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 tackle the NE8.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ROWAN ZOLMAN, EAST NOBLE
Yes, he missed a handful of games, but when he was on the field and he was healthy, there is no denying that Zolman was the best player on the football field.
The two-way stud made his mark largely at safety, where he picked off nine passes in nine games. He was around the ball nearly every play, the mark of a great instinctual player on top of possessing extreme athleticism. It is easy to point to one or two of East Noble’s losses and say that with Zolman on the field, there was the definite possibility it would have been a different result.
Offensively, Zolman was second to Nick Munson in receptions (26) and yards (484) but scored a team-high 10 receiving touchdowns. ‘
HONORABLE MENTION: Eli Riley, Norwell; Dre Wright, New Haven
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Eli Riley, Norwell
There may have been no greater surprise in the NE8 this year than the 10-win campaign that Norwell put together.
In Blitz’s mind, there is no way the 10-2 campaign happens without Riley, who was huge on both sides of the football.
At quarterback, Riley was one of the most accurate passers in the entire area. He finished with over 1,200 yards passing and over 16 touchdowns. He also finished sixth in the NE8 in rushing at close to 600 yards and 10 scores.
Riley is as physical of a runner as anyone in the conference. Columbia City had serious issues containing him and East Noble’s defense wasn’t able to shut him down.
But Riley did not rest when the Knights were on defense. Instead he amassed 24 tackles and three INTs.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jakar Williams, New Haven; Kaeden Miller, Leo; Greg Bolt, Columbia City; Cole Schupbach, East Noble.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Aden Dennis, Huntington North
The season did not go as planned for the Vikings with a 3-7 campaign, but Dennis did all he could to help the cause in all three facets.
Offensively, the junior went for 953 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns in a scheme that prioritized rushing the football.
Defensively, the defensive end finished with 17 solo tackles, four sacks and a pair of strip fumbles.
Dennis was also one of the top kickers in the NE8, solidifying his spot as one of the top emerging players in a conference that is full of them.
HONORABLE MENTION: Luke Graft, Norwell; Rylan Crawford, Leo; Lane Woodson III, New Haven; Hunter Herron, Columbia City.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Josh Gerber, Norwell
Norwell’s first double-digit win season in 14 years can seemingly out of nowhere.
Yes, the Knights won five games in 2019, but doubling that total seemed like a stretch.
But Norwell had the athletes, the experience and the coaching to drop just a single game in the regular season – a 17-0 shutout at Leo. The most impressive win came in Kendallville in Week 6, a 21-17 come-from-behind victory over East Noble.
Gerber has progressively built a consistent program with Norwell, helped by a extremely good senior class. While coaches like Luke Amstutz and Jared Sauder deserve praise, it is Gerber that stands out.
BEST GAME: NORWELL 21, EAST NOBLE 17, WEEK 6
East Noble got out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter, but Eli Riley led Norwell back for the road victory that turned plenty of heads in the NE8 and the area.
Riley finished 15-of-20 for 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also rushed for 55 yards and a third score, a one-yard run that turned out to be the winning points.
It was a refreshing game in that it saw a team outside of Leo give East Noble a contest. Over the last few years, that has been difficult to do. It was a the marquee win for Norwell during its 10-win campaign.
BLITZ’S TOO EARLY PICK FOR 2021 NE8 CHAMPION: LEO
At this point, can we pick against East Noble
Coach Luke Amstutz’s team will be going for its second NE8 championship in three seasons next year, but Blitz is giving his early edge to the Lions, who will return a lot of its top offensive stalwarts – including quarterback Jackson Barbour, running backs Kaeden Miller and Ethan Crawford and wide receiver Rylan Crawford, along with stud lineman Landen Livingston.
The defense will have some holes to fill, but Tanner Jackson, Carson Hoeppner and a host of defensive backs should be able to lead the way to another solid defensive season.
It comes down to East Noble and Leo in 2021, and Blitz is leaning Lions…for now.
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