BLITZ: 2020 season awards for the NECC

Eastside’s Laban Davis slings a pass during an October 16 game against Angola. (Photo by Steve Bowen/Bowen Arrow Photography)

The dust has settled and Blitz is making final preparations for his long hibernation. While you lesser beings without fur are trudging through months of cold, snow and ice, this bear will cozily be sleeping away and looking forward to the 2021 football season, one we hope is without masks, cancellations and attendance restrictions.

Before Blitz takes his long rest, how about some season-ending awards? All this week, Blitz will be giving out honors in each conference in northeast Indiana, as well as one more prediction – which teams look poised to win conference titles next year as we stand right now.

Today we begin with the NECC.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Laban Davis, Eastside

The top team in the NECC was led by the conference’s best player in the junior Davis.

The quarterback threw for 1,693 yards and 25 touchdowns for the 10-win Blazers. Davis also rushed for 1,270 yards and 16 scores.

A true dual-threat QB, Davis was able to tear up defenses either through the air or in the run game. Even when he was corralled in one area, he usually made up for it in another. In the 56-49 loss to Bishop Luers in sectional play, Davis threw for only 53 yards, but he ran for 234 yards.

Unfortunately for the league, Davis returns as a senior in 2021. Some of his weaponry will be gone, but he will still prevent a big problem for opponents.

HONORABLE MENTION: Cory Lantz, Fairfield; Braxton Pruitt, West Noble; Hunter Bianski, Churubusco.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Cory Lantz, Fairfield

Who had Fairfield as the top team in the NECC Big School Division in 2020?

Not very many.

Lantz was a big reason why. The senior directed the Falcons’ triple-option offense, directing the complicated scheme admirably in his third campaign in the system.

While Lantz did not take to the air much (just 53 attempts for the season), he was pivotal in leading the offense and being a threat to run. He finished with 885 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground, and also added 10 passing scores.

HONORABLE MENTION: Laban Davis, Eastside; Will Hoover, Central Noble; Nick Nondorf, Churubusco.

BREAKOUT PLAYER: Kolin Cope, Garrett

Needing someone to step up in the offensive backfield in 2020, Coach Chris DePew and the Railroaders looked to Cope.

The senior did not disappoint.

After some limited action carrying the ball last year, Cope burst loose for 1,000 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns.

Considering that defenses keyed on the run a lot against Garrett with freshman quarterback Aaden Lytle learning on the fly as the starter, Cope’s numbers were quite impressive.

Cope was also a threat in the kick return game as well.

HONORABLE MENTION: Dax Holman, Eastside; Brandon Villafuerte, Angola; Wyatt Marks, Churubusco; Carson Jacobs, Eastside.

Angola junior Finley Hasselman takes off on a run during a September 18 game against Lakeland. (Photo by Steve Bowen/Bowen Arrow Photography)

COACH OF THE YEAR: Matt Thacker, Fairfield

In just two seasons, Coach Thacker has taken a winless team and turned them into one of the top programs in the NECC.

Fairfield surprisingly rolled through the regular season with an undefeated record for the first time since 2008, capturing the Big School Division title in the process.

Armed with a physical defense and a well-oiled triple option attack offensively, the Falcons were exceptional, with its closest regular-season game decided by 12 points (at Angola).

Thacker took a blue collar squad and turned them into winners in a short time, proving he has what it takes to lead the Falcons to consistent contention.

GAME OF THE YEAR: Central Noble 35, Fremont 34, OT

It is not often that a kicker gets carried off the field, let alone for an extra point.

But that is exactly what happened when Central Noble’s Aiden Dreibelbis, a soccer player, drilled a PAT in overtime following a Will Hoover touchdown run that gave the Cougars a one-point victory and Coach Hayden Kilgore’s first home win.

The game was tied at 28 after the end of regulation. Fremont scored on its initial drive in extra time when Carson Flynn scored from six yards out, but the extra point failed.

That set up Central Noble for the win, and a memorable one at that.

BLITZ’S PICKS TO BE 2021 DIVISION CHAMPIONS: Angola (Big School) and Churubusco (Small School)

It is always tough to predict the future, especially when it is nine or 10 months away, but here we go.

Blitz feels as if Angola has enough talent returning to usurp Fairfield atop the Big Division. The Hornets’ biggest issue in 2020 was their physicality, or lack thereof against some upper-echelon teams. Fairfield pushed Angola around, particularly in the trenches.

If Angola can put in the off-season work to get stronger and tougher, it can ascend to the top above the Falcons.

Meanwhile, Eastside loses a lot in the Small Division but will still have the likes of Laban Davis, Gavin Wallace and Carson Jacobs.

So yes, it is going to take a lot to knock the Blazers off their perch, but we have to make these picks interesting, right?

Churubusco returns nearly its entire team, especially at its proven offensive skill spots and up front. The Eagles showed flashes this past season but couldn’t match up with the likes of Eastside and Fairfield.

Blitz thinks that changes in 2021.

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

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