It is a week-plus of postseason awards here at Outside the Huddle.
All this week, we are naming our OTH All-Area Teams, split into small school and big school categories.
Due to some scheduling issues beyond our control, we will name other award winners next week. The week of December 21, we will name our official OTH Player of the Year, OTH Coach of the Year and, for the first time, name the recipient of the Clayten Stuart Award for the player who best exemplifies the qualities of discipline, work ethic and spirit as seen by us here at Outside the Huddle.
Today, we continue the festivities with the best on defense in Classes 4A through 6A.
DL – Iso Robinson, senior, Snider
The senior came back to Fort Wayne for his senior season and followed in his father Jabar’s footsteps, starring for the black and yellow as a Snider Panther.
Robinson missed a few games during the season, but was an anchor along the defensive front. The 6-foot-1, 265-pound lineman was always an issue for O-linemen, particularly when he was able to turn the edge or make a move inside.
The senior finished with 28 tackles, four sacks and a team-high 11 TFL.
Robinson was voted All-SAC First Team.
DL – Trevor Hapner, junior, South Side
Yes, he also ran the ball, caught some passes and punted, but Hapner truly made things happen in 2020 along the defensive line.
While often being the target of double teams, the 6-2, 205-pound Hapner was able to find ways to disrupt the offensive flow. He made an incredible 89 tackles from his defensive end spot, along with nine TFL and five sacks.
He also averaged 37 yards per punt. The junior was voted All-SAC First Team and named to the Class 4A IFCA Junior All-State squad.
DL – John Michael Fabini, senior, Bishop Dwenger
OK, technically an outside linebacker, but Fabini was a menace while coming around the edge when at the line of scrimmage, and it is impossible to place him in just one position.
Point is, Fabini belongs on this list. He led the area with 12.5 sacks to go with 21 TFL and 67 tackles. The senior is a classic example of that Bishop Dwenger kid that looks unassuming out of uniform, but plays above his weight on the field.
Fabini’s instincts were among the best in the league, and when he diagnosed a play, he was quick to get in on the action.
The senior was named All-SAC Second Team and earned Class 5A IFCA Senior All-State recognition.
DL – Landin Markins, senior, Columbia City
Markins is a big dude with a big motor, and he played like it in 2020.
The work done by the two-way lineman was much needed by the Eagles, who actually seemed to have more questions in the physicality department over athleticism for the first time in recent memory.
But Markins delivered, with help from others, to lead a defense that helped Columbia City stay in the NE8 race for most of the season. His tall (6-5), stout (270 pounds) frame was perfect for interior blocking offensively and for punishing blockers in the trenches.
Markins finished the year with 65 tackles, 21 TFL and three sacks. He also recovered a fumble and blocked a punt.
Markins was voted All-NE8 Honorable Mention
DL – Jose Reducindo, senior, Northrop
It isn’t often you see a 270-pound beast kicking off, but that is exactly what Reducindo did for Northrop this season.
But fear not folks, the senior also did plenty of work along the defensive front for the Bruins. Reducindo was one of the best interior linemen in the SAC that got next to no recognition. He finished with 30 tackles and 10 TFL while also contributing four sacks.
Reducindo also was arguably Northrop’s top offensive lineman as well, being named All-SAC Second Team at tackle.
LB – Domanick Moon, junior, Snider
The Division I prospect led the Panthers in tackles with 72 on the year. He also added an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Adept at playing inside and out, Moon has the instincts that are so crucial in a linebacker. He also commands the strength and tenacity to bring down a ball carrier confidently once he diagnoses plays.
Moon will be a cornerstone of the Snider defense in 2021. He was named All-SAC First Team.
LB – Luke Palmer, senior, Homestead
To be a good middle linebacker, one must have the perfect mix of size, strength and natural instincts. Palmer may not have had much of the first at just 190 pounds, but he played far bigger than his listed weight, routinely taking down bigger players than him with relative ease.
Palmer was extremely quick shooting gaps and making plays. He always seemed to make the right read, another attribute that makes a good linebacker.
On the year, Palmer had 113 tackles for the Spartans to go with 15 TFL, three sacks and five passes defensed. He was voted All-SAC First Team.
LB – Lah-Shon Miller, senior, North Side
The North Side defensive unit was much maligned through most of the season, but that didn’t mean it did not have some serious individual talent.
Miller is another versatile linebacker that had the ability to line up inside and out, fast enough for back-side pursuit and also strong enough to shed a block.
For the year, Miller had 108 tackles, 17 TFL and a sack. He was voted All-SAC Second Team and to the Class 5A IFCA Senior All-State squad.
LB – Dre Wright, senior, New Haven
If you were building the perfect linebacker, a lot of the physical and mental aspects of Wright’s games would fit into the profile.
For one, Wright at 6-2, 210 is big, strong and quick. His lateral movement and ability to run sideline to sideline was perhaps unmatched in this part of the state. He never shied away from contact and always finished strong at the point of attack.
Wright led the NE8 in tackles with 96 and was second with 16 TFL. He also picked up four sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. He was voted All-NE8 First Team.
LB – Jacob VanGorder, senior, East Noble
No player in the storied history of East Noble football has more tackles than VanGorder. He once again led the nights in the category with 137 for 2020, including a 19-tackle effort in a win over DeKalb in October. He also added 12 TFL and an INT on the year.
VanGorder refused to be outworked, always fighting through blockers and traffic to get his hands on a play. He went hard from whistle to whistle and was a true difference maker for multiple years for East Noble.
The outside linebacker was voted All-NE8 First Team.
DB – Rowan Zolman, junior, East Noble
When making a case for Zolman for the Most Valuable Player in the area in 2020, it is tough to ignore the facts.
East Noble did not win when Zolman was sitting out or nursing an injury.
When healthy, there is no player than impacted the game on both offense and defense as much as Zolman.
Defensively, he was always around the ball, ready to make a play at the slightest opportunity. He was able to overlook every play from his safety spot and then pursue at full speed.
Offensively, he was one of the top offensive targets in the pass game, finishing with over 500 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.
On defense, Zolman finished with an astounding nine INTs. He was an All-NE8 First Team selection and was voted to the Class 4A IFCA Junior All-State squad.
DB – Rylan Crawford, junior, Leo
If Zolman was the top ball hawk in the NE8, Crawford was not far behind.
The Leo junior ended 2020 with five INTs and emerged as one of the best defensive backs not just in the league, but the entire region.
Offensively, Crawford caught 18 balls for 346 receptions and five TDs. He was voted First Team All-NE8 at the safety spot.
DB – Callan Stauffer, senior, Bishop Dwenger
There was no more underrated defensive back in the region this past season than Stauffer, who finished with an incredible 36 passes defensed for the Saints.
A true lockdown corner, the best came out of Stauffer against the best teams. He was trusted with the toughest assignments and shined week after week.
Stauffer finished the year with 39 tackles, 3.5 TFL, a pair of sacks and three INTs. He was voted All-SAC First Team.
DB – Aaron Greene, senior, Warsaw
The two-way stud for the Tigers directed the offense and also was a key cog in the defense as the program won their first Northern Lakes Conference title in 19 years.
It was Greene who ran for a team-high 176 yards in the sectional victory over Carroll and was the perfect player to run the triple-option attack of “Bart Ball”.
On defense, Greene was exceptional in all facets, which is a tad shocking considering he suffered a ruptured spleen in a collision on the baseball field in his sophomore season left doubts that he would ever play athletics again.
Greene was voted All-NLC and deservedly so.
AT-LARGE – Devon Tippmann, senior, Bishop Dwenger
Coach Jason Garrett likes to talk about the “quintessential Bishop Dwenger player” and that definitely fits Tippmann, who is as versatile as he is valuable.
Tippmann rushed for over 400 yards and 11 scores for the Saints, while also hauling in a touchdown reception.
At his linebacker spot, the senior All-SAC First Team honoree amssed 67 tackles, 13 TFL, four sacks and an INT.
AT-LARGE – Tucker Hasselman, senior, Angola
Many know Hasselman as quarterback of the Hornets, but he is even more impressive as an inside linebacker.
A mix of size and speed allowed Hasselman to fight off blocks and attack through the line of scrimmage, being a serious problem to opposing defensive backs.
Hasselman was voted First Team All-NECC on the defensive side.
AT-LARGE – Tavarious Easley-Jones, senior, Snider
Easley-Jones put in the off-season work to earn the coveted No. 1 jersey at Snider, and that hard work carried over into the 2020 campaign.
With a young team around him learning the ropes, Easley-Jones emerged as one of the steady presences among upperclassmen.
The defensive back accounted for 21 tackles on defense, but he was a big-time menace in the return game. He averaged 37 yards per kickoff return and took two back to the house for scores.
Easley-Jones was voted to the All-SAC Second Team.
AT-LARGE – Hunter Mertz, senior, Carroll
Mertz was one of the toughest defenders in the entire area, able to drop back in coverage, mix it up over the middle or play the edge for the Chargers.
The strength he exhibited was huge for a defensive unit that held its own up front against some of the best teams in the league.
The senior finished with 71 tackles, seven TFL and a sack. He also rushed for five touchdowns.
Mertz was chosen as a First Team All-SAC member and voted by the IFCA to its Class 6A Senior All-State squad.
KICKER – Carson McCauley, senior, Leo
The Jacksonville State commit was a stellar presence at kicker for the Lions all season long. He put half of his kicks in the end zone for touchdowns and broke a pair of school records, including a 71-yard punt. Teams that had difficulty moving the ball against the Leo defense were put in an even more difficult spot when they had to move the length of the field thanks to McCauley.
Overall, McCauley was the most well-rounded kicker in the entire area. He was voted All-NE8 First Team and to the Class 4A IFCA Senior All-State squad.
Special thanks to Leverage Photography, Gary Hale and Steve Bowen for photos provided