Updated with more information at 7:43 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2019.
Elijah Howard might want to start saving his nickels and dimes now, just in case.
Baylor's junior running back vowed to take his offensive line out to dinner if he wins a Tennessee Titans Mr. Football award, and he is one step closer to that accomplishment.
Howard was named a finalist for the award in Division II-AAA on Tuesday, when South Pittsburg running back/defensive back Ronto Tipton (Class 1A) and Meigs County quarterback Aaron Swafford (2A) also were named finalists in their classifications.
"Any time I ran for more than 200 yards this year, I took my linemen out to eat," Howard said. "Not steaks or anything like that. I don't have that kind of money yet, and I didn't let them pick where we went because that would be like letting your girlfriend take your credit card. But I fed them, and that's what we'll do to celebrate if I win the award.
"It was a great feeling to see my name up there as a finalist, and it showed all the hard work I've put in was being recognized. Baylor put me on more of a platform because I was playing against great competition every week. In the league we play in you have to bring it every week, so it's prepared me more for college."
Howard, who has committed to Tennessee, transferred to Baylor from Knoxville's Webb School last summer and was an electric addition, helping the Red Raiders finish the regular season 9-1 before falling short in last week's DII-AAA quarterfinal round. He finished with 1,422 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns while helping Baylor to its first winning record in three years.
The three finalists in each of the state's nine classifications plus those for the overall kicker award have been invited to attend the Dec. 2 awards luncheon at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, where the winners will be revealed.
Swafford, a Naval Academy commitment who has been a Mr. Football finalist for three consecutive seasons — he won the 2A award last year — this year has rushed for 1,379 yards and 18 touchdowns, thrown for 885 yards and nine scores, made 49 tackles and intercepted four passes. Swafford is 46-5 as the Tigers' starting quarterback since his freshman season, and he has helped Meigs County (11-1) advance to a quarterfinal against visiting Oneida (8-4) on Friday.
Tipton, who missed most of his team's first three games this season, has bounced back to help the top-ranked Pirates average 57 points per game by averaging 16.7 yards per carry while compiling more than 900 total yards. He also has returned two punts for scores — he has averaged 30 yards per punt return — and intercepted two passes.
Tipton has scored touchdown on seven of his 11 playoff carries, averaging almost 19 yards per rush, and is the 17th player in South Pittsburg history to be at least a semifinalist for Mr. Football. The Pirates (11-0) host Gordonsville (5-7) this week with a semifinal spot on the line.
"After missing those first games, I felt like I had to make up for it when I got back out there," Tipton said. "I was sitting in class and saw it when they announced it. I had kind of forgotten it was today, but when I saw my name it was exciting and I'm very grateful to be considered one of the three finalists."
Seven Chattanooga-area players were semifinalists, with McCallie senior quarterback DeAngelo Hardy (DII-AAA), Boyd Buchanan quarterback Eli Morris (DII-AA), Tyner quarterback Martavius Ryals (2A) and East Hamilton's Alen Karajic (overall kicker) not making the list of finalists.
2019 TENNESSEE TITANS MR. FOOTBALL FINALISTS
Hunter Ensley (Huntingdon)
Ronto Tipton (South Pittsburg)
Holden Willis (Greenback)
Cooper Baugus (Peabody)
Aaron Swafford (Meigs County)
Terry Wilkins (Fairley)
Grey Carroll (Alcoa)
Donoven McCallister (Upperman)
James Moore (Stratford)
Tim Courtras (Nolensville)
Will McDonald (Livingston Academy)
Ty Youngblood (Greeneville)
Spencer Briggs (Gallatin)
Ja'Sean Parks (Beech)
Elijah Young (South Doyle)
Bryson Eason (Whitehaven)
Conner Murphy (Blackman)
Lincoln Pare (Houston)
Kevin Davis (Trinity Christian)
Kemari McGowan (MTCS)
Rube Scott Rhea (Fayette Academy)
Austin Hill (ECS)
Dietrick Pennington (ECS)
Nick Semptimphelter (BGA)
Elijah Howard (Baylor)
Jabari Small (Briarcrest)
Omari Thomas (Briarcrest)
Kicker of the Year
Luke Akers (Ravenwood)
Paxton Perry (Brentwood Academy)
Zeke Rankin (Alcoa)