Columbia City’s Stratton Fuller pulls in a catch during the October 14 game at Norwell. (Photo by John Nagel)

It is a week-plus of postseason awards here at Outside the Huddle.

All this week, we are naming our OTH Football All-Area Teams, split into small school (Class 1A to 3A) and big school (Classes 4A to 6A) categories. A tad late but, it is good to save the best for last, right?

We continue with the Big School Defense.

DL: Ashton Pesetski, junior, Carroll – All due respect to the rest of the Chargers defense, Pesetski was the single most disruptive player on the unit. A physical force with freak-like intangibles and measurables, the junior finished the campaign with 84 tackles, 19 TFL, 11 sacks and three forced fumbles.

DL: Will Kelso, junior, Snider – The Panthers always have some underappreciated beef on the interior line. This year it was Kelso, a versatile talent who can clog the middle or line up on the edge. Numbers don’t do Kelso justice as he was the reason some teams ran to the perimeter and not up the middle. He finished with 16 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.

DL: Royce Jones, senior, Carroll – Two Carroll linemen? Absolutely. The problem with blocking Pesetski was that you had to account for Jones on the other side. The senior accounted for 43 tackles, 20 TFL and nine sacks as the Chargers defense hounded opponents with its defensive front all season.

DL: Jackson Christmon, senior, Homestead – League opponents are happy to see Christmon exhaust his eligibility, as the senior has been a terror for multiple years in the trenches. Another player with the skill set to operate on the interior or on the edge, Christmon finished with 39 tackles, 14.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks to go with a pair of forced fumbles and an interception.

LB: Lukas Rohrbacher, junior, Snider – No single player burst onto the scene defensively in the SAC quite like Rohrbacher, who finished with over 115 tackles to go with four sacks and an interception. Rohrbacher’s range and instincts for the ball made him an essential piece to the Panthers defensive unit and an anchor in which to build around in 2023.

Bishop Dwenger’s CJ Davis picks off a pass during the first quarter of August 19’s game against Wayne.

LB: Josh Arntz, senior, Columbia City – Arntz is Exhibit A on why you don’t have to have a hulking frame to be an impact player on defense in the higher classes. Barely 5-foot-9, Arntz finished the season with 86 tackles, 15 TFL, three sacks and a pick. He also rushed for 634 yards and 10 scores.

LB: Robert Pelkington, senior, Bishop Dwenger – On a team that lacked in certain aspects on the defensive side, Pelkington did his best to make up for them. The outside linebacker was a serious nuisance in the backfield of opponents, accumulating 68 tackles, 10 TFL, 2.5 sacks and 13 QB hurries.

LB: Dominic Chacon, senior, Columbia City – Much like Carroll had two defensive linemen get the nod, the Eagles get a pair of linebackers. Why? Chacon was a tackling machine. He surpassed the eight-tackle mark on nine different occasions, including a 17-tackle effort in the playoffs against Kokomo. The senior ended the campaign with 115 tackles, 11 TFL and a pair of sacks.

DB: Andre Tagliaferri, senior, Angola – When talking about underappreciated players in the area, Tagliaferri was up there in 2022. He led Angola in tackles with 64.5 along with a pair of sacks and 6.5 TFL. He also had an interception and a forced fumble. Offensively, he led the team in receiving with 384 yards and five touchdowns and also rushed for 619 yards and eight scores. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdowns.

DB: Braden Steely, junior, Carroll – Steely is old school. A punisher who would play the game without helmet or pads if the situation called for it. Respected as one of the most fearsome and aggressive players in the area, Steely was a standout all season with 37 tackles, three INTs, a blocked punt and close to 500 yards rushing with 13 TDs.

Carroll’s Braden Steely works his way down field during a Sectional game at Penn on October 28. (Photo by Leverage Photography)

DB: Jorge Valdes, senior, Carroll – A multi-year starter for the Chargers, Valdes saved his best for his final prep campaign. A rangy free safety with a knack for the ball, Valdes picked off five passes and blocked three kicks in 2022 to go with 51 tackles.

DB: CJ Davis, senior, Bishop Dwenger – The best high school players impact the game in a multitude of ways. Davis did just that in his lone season with the Saints. He had five interceptions and 16 passes defended to go with 73 tackles and four TFL. Offensively, he hauled in 28 balls for 380 yards and five scores. He was also a considerable threat in the return game.

AT-LARGE: Da’von Doughty, senior, North Side – Anytime there was a big play needed for North Side’s defense, it seemed as if Doughty was involved. An underappreciated player, even by Blitz at times, Doughty was the heart and soul of the Legends D. The senior capped his prep career with a season of 49 tackles, 21 TFL, 14 sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an INT.

AT-LARGE: Stratton Fuller, sophomore, Columbia City – We knew the future was bright for Fuller, but it burst onto the scene like a supernova in 2022. He was one of the state’s leaders in interceptions with six along with 32 tackles. He led the Eagles in receiving with 860 yards and 12 touchdowns. On special teams, his ability to block kicks shines, none bigger than the block against Leo late in the sectional final.

PUNTER: Joseph Moran, senior, Bishop Dwenger – Moran averaged 37 yards per punt for the Saints, downing nine of his 23 boots inside the opponents 20-yard line. On kickoffs, he put 11 in the end zone for touchbacks.

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