Making their mark
There’s myriad ways to describe the 2017 area high school football season.
Successful or entertaining might be chief among them. Or maybe even interesting and dramatic. There certainly wasn’t a lack of theatrics or plot lines to follow. After all, four area teams finished with winning records and a pair captured sectional titles.
Michigan City earned its best-ever season since the high school consolidation 22 years ago, claiming sectional and regional crowns, and making it all the way to the semistate with a stalwart 9-4 record.
New Prairie nearly matched the Wolves in the postseason, winning its first sectional in three years, advancing to the regional, and posting an impressive 11-2 mark.
Behind its high-scoring offense, La Porte went 7-4, including 5-2 in the rugged Duneland Conference, and punched its ticket to the sectional final.
La Lumiere earned its second straight winning record, finishing 6-2 and placing third in the Great Lakes Christian Athletic Conference (GLCAC).
Consequently, numerous area football players were worthy of all-area recognition. It wasn’t easy to come up with, however, all are deserving to be named to The News-Dispatch 2017 All-Area Football Team.
N-D ALL-AREA OFFENSE
QB — Michael McCullough, Michigan City
Skinny: The senior playmaker and offensive player of the year was at his best in the postseason, leading City to new heights. For the season, he finished 130 for 254 passing for 2,284 yards and was tabbed All-Duneland Conference. He had 18 passing TDs, compared to 10 interceptions. He amassed 645 yards rushing on 154 carries and scored 10 touchdowns. McCullough was also a reliable punter, meaning he earns that position on this team, too.
RB — Daelon Wren, Michigan City
Skinny: He paced the Wolves with 1,231 yards on 232 attempts on the ground with 12 touchdowns, aiding the program’s magical season. The All-DAC back was fundamental in City’s first-ever sectional and regional titles, helping it come within one win of the coveted state finals.
RB — Drayson Nespo, La Porte
Skinny: He was a staple in the Slicers’ quick-tempo rushing attack, finishing with a team-best 1,585 yards on 229 carries, helping guide them to a fourth straight winning season with a 7-4 record. The senior earned All-DAC accolades and totaled 20 touchdowns on the season, and had eight 100-yard rushing games.
RB — Chase Ketterer, New Prairie
Skinny: A mere sophomore, he was an excellent complement to quarterback Nick Wilson. Ketterer nearly achieved 2,000 yards rushing, amassing 1,978 yards rushing on 205 carries. He averaged 9.6 yards per carry, and tallied a whopping 28 touchdowns on the ground. Plus, he had 107 yards receiving on seven catches with a pair of TDs.
WR — Keyshawn McGill, Michigan City
Skinny: The All-DAC senior racked up 972 yards receiving on 45 catches with seven touchdowns. He was a handful for opposing defenses to contend with, and he was also pivotal in the postseason. He added 145 yards on the ground with four touchdowns.
TE — Kyle Simpkins, La Porte
Skinny: His numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he played in a run-first offense and was a very effective blocker. He finished with 155 yards receiving on eight catches with two touchdowns. He played offensive tackle last season, but moved to tight end this past campaign. Slicers’ coach Dave Sharpe called Simpkins his team’s second-best blocker, and he was tabbed All-DAC.
OL — Jake Thode, La Porte
Skinny: The senior garnered two time All-State honors, to go along with All-DAC accolades, immensely aiding La Porte’s vaunted rushing attack, which amassed an impressive 392 yards rushing per game.
OL — Ryan Stefanko, Michigan City
Skinny: The junior was stalwart in run blocking and pass blocking, immensely helping the Wolves’ explosive offense and their tremendously successful campaign.
OL — Leighton Rodriguez, New Prairie
Skinny: The 6-foot-1, 301-pound senior paved the way for the Cougars’ vaunted rushing attack at left tackle, which totaled nearly 5,200 yards rushing. This All-Northern Indiana Conference player improved dramatically from his sophomore season two years ago.
OL — Josh De St. Jean, La Lumiere
Skinny: He was a primary piece to the Lakers’ offense, which finished with over 200 yards on the ground per contest, lifting the squad to another productive year with a 6-2 record. He earned All-GLCAC honors on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he paced the team with 46 tackles and six tackles for loss in eight games. He registered 22 solo tackles and had one fumble recovery. Next year, he’s attending Yale University and will play offensive tackle for the Bulldogs.
K — Riley Shreve, Michigan City
Skinny: The soccer player was reliable all season in the kicking game, aiding the Wolves’ historic campaign. He made three field goals, including a 37-yarder against Crown Point and a 21-yarder against La Porte in the sectional final, and only missed one extra point all season.
UTIL — Nick Wilson, New Prairie
Skinny: The senior capped his illustrious career with a stellar season. He earned nearly 2,000 yards rushing and compiled 23 touchdowns in the Cougars’ run-oriented offense. Wilson posted 1,978 yards on the ground and averaged 9.6 yards per carry, pacing his team to an 11-2 mark and its first sectional crown since 2014. Through the air, he went 35 for 63, good for a 55 percent completion percentage. He had seven TDs and no interceptions.
N-D ALL-AREA DEFENSE
DL — Hunter Stemmler, La Porte
Skinny: The All-DAC performer notched 36 total tackles, including 17 of the solo variety. He was an anchor of the ‘D’ line and the emotional leader of that unit.
DL — Justin Wozniak, Michigan City
Skinny: He moved to defense roughly halfway through the year, and certainly made his presence felt. The junior tallied 58 tackles, including a ludicrous 18 tackles for loss. He had 38 solo tackles, and led the Wolves with six sacks, even though he didn’t move to that side of the ball until mid-September.
DL — Oscar Potts, Michigan City
Skinny: His numbers aren’t overwhelming, but that’s because he got moved to offensive line roughly halfway through the season due to an injury. Defensively, he finished with 51 total tackles, including 23 solo tackles. He chipped in a fumble recovery. Plus, he excelled on the ‘O’ line to protect McCullough.
DL — Max Mender, New Prairie
Skinny: He totaled 64 tackles and added two tackles for loss, and was a pivotal part of the Cougars’ stalwart defense. He led the team with four fumble recoveries in his last season donning the blue and gold.
LB — Patrick Piesyk, New Prairie
Skinny: The senior had a team-best 85 total tackles, and was the cornerstone of a defense which allowed only 12.4 points per game, including four shutouts. He finished with five tackles for loss with a pair of sacks.
LB — Noah Perez, La Porte
Skinny: The junior was a real difference maker on that side of the ball. He recorded 103 tackles, including 67 solo tackles and a remarkable 13 tackles for loss with a sack. And most of his tackles seemed to come at critical times, helping him be named All-DAC.
LB — Chase Triplett, Michigan City
Skinny: He was a force in the linebacking corp, and a gigantic part of City’s stout defense. The junior guided the team with a whopping 140 tackles, including an impressive 90 solo tackles. He had five tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks, helping him earn All-Duneland Conference honors.
DB — Daniel Tyler, New Prairie
Skinny: The junior amassed 66 total tackles and was instrumental in the Cougars’ stellar defense. That propelled the team to an outstanding 11-win season and sectional crown. He guided the squad with five interceptions, and added a blocked punt. Offensively, he rushed for 187 yards and three TDs and had 189 yards receiving and three scores.
DB — Mason Kaletha, Michigan City
Skinny: The senior defensive player of the year closed his prep career in fantastic fashion, posting 112 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 72 solo tackles. Despite being in the defensive backfield, he had three sacks, too. Plus, this All-DAC player caused four fumbles, had two fumble recoveries, and recorded an interception.
DB — Collin Barker, John Glenn
Skinny: The tall senior strong safety led the team with 100 tackles, including 69 solo tackles. He finished with six tackles for loss, caused two fumbles, had two fumble recoveries, and tacked on an interception. Offensively, he recorded 264 yards receiving with a pair of TDs.
UTIL — Christian Vasquez, Michigan City
Skinny: The All-DAC performer might have shined best in the state tournament. For the campaign, he finished with 110 tackles, 70 of the solo variety. He notched an astonishing 19 tackles for loss, including three sacks. He caused two fumbles and added a fumble recovery as well.
John Glenn — Phil Marek, Cameron Creed, Nate Blodgett. La Lumiere — Laqunn Wilson, Brandon Spangler. La Porte — Nolan Lorenz, Tony Munoz, Tyler Bensz, Selah Brooks. Michigan City — Braden Fiske, Zennon Wilhelm, Kameron Muhammad, Ashton Morrow, Lyric McFarrin. New Prairie — Chris Mays, Cade Boniface, Dan Flaherty. South Central — Jake Osburn, Kyle Schmack, Jackson Meloy, Brad Eaton.