The dust has settled and Blitz is making final preparations for his long hibernation. While you lesser beings are trudging through months of cold, snow and ice, this bear will cozily be sleeping away and looking forward to the 2020 football season.
Before Blitz takes his long rest, how about some season-ending awards? All this week, Blitz will be giving out some awards for each conference in northeast Indiana, and what about one more prediction?
We continue today with the Northeast 8.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: BAILEY PARKER, EAST NOBLE
Is there even a question?
Parker finished the year with over 3,100 yards passing and 39 touchdown passes. He added 1,363 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground for the Knights.
Defensively, he amassed 91 tackles and five interceptions from his safety spot.
Parker was unstoppable for the majority of the season. He torched league foes week after week. His only kryptonite came late in the playoff run, with Parker throwing seven of his 12 interceptions in the final two games.
Parker’s ability to keep defenses honest with his legs was a big factor in his tearing up foes, not to mention his wealth of downfield weapons.
Parker was the most dominant player in the area regardless of league in 2019, period.
HONORABLE MENTION: Peyton Wall, Leo; Landon Miller, DeKalb.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: ELI RILEY, NORWELL
Bailey could easily be the MVP as well, but hey, we need to mix up the awards a little bit. And Blitz makes the rules here, so what he says goes.
While Riley is no stranger to varsity football with his third year of starting at quarterback under his belt, this year he truly emerged as one of the best athletes in the Northeast 8.
A three-sport athlete, Riley took the next step in his development as a QB, helping Norwell to five victories on the year, the most for the program since 2014.
He was arguably more dangerous in the secondary at safety, where he played both the pass and the run with great effectiveness.
“Eli Riley is a stud on both sides of the ball,” one NE8 coach said. “He does so much for that team.”
Without Riley, how many games does Norwell win in 2019?
HONORABLE MENTION: Bailey Parker, East Noble; Greg Bolt, Columbia City.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: JUSTIN MARCELLUS, EAST NOBLE
In 2018, Marcellus carried the ball one single time for three yards behind Kaiden Harshberger.
This year, the junior Marcellus carried the load for the Knights as the top rusher, finishing with 1,120 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes over the course of the year.
But the value of Marcellus goes way beyond rushing yardage. When he left the state finals game against Evansville Central with a shoulder injury, it exposed Bailey Parker to hit after hit from defenders. Marcellus was superb at picking up pressure and putting a block on someone to give Parker extra time in the pocket. Without Marcellus back there, his importance was magnified.
HONORABLE MENTION: Landon Miller, DeKalb; Mason Sheron, Leo; Dre Wright, New Haven; Rowan Zolman, East Noble.
COACH OF THE YEAR: LUKE AMSTUTZ, EAST NOBLE
The Knights have been a football power for some time, but it had been 16 years since the program had won any type of postseason championship.
So for 2019 to see East Noble reach the state championship game for the first time since that 2003 campaign was extremely special. Despite a roster loaded with talent, it took the work of Amstutz and his staff to get everyone on the same page and headed in the right direction.
A tough schedule from the outset with games against Plymouth and Mishawaka did not give the Knights much time in terms of learning on the fly. Instead, Amstutz needed to have his squad ready to go Week 1. He did that and more, leading the program to Lucas Oil Stadium over Thanksgiving weekend.
HONORABLE MENTION: Pete Kempf, DeKalb; Jared Sauder, Leo.
NE8 GAME OF THE YEAR: LEO 3, NORWELL 2
It was the first 3-2 game played in either of the teams’ history and the first such score in the entire state since at least 1994.
This Week 3 matchup between the Lions and Knights was a defensive struggle that was decided on a 31-yard field goal by Carson McCauley with about eight minutes left in regulation.
A 46-yard field goal attempt as time expired prevented Norwell from stealing a 5-3 victory, an odd result in itself.
HONORABLE MENTION: DeKalb 20, Columbia City 17; DeKalb 13, Norwell 9.
BLITZ’S EARLY PREDICTION FOR 2020 NE8 CHAMPION: LEO
East Noble will surely be in the picture in 2020, but Leo brings back some key pieces to an offense that showed some prowess.
Quarterback Jackson Barbour will be a junior and surely ready to take his game to the next level. He will have to develop some more weapons at wide receiver and Peyton Wall will be gone, but there is talent waiting in the wings.
Defensively, lineman Mason Sheron is ready to break out after a solid sophomore year, with Damien Gudakunst an oft-overlooked defensive back.
The Leo v. East Noble showdown could very likely decide the league.
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH