Outside the Huddle and Blitz are counting down who they feel are the top 50 players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2022 season.
Today, we continue unveiling the best players in the area with positions No. 40-36.
No. 40: OL Collin Butler, senior, Leo
You know what’s a tougher sport than football? Rugby.
Butler plays both, a testament to how physical and rugged the senior lineman is.
While big bodies Landen Livingston, D.J. Allen and Sam Htoo have all moved on, Leo has some pieces back up front for 2022. One of those is Butler, who was a Second Team All-NE8 selection a year ago.
At 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, Butler can handle the rigors of the trenches in football, and the scrum in rugby for that matter. He is also deceptively athletic and quick-footed, attributes that serve him well in both sports.
As Leo transitions to a new regime, Butler will be key to provide blocking for what will be a new-look Lions offense.
COACH’S QUOTE ON COLLIN BUTLER
“We are counting on Collin to be one of our anchors on the offensive line. He is one of two returning starters on the OL and we will rely on his leadership and experience with that group. Collin is very athletic and has great feet for his size. He is great in pass protection and also very physical in the run game.” – Leo coach Jason Doerffler
No. 39: S Jorge Valdes, senior, Carroll
Valdes has been patrolling the back end of the Carroll defense for several years, and enters the 2022 season as one of the best safeties in the area.
A high-IQ kid with an incessant motor whether he is playing the pass or run, the Chargers’ defense is in good hands in the secondary with Valdes. His speed enables him to get to either side of the field quickly when needed, and his eye for the ball led to a pair of interceptions and eight passes defensed in 2021.
Having a player that can recognize things pre-snap and adjust the defense accordingly are rare at the prep level. Valdes fits the bill.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JORGE VALDES
“Jorge is the quarterback on our side of the ball. He has a great understanding of our scheme and makes all our coverage and check calls. He has all the physical tools to be a gamechanger for us, both against the run and the pass.” – Carroll defensive coordinator Joe Rudolph
No. 38: RB Jontae Lambert, senior, North Side
As a running back, when it comes to making defenders miss, you either got it or you don’t.
Lambert sure has it.
The senior rushed for over 700 yards and seven touchdowns in just six games in 2021, averaging over 117 yards per game and close to six yards PER RUSH for the Legends.
If Lambert can’t make you miss, he isn’t afraid to lower the shoulder and initiate contact. For that, North inserts Lambert on defense when needed due to his determination and desire.
A true three-way guy, Lambert also serves as one of the Legends’ top returners. When partnered with Brauntae Johnson in the return game, opponents must pick their poison and kick to one of em.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JONTAE LAMBERT
“Jontae is a very special player. He is a do-it-all running back. One of the hardest workers on our team. He can run you over in the hole and shake you in a phone booth. He can line up at slot and catch the ball out of the backfield. A true 4.45 guy. If we need him on defense, we can plug him in at any position and he will be productive. He will be a dangerous returner as well. We are expecting him to a dominant senior season.” – North Side coach Ben Johnson
No. 37: WR Jayden Schmenk, senior, Northrop
Utilizing exceptional athletes can be tough. After all, where is a player valued the most? Where can he deliver the most impact on the game?
Schmenk is one of those players who is hard to assign a particular role. He is a big play waiting to happen in the passing game, but he can also deliver through the air, evidenced by his two passes for touchdowns in 2021. He also averaged close to eight yards a carry last season, and added an interception on defense because, of course he did.
As Northrop transitions to Coach Quentin Bowen’s style, look for Schmenk’s talent to be maximized, wherever that may be. He is a true game changer in the SAC.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JAYDEN SCHMENK
“Jayden is a great athlete. A lovable kid who works hard and will do anything you ask him to do.” – Northrop coach Quentin Bowen
No. 36: LB/K/P Nick Talamantes, senior, Snider
Talamantes made a name for himself in Week 1 last season when he nailed a 47-yard field goal as time expired as the Panthers knocked off North Side. He served as Snider’s long-range kicker all year, hitting a trio of field goals.
But Talamantes is also a darn good linebacker and will be one of Snider’s leaders at the middle level of the defense in 2022.
Talamantes will also handle the punting duties again after averaging over 36 yards per boot last year and being voted Class 5A Junior All-State.
COACH’S QUOTE ON NICK TALAMANTES
“Nick is a unique player for us in that he is a linebacker for us on defense but then does all of our kicking and punting duties. He has one of the strongest legs we have seen in recent years. He’s been a tremendous weapon for us in the kicking game and gives us a big advantage over our opponents. He works extremely hard at both roles.” – Snider coach Kurt Tippmann