Before we get to the Outside the Huddle All-Area Team and our end-of-year awards, Blitz wanted to take some time and take a last glance at area conferences and hand out some league-specific hardware.
The last league up is the SAC.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JONTAE LAMBERT, NORTH SIDE
You can make an argument that other players have more talent or a higher ceiling, but no football player in the SAC was better week in and week out than Lambert.
The dynamic running back hit the ground running with a 133-yard, one touchdown effort against Snider in Week 1 and the senior’s game only continued to blossom from there.
Equal parts speed and physicality allowed Lambert to be a pain in the side of every team that North Side faced. In 11 games, he went over 100 yards nine times. He eclipsed the 200-yard mark in seven games and torched Homestead for 305 yards and a pair of scores on 26 carries in Week 6.
Lambert finished the 2022 campaign averaging 9.8 yards PER CARRY, with 2,257 yards and 17 touchdowns on 230 carries. He added 231 yards and a pair of scores receiving.
HONORABLE MENTION: C.J. Davis, Bishop Dwenger
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: LAMARION NELSON, WAYNE
Some will scoff at making a player from a two-win team the league’s MVP, but hear Blitz out.
Everyone knew that Wayne was running the football. Even with the emergence of QB Christian Trimble late in the season, the Generals were a rushing team first and foremost.
Yet Nelson was able to pile up yardage again and again. He went for 204 yards against Bishop Dwenger, 122 yards against Homestead, 190 yards and a pair of scores in the sectional against Columbia City and an astounding 427-yard, seven-score performance against South Side.
A power runner who never seemed to tire, Nelson carried the ball 20 or more times in eight games, going over the 30-carry mark on four different occasions.
Nelson finished the year with 1,601 yards and 16 touchdowns on 254 touches.
HONORABLE MENTION: Kamari Juarez, Snider; Brayden Steely, Carroll; Bohde Dickerson, North Side; Jimmy Sullivan, Carroll
BREAKOUT PLAYER: JIMMY SULLIVAN, CARROLL
To say that Sullivan was entering a difficult situation at Carroll is an understatement. He transferred late in the summer to Carroll, having to get acclimated to scheme and teammates in short order. He also stepped in to the QB1 spot vacated when Owen Scheele passed away in June.
But the sophomore handled every high-pressure moment on and off the field with incredible maturity. He settled in and led the Chargers offense to the Class 6A state championship game, throwing for 2,203 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also kept defenses honest with his legs, scrambling for nine touchdowns over the course of the year.
As good as the Carroll defense was, the success the team had in 2022 doesn’t happen without Sullivan.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ajani Washington, Concordia Lutheran; Grant Leeper, Homestead; Lukas Rohrbacher, Snider; Nate Starks, Carroll
COACH OF THE YEAR: DOUG DINAN, CARROLL
It is crazy how perception can change over the course of a few short weeks.
Despite capturing the SAC championship for the second-straight season, this time the outright, undefeated champ, it was incredibly difficult to envision a scenario in which Carroll could navigate Class 6A in the postseason. After all, no team from northeast Indiana in the near-decade of existence of the class had won a regional, let alone a state title.
But the Chargers changed how this area looks at 6A with its run to the state championship game, ousting the likes of Penn and Lafayette Jeff before shocking many when it defeated top-ranked Hamilton Southeastern in the semistate.
Many credit the kids at Carroll, and for good reason, but Coach Dinan expertly navigated this program through the highs and lows of 2022 on and off the field.
HONORABLE MENTION: Kurt Tippmann, Snider; Ben Johnson, North Side
GAME OF THE YEAR: Carroll 28, Snider 21, Week 2
The home opener for Carroll was emotional, as it was the night that Charger Nation honored the late Owen Scheele. There were plenty of emotions during the pre-game and the start of the contest saw Carroll begin with just 10 players on the field to remember No. 13, which resulted in a penalty that Snider declined.
The sentiments fueled the players, who played a thrilled four quarters that ended with a Chargers win, firmly placing them at the top of the SAC race. It was a position they would not relinquish all season.
EARLY PICK FOR 2023 SAC CHAMPION: CARROLL
Could a three-peat be possible next fall for the Chargers?
With Jimmy Sullivan back and the entire running back depth chart intact, the offense looks primed for 2023. Receivers Cam Herschberger, Cooper Rudolph and Jayden Hill will be gone, but Hansen Haffner is in for a huge year and there are some juniors to be with enormous potential.
Defensively, every level returns some studs – including Ashton Pesetski up front (84 tackles, 19 TFL, 11 sacks), the likes of Will Jeffries, Cameron Lentz and Justin Anderson at linebacker and Brayden Steely on the back end.
You don’t have to examine the SAC landscape very long to see that the Chargers will enter the fall the team to beat.
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