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.
So far this week, we named our official OTH Coach of the Year in Eastside’s Todd Mason and, for the second time, named 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: Mason Sheron of Leo.
Today, we continue the festivities with the best on defense in Classes 1A through 3A with our fourth annual Outside the Huddle Prep Football All-Area team.
DL – Hunter Bianski, senior, Churubusco
For seemingly a decade, Bianski has been a mainstay for the Eagles up front on both sides of the ball. But after a storied career, the senior’s final effort on the gridiron in 2021 was sublime.
Bianski finished the season with 102 tackles, 29 TFL and four sacks. He was consistently a menace to opposing offenses look to control the line of scrimmage. He was also a specialist when it came to blocking kicks – getting his hands on three punts and three field goal attempts during the season.
Bianski was voted First Team All-NECC and to the Class 1A Senior All-State squad.
DL – Dakota Reed, junior, Eastside
Something lost in all of the Laban Davis love (all earned, mind you) was the fact that the Eastside defense was exceptionally dominant in 2021.
It came up with big stops in close wins over Adams Central, Churubusco, Bishop Luers and Eastbrook over the course of the year. And Reed was a big part of all four.
The junior was a constant along the defensive front for the Blazers, finishing with 88 tackles, nine TFL and three sacks. While the stats weren’t tremendously gaudy, he ate up blockers to free Eastside linebackers to roam free and make plays.
Reed will be a cornerstone of the Blazers defense in 2022.
DL – Jordan Hinshaw, senior, South Adams
Another double-digit win campaign in Berne was a lot of hard work from some new faces to the lineup.
Someone who was familiar was Hinshaw, whose lean but strong physique allowed him to be spry enough on the edge defensively but strong enough to fight through blocks.
The senior two-way player concluded 2021 with 62 tackles, 15 TFL, six sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries.
Offensively, Hinshaw was one of South Adams’ top receivers, bringing in 26 receptions for 357 yards and three scores.
Hinshaw was named All-ACAC First Team and voted to the Class 1A Senior All-State team.
DL – Larry Schoenefeld, senior, Concordia Lutheran
Oft forgotten in the SAC, Concordia Lutheran’s defense had some absolute studs.
One of those was Schoenefeld, who had the ability to be a menace to offenses, as he was in the Cadets’ final game of the season against Norwell, picking up 13 tackles and a pair of sacks.
But Schoenefeld showed out all season long. Despite being limited to eight games, he amassed 41 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 6.5 sacks.
The senior picked up All-SAC Honorable Mention honors.
LB – Evan Linker, senior, Bishop Luers
There is no question that Bishop Luers was stout on both sides of the ball on their way to a share of the SAC title and a long undefeated run.
Linker registered a career high 85 tackles, leading the co-SAC champions in that category by more than 30 over the next highest Knights defensive player. Among those tackles, Linker had 53 solo tackles which was also tops among all Bishop Luers players.
8.5 of Linker’s tackles were for a loss while he also added a forced fumble, a sack, a punt block, a blocked field goal and picked off a pass against Homestead.
Linker was a second team All-SAC selection.
LB – Keegan Bluhm, sophomore, Adams Central
You need only look at the 1A State Championship Game to see just how valuable Bluhm was to AC.
When Bluhm left the game with a hand injury in the first half, it opened up the middle of the defense to Indianapolis Lutheran’s offensive attack. Time and again plays were made by the offense that would have been halted by Bluhm and his athleticism.
Despite just a sophomore, you could make the case that Bluhm was AC’s most important player on the defensive side of the ball. He was second on the team with 105 tackles, tops with 16 TFL and led all Flying Jets with 3.5 sacks.
Bluhm was one of just two 10th graders to be named All-ACAC First Team and was named to the Class 1A Junior All-State team by the IFCA.
LB – Blake Heyerly, senior, Adams Central
Bluhm’s compatriot at the middle level of the defense, Heyerly has been a beast for the Flying Jets for years. His 2021 season was definitely the apex of his prep career.
The senior led the Flying Jets in tackles with over 130 to go with 5.5 sacks, three INTs, two sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries.
Offensively, he was Adams Central’s leading rusher, rushing for nearly 1,500 yards to go with 27 touchdowns, including three rushing scores in the state title game.
Heyerly was named to the Class 1A Senior All-State team as well as All-ACAC First Team.
LB – James Rusher, junior, Concordia Lutheran
In terms of pursuit and finishing plays, there may be no one better at the small school level in the area than Rusher.
A multi-faceted athlete, Rusher frequently tangled with bigger blockers on the fields of the SAC, but was able to win a fair amount of battles. He finished the season with 56 tackles, seven TFL, four fumble recoveries, two INTs and 1.5 sacks.
Rusher also contributed offensively, catching 16 passes for 245 yards. He was named to the Class 3A Junior All-State team.
DB – Nick Thompson, junior, Bishop Luers
There are few athletes who are as smooth as Thompson, who filled a variety of roles for the Knights in his junior campaign.
It is easy to see why FBS schools are sniffing around Thompson, who can affect the game in a variety of ways.
The junior was incredible dangerous as a return man, averaging 32.5 yards per kickoff in 2021. He also hauled in 119 yards receiving and a score.
But it was defensively where Thompson was truly impactful. One of the top cover corners in the area, Thompson finished the season with four interceptions and four passes defensed. Not factored in are the lockdowns of receivers in which quarterbacks didn’t even look at his side of the field.
Thompson added 44 tackles and three tackles for loss over the course of the season. He was voted All-SAC First Team and a Class 2A Junior All-State squad member.
DB – Jon Colbert, junior, Norwell
Luke Graft is sensational, but Norwell has a 1B in the offensive and defensive backfield with Colbert.
A great safety who can set up deep but also come up and play the run, Colbert finished with 47 tackles to go with a pair of TFL and two interceptions, scoring a TD on one of those returns.
On offense, Colbert was the Knights’ second 1,000-yard rusher in addition to Graft, going for 1,044 yards and eight TDs.
The embarrassment of riches in Norwell’s Class of 2023 includes Colbert, who was voted First Team All-NE8.
DB – Trey Richards, senior, Garrett
A baseball player by trade, Richards was an impactful athlete for the Railroaders on both sides of the ball in 2021.
From his free safety spot, Richards was a tackling machine, finishing the season with 120 of them to go with two TFL, two INTs, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
He also brought some big-play ability to the offense, hauling in 37 receptions for 423 yards and four touchdowns.
Richards was voted All-NECC First Team and to the Class 3A Senior All-State Team announced by the IFCA.
DB – Nick Nondorf, senior, Churubusco
Another two-way stud at the small school level, Nondorf made a difference on both sides of the ball for the Eagles.
From his safety spot, Nondorf was able to diagnose plays as quick as anyone around. His closing speed and finishing ability were some of the best in the NECC. He finished with 50 tackles, a pair of INTs, a caused fumble and a fumble recovery.
On offense, Nondorf was utilized any way that Coach Paul Sade could get him the ball – rushing for 464 yards and four TDs and hauling in 26 receptions for 488 yards and six scores. He also saw integral spot duty on special teams in the return and punt games.
Nondorf was voted First Team All-NECC and to the Class 1A Senior All-State squad.
AT-LARGE – Dax Holman, junior, Eastside
Sometimes, it is good to be annoying.
Holman is definitely that on the football field, around the ball on seemingly every play and doing the small things that endear himself to his teammates and fans but make opponents perturbed.
On defense, Holman was relentless, accumulating 86 tackles, 12 TFL and 3.5 sacks. He never hesitated to put himself in the thick of the action.
Offensively, he enjoyed nothing more than bowling over an opposing defender, carrying the ball 139 times for 868 yards and 14 TDs. He even came through in the pass game, catching 10 passes for 172 yards and four scores.
Holman was named All-NECC First Team and to the Class 2A Senior All-State squad despite being just a junior.
AT-LARGE – Joe Reidy, senior, Woodlan
While known more for his basketball prowess, it is that length and height that gave Reidy a definite advantage over opposing players.
Defensively, Reidy was one of the top guys in the trenches in getting penetration, setting the edge and not allowing ballhandlers to kick a play outside.
Offensively, he was a threat downfield on every snap due to his size and deceptive quickness, which could catch linebackers off guard.
Reidy was voted All-ACAC First Team.
P – Riley Buroff, junior, Churubusco
Who says a quarterback is a one-trick pony?
Buroff accumulated over 1,200 yards of total offense for the Eagles in 2021, but was also their best option at punter, where he averaged over 38 yards per boot, including six which were downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
The junior also saw action on defense with 13 tackles and three INTs, including a pair of picks against Central Noble.
Offensively, Buroff threw for 752 yards, rushed for 475 more and accounted for 18 total touchdowns.
The junior was voted First Team All-NECC.