This is about the time of the year where, for many teams, we are just playing out the string.
Yes, there are some conferences still looking to crown champions, but by and large, the majority of teams are just trying to prep for the playoffs.
So instead of gushing about the same old guys, Blitz thought he would give a tip of his muzzle to the unsung heroes of each team in this week’s top 10.
1. BISHOP LUERS – Brendan Mitchell and Billy O’Connor
Manning the guard spots on the offensive line, seniors Mitchell and O’Connor have been clutch for the Knights.
The duo are not going to scare anyone with their size, but they play strong, confident and with sound technique with some nastiness mixed in.
With not a lot in terms of depth, both are counted on to be on the field consistently and asked to throw any kind of block imaginable depending on the play call.
The skill studs get the love, but guys like Mitchell and O’Connor make it all happen.
2. LEO – Gunnar Stuckey
Lost in the discussion of the overwhelming physicality of the offensive front and a dominant rushing attack is Leo’s defense, a unit allowed just 13 points per game.
Anchoring the defensive front is the senior Stuckey, who specializes in baseball but at 6-foot, 200 pounds is the perfect size to be both physical and nimble depending on the situation.
Stuckey leads the Lions in tackles for loss with seven and is one of the best in that category among linemen in the Northeast 8. Mason Sheron, Landen Livingston and D.J. Allen get a lot of praise for their work on both sides of the football, but up front on defense, Stuckey is just as important as that trio.
3. CARROLL – Tucker Steely
Jeffrey Becker and the Carroll offense deserve their fair share of credit for a team that has won six of its first seven games, but the resurgent defense has allowed the Chargers to make the leap to SAC title contention.
Steely is one of the top playmakers on the Carroll D. From his outside linebacker spot, the senior has amassed 32 tackles, 11 TFLs, four sacks, five(!) forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He is relentless on the pursuit and wins his fair share of battles up front when sealing the edge but is also adept at dropping back to take away the short passing game.
4. SNIDER – The field goal team
Yeah, that’s right. No single player here for the Panthers. Instead we are going with the guys on special teams, particularly the field goal team.
Twice this season, the Panthers have needed Nick Talamantes to step up big with long field goals – first in the final seconds in Week 1 against North Side, then in the fourth quarter against Homestead in Week 4. Talamantes hit both in victories in which he was responsible for the winning points.
But it wasn’t just Talamantes. Snappers Matt Neraasen and Caleb Hurt and holder Jerome Robinson also deserve credit for executing flawlessly, as well as the offensive front for protection. Another kicker, Brian Peterson, has also been handling some important duties as a sophomore.
Without some big field goals, the Panthers are not sitting in a position in which they control their own destiny in the SAC.
5. WARSAW – Jayce Sawyer
Julius Jones is 1A in terms of top playmakers for the Tigers offensively, but Sawyer at fullback is likely 1B.
While Jones is the guy who can run away from people and make a move in space, Sawyer is the bruiser who is the first option on every play with a fullback dive play. He is deceptively quick and is so good getting to the second and third levels of defenses.
Warsaw’s offensive scheme forces you to respect a multitude of potential ball carriers. That’s made even worse when those players are ultra-talented.
6. HOMESTEAD – Jackson Christmon
Still only a junior, Christmon still has plenty of time to get better, and that is bad news for opposing offensives.
From his defensive tackle spot, Christman is an absolute menace. He leads the Spartans in both tackles for loss with eight and sacks with six. Despite having three losses, Homestead’s defense has been stout against the likes of Carroll, Snider and Bishop Dwenger. Christmon is a prime reason for that.
7. BISHOP DWENGER – Henry O’Keefe
O’Keefe has always been that forgotten guy a bit because he is so…plain. It’s not a knock, it’s just that O’Keefe goes about his business with a very business-like approach.
But there is no doubt the kid can play. He totalled over 900 yards of total offense a year ago and has developed into one of Bishop Dwenger’s primary pass catchers over the past two seasons.
While a lot of the attention goes to Rocco Ciocca, O’Keefe is quite the complementary piece to the Saints’ offense.
8. EASTSIDE – Dax Holman
While there is plenty of love given to Laban Davis (and for good reason), Blitz loves the game (and mullet) of Holman. He plays with a little bit of swagger coupled with an intense ferocity on both sides of the football.
Holman is a huge piece offensively in the backfield but where he really drives opponents nuts is on defense. He is in on almost every play and sits third in tackles for the Blazers.
9. NORWELL – Kyle Zeddis
The two-way lineman has been an anchor on both sides for the Knights. Brody Bolyn gets a lot of praise, but he isn’t a one-man show up front.
Zeddis at 6-foot, 220 pounds is a punishing force in the trenches. he works hard on his craft on both sides and is as hard-nosed as they come in the NE8.
Norwell’s junior class is loaded with talent with the likes of Bolyn and Luke Graft. Zeddis is just as big of a prize in the Class of 2023.
10. EAST NOBLE – Nolan Rhoades
With both inside linebacker spots vacant due to graduation, East Noble turned to Rhoades to move inside and take command.
He has already equaled last year’s tackle mark and is described as a “tackling machine” by head coach Luke Amstutz.
The Knights have needed new faces to emerge on defense, particularly in the front seven. The senior Rhoades has done just that.
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