As we put a cap on the 2018 high school football season, we here at Outside the Huddle wanted to name who we think were the best in northeast Indiana on the gridiron.

After much deliberation (actually about two minutes), we decided to release two different squads – a “big school” all-area team consisting of players from Classes 4A to 6A and a “small school” team made up of players from 1A to 3A programs.

Today, we unveil the first-ever Outside the Huddle Big School Defense All-Area Team.

DL – Gianini Belizaire, junior, Snider

The junior interior lineman was a beast for the Panthers, leading the team in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (15). Even his foes were quick to credit his ferocity and point out the difficulty in blocking the 6-foot-2, 295-pound monster.

DL – Jayden Elwood, senior, Leo

He was touted as the best defensive player in the NE8 by opposing coaches, and the senior delivered with 25 tackles for loss, seven sacks and QB hurries for the Lions. He also added 36 solo tackles and an INT.

DL – Xavier Ellington, senior, Wayne

While others on the Wayne defensive unit got the pub, Ellington was the silent assassin who arguably was the team’s most disruptive force. The senior notched multiple sacks in three games, including 3.5 sacks in the close loss to Homestead in Week 8. Despite playing in just nine games, Ellington finished with 51 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.

DL – Bam Scott, senior, Snider

The roster listed him as Tavareon Scott, but his nickname “Bam” was applicable due to his play. The senior edge rusher was a frequent visitor to offensive backfields. His quickness around the edge gave linemen trouble all season long. He finished with six sacks and 13 tackles for loss to go with 87 tackles and a defensive touchdown.

LB – Tristan Pernell, senior, Wayne

Pernell’s final year of prep football came to a premature end due to injury prior to the rematch with Bishop Dwenger, but he still made quite the impression. As an outside linebacker for the Generals, Pernell was trusted in a variety of roles, from sealing the edge to covering receivers downfield. He excelled in all of them, accounting for 114 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and a pair of INTs.

LB – Hayden Ellinger, junior, Bishop Dwenger

An ultra-talented Saints linebacker corps had studs across the board, with Ellinger being one of the most disruptive. The 5-11, 210-pound Ellinger wasn’t intimidating many with his frame, but his ability to flow from sideline to sideline and accelerate through a ball carrier was stunning. He finished with 80 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and a sack.

LB – Cam Rogers, junior, Homestead

When watching the Homestead defense, you couldn’t help but zero in on Rogers, who plays with a tenacity rarely matched at the prep level. He rose to the occasion in the big games as well, with four of his five double-digit tackle games coming against Snider (twice), Carroll and Bishop Dwenger. Rogers ended the season with 99 tackles, seven sacks and an INT while also seeing spot time at running back, scoring three times.

DB – Ethan Hoover, senior, Snider

Hoover showcased his importance to the Panthers’ defense not for anything he did on the field, but rather how the defense at times struggled without him. The senior missed four games due to injury in the first half of the season, including the Week 2 game against Carroll that saw the Chargers put up 38 points. Hoover was the director of a Snider defense that improved tremendously when he returned. He finished with 49 tackles and two interceptions.

DB – Cam Shannon, senior, Homestead

Not only was Shannon one of the best cover corners in the area, he also put fear into opponents’ special teams as a return threat. He made 62 tackles and picked off a pair of passes defensively and also took back two kickoffs for scores, one each against Bishop Luers and Snider. He totaled over 730 yards in returns for the year.

DB – Dre Walton, senior, Wayne

Much like teams kicking to a top returner in special teams, it was puzzling that teams continued to throw Walton’s way. He led the SAC in interceptions with six, including two each against South Side and New Haven. He was also an adept tackler, accumulating 61 of them on the year.

DB – Kentrel Thomas, senior, New Haven

It was tough to get a read on Thomas and whether his more effective side of the ball was offense or defense, simply because he excelled on both. His team-high four interceptions came in the first month of the season. As teams schemed away from him, he still affected games by being the Bulldogs’ leading receiver in yards, hauling in 40 catches for 603 yards and six scores.

P – John Paul Filler, senior, Bishop Dwenger

He was one of the unsung heroes of the 4A state title game, consistently getting off good punts in a contest that could have changed on one error in special teams. He averaged over 35 yards per boot, pinning opponents inside their own 20 yard line a dozen times overall.

ATHLETE – Darius Alexander, senior, Wayne

Despite his 6-5, 280-pound frame, Alexander is deceptively nimble, making it difficult for opposing linemen to get good leverage. When he was engaged, Alexander was big enough to push aside or simply bull rush the blocker into the backfield. His defensive repertoire helped him amass 87 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks for the Generals.

ATHLETE – T.J. McGarry, senior, Bishop Dwenger

Rarely seen without a smile on his face off the field, McGarry is all business between the lines. His foot speed ended many an offensive attempt to turn the corner, while his physicality allowed him to get off blocks. He made 90 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and nine sacks defensively, while also rushing the ball for 208 yards and seven touchdowns.

COMING WEDNESDAY: SMALL SCHOOL OFFENSE

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