was the No. 5 seed in Santa Barbara County. 

"It was a great experience," Kimball said of the competition. "Getting to compete with the best players the Central Coast has had in the past 10 years, it’s a great honor. It was a fun competition that I got to get all my family and friends involved in.

"When you have the support that I do, it makes things more enjoyable. My family and friends are the reason why I won this thing. The last round was a wild one though, but what is better than a little competition?"

Kimball was nominated after a stellar career at Nipomo High, where he graduated in 2015. Kimball was named the All-Area MVP for his 2014 season with the Titans. That year, Kimball helped lead Nipomo to its first-ever CIF championship. He caught 21 touchdown passes that season. He had a touchdown catch in 11 of the Titans' 14 games. He twice made four receptions for touchdowns in a game, including his five-catch, 197-yard performance in a playoff win at Shadow Hills. Kimball had six games with at least two touchdown catches.

Here's what legendary coach Barney Eames had to say about Johnson as a youngster in 1982: "There's no doubt about it, Eddie's got a lot of potential," Eames told then Times sports writer Joe Dana. "He's definitely a dimension above the average high school back."

He had the game-winning touchdown catch to seal the Titans' CIF title win over Arrowhead Christian. He caught 31 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Nipomo. 

"I look back and think about it all the time," Kimball said of his prep career. "It was a special year with a great team. We made history. We did something that had never been done at our school and we set the bar for years to come.

"I believe that without that group of guys that I played with, I might not have earned the individual accolades that I did. But in the end, this isn’t an individual sport. You need 11 guys on both sides of the ball. You need a team to win, not a few guys."

Kimball played at Hancock College then the University of LaVerne after his Nipomo High days.

McCoy also enjoyed the competition.

"It definitely was a cool experience," McCoy said Tuesday. "It’s cool getting recognized for work that you’ve done. Having friends and family coming together for me to having that recognition meant a lot. However, I have a lot more I want to accomplish in my athletic career so I've got to keep working."

McCoy graduated from Santa Ynez in 2017 and is currently on the Hancock College football team, with three years of eligibility remaining. McCoy earned a nomination after a unique career at Santa Ynez, where he did (literally) everything on the football field.

During his senior year, McCoy was the Pirates' starting quarterback, their top defensive back and also the punter and kicker. McCoy topped 2,500 career passing yards with 23 passing touchdowns, compiled more than 1,000 career rushing yards and 13 scores (with three 95-yard touchdown runs), surpassed 500 career receiving yards with five more TDs and also made 87 tackles on defense while kicking off 103 times with 90 punts for 3,000 yards, 682 kick return yards and another touchdown, an interception return for a touchdown and a record of 81-for-85 on PATs and 9-for-11 on field goals.

"I just love being on the field," McCoy said when asked what his favorite position is. "Back in high school, I would probably say QB, but right now I’m focusing on receiver. I like helping the team out in every way I can so hopefully we will get to see me bouncing from one side of the field to the other doing different jobs again."

The two finalists come from two of the smaller towns on the Central Coast. Still, there's no backing down from a good competition for either one. 

"I believe that I could’ve competed with any of (the finalists)," Kimball said. "They are all great players but I’m not one to stand down from a challenge. Even if I wasn’t given the same opportunities during or even after high school, I still believe that I stack up well with any of the nominees. Nipomo may be small but we aren’t afraid to compete with the best in the area.

"I respect all of their games and I even root for the ones still playing in college and even the pros. I love the Central Coast and all the people that come with it. It was an honor to be put into a category with such great players." 

Said McCoy, "Every player that was considered definitely belongs on that list. However, I know now I have a lot more work to do if that question needs to be asked. I'm just going to stick my nose down and go to work."

The competition featured tens of thousands of votes cast in the four rounds of competition. The final round had over 55,000 pageviews and around 30,000 visitors to the web-page.

The eight SLO County finalists were No. 1 Seth Jacobs (Arroyo Grande); No. 2 Patrick Laird (Mission Prep), No. 3 Bradley Mickey (Arroyo Grande); No. 4 Bailey Gaither (Paso Robles); No. 5 Garrett Owens (Arroyo Grande); No. 6 Matt Albright (Nipomo); No. 7 Emilio Corona (SLO) and No. 8 Kimball.

The eight SB County finalists were No. 1 Toa Taua (Lompoc); No. 2 Lavon Coleman (Lompoc); No. 3 Caleb Thomas (Righett); No. 4 Ainuu Taua (Lompoc); No. 5 McCoy; No. 6 Blake Truhitte (Santa Maria); No. 7 Gabe Prendergast (Santa Ynez) and No. 8 Fenton Will (St. Joseph).

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