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FOOTBALL: RSN’s 2008 Award Winners

The Region Sports Network is proud to announce their 2008 Football Award winners. Today, we reveal who won the “Heart & Soul Award”, “Offensive Player of the Year”, “Defensive Player of the Year” and the “Extra Effort Award”.


Log back on tomorrow to see who was named “Coach of the Year”, “Team of the Year” and who won the rest of the RSN individual awards.


Andrean’s Kyle Kovach Earns 2008 RSN Heart & Soul Award

Written by Nathan Laird

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Generously listed on the Andrean 59er roster at 5’10” and 175 pounds, Kyle Kovach doesn’t have the ideal size to carry the ball in one of the state’s most physical and fiercest conferences, nonetheless put an entire team on his back. But that’s exactly what Kovach did this season, leading his Andrean squad to an unexpected sectional championship. What Kovach lacked in size he more than made up for in speed, agility and most importantly effort, which is why Kyle Kovach is the RSN’s 2008 Heart and Soul award winner.

Entering the 2008 campaign, fans in the Region weren’t sure what to make of the Andrean 59ers. There weren’t too many familiar faces on the sidelines at 5959 Broadway. With only 15 seniors on the team’s 60 man roster, new coach Phil Mason looked for a leader in his locker room.

“We really needed Kyle to come through as a leader,” Mason said. “Kyle’s a very likeable kid and it took a little while for him to take the team by the horns. He was very patient with the rest of the guys. He knew he had to be a leader and he became more of a vocal leader as the season went on.”

Not only did Kovach lead the 59ers’ ground attack, his willingness to do what was needed for the team showed his athletic and leadership abilities.

“One of the things that really showed how good of an athlete Kyle is, is during the season we lost our long-snapper with a shoulder injury. We really didn’t have a good backup long-snapper, so we had to stay in the “Wildcat” formation on punt and Kyle became our punter. We were able to do some special things. We could punt, we had a punt option – where he could rugby style kick it.”

On the season, Kovach ran for over 1700 yards and averaged nearly 7.5 yards per carry. He found the end zone 29 times between the ground and air. On the defensive side of the ball, Kovach was credited with 69 tackles, picked off four passes and forced four fumbles.

“Kyle was just able to do some special things,” Mason said. “I don’t know how we will ever replace him.”

Lowell’s Brandon Grubbe Earns 2008 RSN Offensive Player of the Year Award
Written by Paul Honeycutt – Region Sports Network Correspondent

Image Speed, agility, toughness, and vision are all requirements to be a Lowell running back. Like some of the greats to sport the black and red from the past, junior Brandon Grubbe followed suit and has earned the 2008 RSN Offensive Player of the Year.

Lowell has quickly become widely recognized as the Region’s best football program and usually has the best shot to represent Northwest Indiana down in Indianapolis year in and year out. This year was no
exception as Grubbe and the Red Devils advanced the furthest, going 13-1 and losing to Fort Wayne Dwenger 38-22 during the Class 4A state semifinals.

Grubbe was a huge part of Lowell’s success in 2008, leading the Region with 1,831 rushing yards while amassing 22 touchdowns as well.

“Brandon is a tremendous talent,” Lowell coach Kirk Kennedy said. “I’m excited to have him back for next year because he is a great leader and is very competitive on and off the football field.”

One thing that gets overlooked about Grubbe is that he was a workhorse for the Red Devils. He was one of the state leaders in carries with 315.

“Brandon’s work ethic is what separated him from everybody else,” Kennedy said. “He was just as strong in the fourth quarter as he was at the start of the game.”

According to Kennedy, the formula to stop Grubbe might have been simple on paper, but was much more difficult to actually accomplish.

“You just have to be a well-conditioned defense with the right techniques and fundamentals,” he said. “But our offensive line and fullbacks just wore people down game after game which helped out Brandon
a lot.”

RSN Defensive Player of the Year – Justin Juarez
Writen by Chris Lannin – RSM Managing Editor

Since the Kirk Kennedy era began, Lowell football has earned a reputation for tough, hard-nosed play. Kids who put on the Red Devil uniform from year to year have huge footsteps to fill.

One player who can claim a rightful place among the legends of the Inferno is Justin Juarez, the Region Sports Network 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.

Juarez, a 6’3”, 227 pound senior who pulls double duty on the Red Devils offensive line, proved this year that he belongs in the lofty company of Chris Marzotto and Jeff Barker, RSN Defensive Players of the Year in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

Juarez, who led the Devils in tackles, tackles for loss and had three interceptions on the season, personifies the Red Devil mantra of RDP because whenever Lowell needed a big play, like his predecessors, it always seemed like Juarez was the guy who made the play.

“Justin was a pleasure to coach,” said Lowell Head Coach Kirk Kennedy. “He’s a tough kid, a battler, a competitor. He played at a high level for us on both sides of the ball and you can’t ask for much more than that from a kid. And he not only made contributions on the field but as a team captain he made leadership contributions that had an uplifting effect on his teammates. Justin contributed to our success in a lot of ways.”

No better compliment can be paid to an athlete than to earn the respect of your opponents.   

“If I were naming a defensive player of the year, it would be Justin Juarez, he’s a stud,” said Hobart Head Coach Wally McCormack. “The big hits and stuff are obvious but people don’t realize how well he runs and moves for a guy that big. He’s a load. He’s a heck of a player and he’s made a whole lot of plays against us over the last three years and on behalf of our program, we are happy to see him graduate.”

Lowell’s Cody Midgett Earns “2008 Extra Effort Award”
Written by Nathan Laird

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There’s a picture on Regionsports.com from the week four matchup between rivals Lowell and Griffith of Red Devil Cody Midgett attempting to block an extra point. Midgett seems to have no regard for his own well-being and either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about how bad hitting the ground from the height of his jump is going to hurt.

You can tell by looking at him that the only thing that he is concerned with is blocking Jeff Melton’s kick and preventing the Panthers from getting one more point. Even though Midgett didn’t get his mitts on the ball, it is plays such as this that Midgett made all season long that made him deserving of the Region Sports Network 2008 Extra Effort award.

Even looking back on the 2008 season, Midgett’s role on the Red Devil team that was one game away from the state championship is hard to define. He excelled in the defensive backfield with six interceptions on the season and was constantly making clutch plays for Kirk Kennedy, including intercepting a pass late in the Regional against Griffith which led to the game winning touchdown.

“Cody contributed to our overall success in so many different ways,” Kennedy said. “When you look at his total game, offense, defense and the kicking game, there are a lot of big plays and key contributions week in and week out to contribute to our overall success.”

Midgett was also able to fill in on the offensive side of the ball when needed and didn’t play like a substitute when he got his opportunities to carry the pigskin. Midgett made the most of his 43 carries on the season, racking up 444 yards and scoring 10 times. Midgett also proved to be adept at catching the ball. He finished the season second on the team with 14 catches for 282 yards and a score.

While he may not have been the strongest or the fastest player on the field during the 2008 season, there is little doubt that Cody Midgett was always outworking his opponents and doing whatever it took for the Red Devils to find success.

“Physically, he’s not that big and imposing,” Kennedy said.  “But he plays with a lot of confidence, a lot of heart and a lot of determination. He just gets out there and plays with a high motor and turns it loose.”

Chris Lannin can be e-mailed at: Chris.lannin@regionsports.com

Nathan Laird can be e-mailed at: Nathan.laird@regionsports.com

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