Outside the Huddle and Blitz are counting down who it feels are the top 50 individual players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2020 season.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 40-36.
No. 40: Rowan Zolman, East Noble – Junior, S
If there is one ranking that has the potential to be way off when we review at the end of the season, it is this one.
Zolman was inserted into a starting role last season at the back end of the East Noble defense, a dangerous role for a sophomore. But Zolman rose to the occasion, amassing 83 tackles, five INTs and five forced fumbles from his safety spot. He also saw action on offense, hauling in a trio of TD passes as the Knights advanced to the 4A state title game. There is no doubt that Zolman will be a bigger factor on both sides of the ball in 2020.
Zolman is a year older, stronger and wiser. That’s bad news for NE8 foes who will look to stretch the field vertically over the middle of the field.
COACH’S QUOTE ON ROWAN ZOLMAN
“Rowan may surprise people and at the end of the year, he may be one of the best players around. His offseason growth was crazy and his skill set is impressive. He will be a major headache for defenses as a 6-foot-5 WR, and I believe he is one of the best defensive players I’ve ever coached at safety. I am looking forward to seeing him do big things all over the field this season.” – East Noble coach Luke Amstutz
No. 39: Sean Rice, Homestead – Senior, OL
Homestead has become as much of a factory of offensive linemen in recent years as Bishop Dwenger. The Spartans’ front is consistently big, tough and physical.
Rice fits that mold, all 6-3, 325 pounds of him. This season should also see a refined Rice at the guard spot, as he dropped 35 pounds in the offseason. This will surely help his first step and his balance.
COACH’S QUOTE ON SEAN RICE
“Sean has developed into a physical, disciplined and technically sound offensive lineman. We expect big things from him this year.” – Homestead coach Chad Zolman
No. 38: Brady Parker, Homestead – Senior, OL
Remember when we pointed out Homestead’s development of offensive linemen above? Yeah, Parker in this spot just reinforces that point.
While not as physically imposing as Rice, Parker at 6-1, 270 is still a load to deal with. His versatility allows him to line up at both guard and tackle, and his strength cannot be overestimated.
Parker was named First Team All-SAC a year ago for a reason. He can open up holes for running backs and is also adept in pass blocking situations.
COACH’S QUOTE ON BRADY PARKER
“Brady is smart, athletic, physical and a veteran on the offensive line. We expect great things from him.” – Homestead coach Chad Zolman
No. 37: Blake Heyerly, Adams Central – Junior, FB/LB
Quoting an ACAC coach, “Heyerly is the best player in the area that nobody in Fort Wayne knows about.”
It can be tough in Adams County to show out and turn heads in Fort Wayne, but Heyerly is the real deal. He led the Flying Jets in rushing attempts (270), rushing yards 1,510 and rushing touchdowns (15) in 2019, showcasing himself as an offensive force.
Defensively, he was arguably even better, amassing a team-high 143 tackles, 3.5 TFL and three INTs. He even held down punting duties for AC.
All the above was accomplished as a SOPHOMORE. That’s scary news for the ACAC.
COACH’S QUOTE ON BLAKE HEYERLY
“Blake is a great kid who blossomed into a great fullback and linebacker for us last season. I am expecting great things from him again this year! He is a tough player and a great leader – how he goes is really how this team goes. If he struggles, we will struggle – he is that important to this team.” – Adams Central coach Michael Mosser
No. 36: DJ Allen, Leo – Junior, TE/DE
At 6-6 and 215 pounds, Allen is a masterful talent in the post on the basketball court, but he is a true mismatch on the football field, streaking across the field as a tight end.
Just how good was Allen in 2019? He was one of just three sophomores to make First Team All-NE8 – the other two being teammates Mason Sheron and Landen Livingston.
Allen gives the Lions something that not many teams are able to tout in this day of football – a sure-handed, bulky receiver who can create mismatches with linebackers and out-physical defensive backs.
But his greatest asset for Leo could be on the edge of the defense. Last year, he tallied 24 tackles, seven TFL, six QB hurries and four sacks.
COACH’S QUOTE ON D.J. ALLEN
“D.J. is one of the best two-way players we have had the past couple of seasons. He is a player with an outstanding motor and work ethic. With a year of varsity experience under his belt we look for him to be a leader of our defense at the defensive end position.” – Leo coach Jared Sauder
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