It is very rare that a single player is responsible for transforming a program.
Maybe it is indeed a reach, but the case can be made when it comes to Eastside.
Dating back to the program’s first season in 1965, the Blazers had never won 10 or more games in a season. And through its first 54 years of existence, Eastside went without a postseason title of any kind.
Five years ago, along came Coach Todd Mason. Soon after, came a fresh-faced 9th grader at quarterback.
“Laban is a special kid,” said Mason about his quarterback. “I have coached him harder than I have any other human being I have ever coached. There were times his sophomore year I wanted to strangle him, but he learned from it.
The special thing about him is, with all that he could have thought I hated him. But what he finally realized was the reason why I was doing all that stuff was because I love him. And that’s what is special about him.”
Also special was the impact Laban Davis made on Eastside as a program, leading the way to the first two sectionals titles ever and a regional crown this past season.
After a season in which he amassed over 3,900 total yards, Davis was an easy choice for the honor of the OTH 2021 Player of the Year presented by Hupe Insurance.
To be sure, Davis hasn’t always been the all-in guy with the blonde, floppy hair. He was tough to coach at times and expectations did not meet execution, but by the time this season came, Davis was not just one of the best players in the area, he was easily the most valuable to his team.
“Sophomore year I really had no idea what I was doing throwing the ball,” Davis said. “I have learned a lot in terms of reading defenses and where Coach Mason wanted me to go with the ball and knowing what is going to be open.”
Opposing defenses were rarely able to stop Davis in 2021. When he wasn’t slinging it downfield making plays, he was keeping the ball and picking up yardage with his legs. He was consistently one of the toughest to bring down on first contact. He went for at least 200 total yards in every game but two – a Week 2 win over Adams Central and the final game against Andrean in semistate. Even in those two games, Davis was effective, rushing for 82 yards against the Flying Jets and nearly throwing Eastside to the victory in the fourth quarter against the Fighting 59ers.
Davis accounted for 53 total touchdowns in 2021, throwing for over 1,700 yards and rushing for close to 2,200 more. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the state regardless of class.
The future has changed for Eastside football. Coach Mason and Davis are the two reasons why. Postseason success is now an expectation, not just a dream. League championships now go through Butler.
“The standard now is to win conference, that’s a given,” Mason said. “The next step is Lucas Oil. Things have changed and Laban has been a huge part of that.”
Outside the Huddle 2021 Postseason Awards