Heart & Soul: Doug Ashenbaugh – Griffith Panthers
This gritty, blue-collar senior did the dirty work for Russ Radtke and the Panthers. A former 1,000-yard rusher, Ashenbaugh took one for the team this season, moving over to tight end – a non-glamorous position in the Panther offense – contributing eight catches, 138 yards (17.3 avg.) and three touchdowns to the Panther attack. The Griffith coaching staff credits Ashenbaugh with a blocking efficiency rating of 91%.
On defense, Ashenbaugh totaled 45 solo tackles and 37 assists for the Panther defense. His defensive numbers include six tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Although others may have contributed more to the cause statistically speaking, no one meant more to his team than Ashenbaugh did to the Panthers. Besides, stats don’t measure a players effort or leadership qualities, both of which Ashenbaugh displayed on every down of the 2007 season, whether he was catching touchdown passes or as the long snapper on special teams. Without the contributions of this hard-working senior, the Panthers season would likely have come to an end much earlier than it did.
Coach Radtke says: “(Doug) set an example for others to follow. He always picked other guys up. He realized his team needed him on the offensive line, accepted the situation and it worked out to his advantage – he gets his picture on our “Wall of Fame” because he made first-team all-state at tight end.
I can’t think of anyone that’s come through our program in a while that’s more deserving of this kind of award.”
Extra Effort Award: Justin Faught – Morton Governors
Justin’s long career as a gridiron Governor has come to end, but not before leaving behind some wonderful memories for the fans of Hessville High. In 2007 Faught averaged seven and a half yards per carry, rushing for 657 yards on 88 attempts. The versatile senior chipped in with 10 pass receptions for 115 yards.
On defense, Faught had 29 solo tackles, assisted on 39 others, picked off six passes and recovered three fumbles.
In 10 games, the multi-talented three-time football letterman led the Govs in scoring with 12 touchdowns – nine on offense, two on special teams and one on defense.
Coach Richards says: “With all the things he did, he was never the best offensive, defensive or special teams player, but he was the best guy to play all of them. In every big game, he made a big play, whether it was a big stop on fourth down, getting a crucial first down or a big return on special teams. He gave us an extra dimension in every phase of the game. Of all the great players I’ve coached, he was the best player that played every position well. He was a blue-collar player and this award epitomizes what kind of player he was for us.”
Offensive player: Russell Chick – Crown Point Bulldogs
In a season that saw Crown Point’s passing numbers decrease, Chick carried the load at tailback and posted staggering numbers, including 1,810 yards with 21 touchdowns on 294 carries – a 6.2 yards per carry average.
The senior workhorse also contributed 18 receptions and one touchdown to Bulldog offensive attack.
Defensive player: Jeff Barker – Lowell Red Devils
This tough, hard-hitting ball hawk was the leader of the Devil defensive unit. Stats alone don’t tell the whole story but they are a good place to start. For the season, Barker led the Devil defense with 8.5 sacks, he also had another six tackles for loss among his 36 solo tackles and 37 assists.
Linemen of the Year
Offensive: Kurt Wermers – Crown Point – Offensive Tackle
#70 Wermers (Crown Point Bulldogs) looks for someone to block.
Defensive: Jarrett Rucker – Merrillville – Defensive Tackle
#57 Jarrett Rucker (Merrillville Pirates) rushes the quarterback
Team of the Year: Merrillville Pirates (Won 12 Lost 2)
Respected but not feared at the start of the season, the Pirates quieted all naysayers by defeating the states number one ranked team not once but twice – Warren Central in week one and Penn in the week 13 regional championship. Thought by many so-called Region sports experts to be a year away from a long tournament run, the Bucs proved better than anyone expected, making it to the semi-state round before being eliminated by eventual state champion Carmel Greyhounds.
Head Coach: Robert Robinson – Hammond High (10-1)
Inheriting a team that hadn’t won a regular season game in two years, Robinson, who was a late hire, first turned his players into believers and then molded his team into winners. The turnaround – from 0-9 to 8-1 – is the best regular season improvement on record in the history of Northwest Indiana high school football. Robinson’s Wildcats will go down in history as either the winner of the first ever Great Lakes Athletic Conference, or as the only winner of the short-lived Hammond Athletic Conference.