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FOOTBALL: RSN’s 1st Team All-Area

OFFENSE

Noah Ehrlich | Junior | Quarterback

STATS: 2,452 Passing Yards, 64% Completion Percentage, 292 Rushing Yards, 33 Total Touchdowns, 7 Punts, 266 Punting Yards

It is not easy to play Duneland football, especially for one of the top programs in the area which was coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in team history. 

After a tough loss to Lafayette Jefferson a year ago, as well as losing some offensive talent, CP needed to find a spark to exceed their 2022 season. 

Enter Noah Ehrlich, a now three-year starter who knows a thing or two about playing for a tough program.

The former Brickie made the switch to Crown Point and has led them to not only a better season than 2022 but also one of the best in school history, including their first Regional title since 1988 and the first State Championship game appearance in school history. Ehrlich also broke three school records – completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, alongside earning a nod on the 2023 6A Junior All-State team. 

The DAC offensive MVP and now 3-star QB (24/7 Sports) has offers from Miami Ohio, Toledo, and Central Michigan. But something tells us that it won’t stop there, as he is expected to be a real threat again for the Bulldog program in 2024. 

Caiden Verrett | Junior | Running Back

STATS: 200 Carries, 1,743 Rushing Yards, 2,174 All-Purpose Yards, 33 Total Touchdowns, 19 Punts, 626 Punting Yards

To think that Verrett only had a tenth of his 2023 mark of 200 carries a season ago is mind-boggling, as he served as the backup behind another talented Wildcat running back in Kyle Haessly. The Junior had some defensive experience in 2022 but only logged 20 rushing attempts in his Sophomore season. 

But after looking at his play this season, it can be safe to say that he learned a thing or two from his predecessor. 

The 2023 3A Junior All-State RB is simply a tough task to take down without any help, as his frame is a recipe for broken tackles. If stats were available at the high school level for “yards after contact,” chances are that Verrett would be at the top of the list, that is if he gets touched in the first place. The Junior did pace the way in the area for total touchdowns, serving as the backbone for the potent NCC-winning Hanover offense.

Did we mention that he can punt too? 

Expect Verrett to find himself on this list again next year, as he will be one of the top returning weapons in not only the area but in the state. 

TJ Caldwell | Senior | Wide Receiver

STATS: 48 Receptions, 846 Receiving Yards, 13 Touchdowns

Hobart’s offense in the past year was respectable but arguably one-dimensional. With the play of former Brickie, Trey Gibson, Hobart has not seen an aerial threat in a few seasons. 

But TJ Caldwell gave the Brickies offense a new element, leading to the development of one of the area’s most effective offenses in 2023. 

Outside of Noah Ehrlich, Caldwell was arguably the most effective transfer this past season, immediately performing at a high level as marketed in his lone season with the Brickies. Although the stats may not have been similar to Caldwell’s 2022 season with the Calumet Warriors, he still etched himself onto the 4A 2023 All-State team. 

The now 2-star receiver (24/7 Sports) recently committed to Valparaiso. 

Bryce Compton | Junior | Wide Receiver

STATS: 40 Receptions, 867 Receiving Yards, 8 Touchdowns, 30 Total Tackles, 2 Interceptions

Like some other Juniors on this list, Compton made quite the jump between his Sophomore to Junior campaigns, as he was mainly a ball-hawking defensive back who played a bit of receiver in ’22. 

Things were a bit different this go around, as Compton took a bigger role on the offensive side. The Junior was near the top of all of the area receiving leaderboards while only getting nine games under his belt.

Compton is a twitchy receiver with track and field speed (which he does in the springtime) who also has the frame to go up and get it, as he was one of the key pieces to Wheeler’s first GSSC title since 2015. 

Given the expected returning cast for Wheeler in 2024, next fall should be another fun one for Compton and the Bearcats. 

Jimmy Finley | Junior | Wide Receiver

STATS: 32 Receptions, 515 Receiving Yards, 56 Total Tackles, 2 Touchdowns

Most of the time you hear of wide receivers switching to defensive back because they cannot catch. Well, that is quite the opposite with Jimmy Finley, who has proven himself to be a ballhawk on both sides of the field. 

In 2022 Finley showed off his ball skills on the defensive side, snagging seven interceptions, which was near the top of the state leaderboard. But with some roster turnover at the receiver position, someone needed to step up as needed.

Finley quickly became the lead receiver in the Niners’ pass happy offense, while also anchoring the defensive unit. The Junior found his way onto the Junior All-State team for the second time in his career.

A productive Senior year is the expectation for Finley, the now-3-star DB who has offers from Central Michigan, Miami Ohio, Michigan State, and Toledo. One thing is certain: wherever you put him on the field, he is going to make a play on the ball. 

Matt Hofer | Senior | Offensive Lineman

When we asked local coaches about some of the top linemen in the area, the titles “Animal” and “Beast” are typically associated with Matt Hofer. 

The two-year starter has served as the anchor for one of the area’s most run-dominant programs. In his two seasons at the ever-important left tackle position, the Vikings ran for over 6,000 yards, including a state title and plenty of other hardware to accompany that. He also has earned his second All-State nod and a place on the Top 50 team in 2023.  

Hofer is a nasty blocker that has a next-level frame at 6’5, 275 pounds. Thankfully for Toledo, the 3-star tackle will be taking his talents to play for the Rockets next college football season. 

Aidan Olague | Senior | Offensive Lineman

Olague was the driving force behind a successful offensive campaign for the Brickies. A two-sport athlete, Olague served as the Brickies’ Center. When asked about the top linemen in the area, Olague received high praise from nearby coaches.

“By far the best center we saw all year long. He’s a hell of a player.” 

” great feet. Was the best OL on a team that utilizes primarily gap schemes.”

A First-Team All-Conference selection, Olague was arguably the unsung hero of one of the area’s most exciting offensive units. 

 

Ben Novak | Sophomore | Offensive Lineman

You would have to look far and wide to find an O-Lineman as built as Andrean’s Ben Novak. Standing at a frightening 6’6, he was one of the lone bright spots in a young Andrean offense. 

Similar to other areas on the 2023 Andrean team, players needed to step up on the offensive line, as key pieces from the successful 2022 team were no longer with the program this fall. 

With a First-Team All-Conference and a 2A Junior All-State selection in 2023, Novak is shaping up to be a cornerstone piece for the next few 59er campaigns. Colleges are noticing this too, as he recently notched his first Division One offer from Western Michigan.

Paul Clark | Senior | Offensive Lineman

When talking about the year Crown Point had in 2023, it is easy to overlook the play of the linemen. But when Larry Ellison (a name of which we mentioned on our 2nd All-Area team), plays his first true season at Running Back and breaks numerous school records, we must give credit where credit is due to the fellas up front – and it starts with Paul Clark. 

Also a talented wrestler, the Buffalo commit served as a team captain, while performing at an All-Conference and All-State level for the Bulldogs. With his 6’4, 265 pound frame, the Bulls will be must obliged on adding Paul to their football roster next season. 

Jeffery Meschede | Senior | Offensive Lineman

What’s better than one Bulldog O-lineman making our first team? Two! That is how good this offense has been over the past two years.

Meschede. a Junior All-State team member in 2022, alongside his nastiness as a blocker, the two-sport athlete is one of the most respected individuals on the CP team. The Senior won the Phil N. Askew Mental Attitude Award after the State game. 

While Clark was the anchor at the tackle position, Meschede was the one to hold things down on the interior. Now, he is also gaining some more interest from schools, as has been offered by DePauw and Case Western. 

Ayden Silver | Junior | Athlete

STATS: 1,080 Passing Yards, 1,107 Rushing Yards, 27 Total Touchdowns, 94 Total Tackles,  2 Interceptions, 14 Punts, 407 Punting Yards

Anything that was asked of Ayden Silver this past fall, he did, and he did it well for the River Forest Ingots. 

The Junior led River Forest to their fifth straight winning season, as he paced the team in passing yards, rushing yards, and total touchdowns. Silver was also second in total tackles and tied for the team lead in interceptions on defense. If that wasn’t enough, he served as the punter as well as the primary kickoff and punt returner. 

The two-sport athlete will highlight a productive returning class of Ingots come the 2024 season. 

 

DEFENSE

Collin Foy | Senior | Defensive Lineman

STATS: 70 Total Tackles, 5.5 Tackles For Loss, 3 Sacks

In a run-dominant conference like the NCC, you need a guy to handle the trenches if you want to stand a chance. After seeing the dominant conference run by Hanover, which led to an outright title in their first season in the NCC, it seems like they had their guy in Collin Foy. 

A two-way starter, Foy did the majority of his damage on the defensive side of the ball. A now two-time All-State team member, although he anchored the offensive line at the tackle position, Foy became a nightmare for run games across the conference and area. 

The two-year starter has gained traction from colleges, including offers from Marian, Carthage, and Western Illinois. One thing is for certain, Foy will be a total game wrecker wherever he decides to play his next few years of college ball. 

Adam Camphor | Junior | Defensive Lineman

STATS: 64 Total Tackles, 6 Tackles For Loss, 4 Sacks

Outside of Crown Point, Merrillville’s defense is as talented as it gets in the area. While we have heard plenty of Elmore and McGee, Camphor may have been the most productive Pirate this fall.

The two-year starter was a game wrecker for the Pirates. At 6’1, 300, his pure strength instantly became a looming presence in the interior.  With a lot of attention directed towards Terrelle Elmore, Roshaun McGee, and others, Camphor made the absolute most of his opportunity. 

With a Junior All-State nod this year, Camphor is next up as another fantastic D-lineman in the long line of recent productive Pirate defenders. 

Terrelle Elmore | Senior | Defensive Lineman

STATS: 24 Total Tackles, 9 Tackles For Loss, 2.5 Sacks, 3 Blocked Field Goals

Although the stats may not be at the stereotypical All-Area level, you have to wonder – why would you run at him? 

Don’t take it from us, but he is a player that you have to change your scheme around to (try to) be successful against the thrashing Merrillville’s defense. 

“We game-planned around his alignment. He was the only one all year in which we altered our scheme based on his location.”

The Eastern Michigan commit is a tough ask for any lineman to block, ask he can turn the game around in the blink of an eye. Elmore was able to use his next-level frame at 6’2, 220 pounds, to make a difference on special teams by blocking three kicks. 

Seamus Malaski | Senior | Defensive Lineman

STATS: 52 Total Tackles, 13 Tackles For Loss, 7 Sacks, 9 Receptions, 151 Receiving Yards, 5 Touchdowns

It is difficult to pinpoint who the best athlete on the Crown Point team is. But if we had to pick, it might be Seamus Malaski. 

Playing both ways in the Duneland is quite the challenge and Malaski is one of the most productive in the entire conference. If he was not terrorizing backfields on defense, he would serve in the tight end/H back role, finding the end zone on average more than once every two catches. 

Plus, some may argue that football is not his best sport, as he will be heading to West Lafayette next year on a track and field scholarship, as he is a reigning State Champion in discus. 

Will Clark | Senior | Linebacker

STATS: 133 Total Tackles, 13 Tackles For Loss, 6 Sacks

Now if there was someone who could snatch the title of “Best Athlete” on that Crown Point team, Will Clark could give Malaski a run for his money. 

Clark can do just about anything at the linebacker position, as the two-sport athlete is a sure tackler, as Will was the main blitz weapon for the stifling Bulldog defense. 

The Buffalo commit is also a State Champion wrestler, who uses both sports to complement one another. Clark can add some more hardware to his collection, as he was recently named the Indiana Mr. Football at the linebacker position. 

Nick Johnsen | Senior | Linebacker

STATS: 151 Total Tackles, 19 Tackles For Loss, 3 Sacks, 5 Forced Fumbles, 9 Receptions, 202 Yards, 2 Touchdowns

When it comes to finding prototypical linebackers who can fly around the field and do just about everything, it does not get much better than Nick Johnsen. 

Johnsen is a tackle machine to put it lightly. Over the past two seasons, Johnsen has logged 285 total tackles with 28 of them coming behind the line of scrimmage. A now two-time 4A All-State team member was the heart and soul of the Highland defense and became an invaluable piece to the unit. Johnsen found himself pacing the area in total tackles early into the season, and never really looked back.

Johnsen even made a bit of an impact on the offensive side, as he was the Trojans’ leading receiver this past year. The two-sport athlete recently committed to Valparaiso University.

De'Aris Beason | Senior | Linebacker

STATS: 146 Total Tackles, 17 Tackles For Loss, 6 Sacks, 2 Fumble Recoveries

If there was someone in the area to try and challenge Nick Johnsen’s tackling mark, it was De’Aris Beason of River Forest. 

Believe it or not, the All-Conference LB only logged 18 total tackles in his Junior campaign. If you were to then look at how those compared to his 2023 numbers, calling it a “jump” in production is an understatement. 

The two-sport athlete served as the anchor in River Forest’s defensive unit. With fellow All-Area teammate Ayden Silver manning the defensive backs, Beason was the true captain of the Ingot front seven, typically making plays all over the field. 

Freddy Brown | Junior |
Defensive Back/Linebacker

STATS: 81 Total Tackles, 7 Tackles for Loss, 10 Sacks, 2 Blocked Field Goals

Finding a productive hybrid defensive player is a tall ask. Luckily for Morton, they got their guy in Freddy Brown. 

With his six-foot, 200-pound frame, Brown is considered a safety but can make a play at (or behind) the line of scrimmage on par with anyone in the area. He can play nearly anywhere on the defensive side of the ball, and college coaches are beginning to see that.

Brown, who made the 5A Junior All-State team as a linebacker, is a 3-star Safety,  holding D1 offers from Memphis, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan. 

Tyler Torbeson | Senior | Defensive Back/Linebacker

STATS: 101 Total Tackles, 15 Tackles For Loss, 3 Sacks, 41 Receptions, 514 Receiving Yards, 8 Touchdowns

Similar to Freddy Brown of Morton, Tyler Torbeson is a rover-like defender who can play either in the box or make a play in coverage. 

Believe it or not, the four-year starter made 3A All-State in his offensive position at wide receiver. No matter where you stick him, Torbeson can play. 

The three-year Team Captain was the Wolves’ leading tackler and was one of five Boone Grove receivers to eclipse over 500 receiving yards this season. 

Trey Stephens | Senior | Defensive Back

STATS: 73 Total Tackles, 12 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles, 314 Rushing Yards, 6 Total Touchdowns

A name that caught a bit of buzz in the preseason was Trey Stephens, as his status was in question on if he was suiting up for the Merrillville Pirates this season. But after performing at an All-State level after missing the first two games of the season, the Pirates are quite thankful he was back in the Purple uniform. 

Stephens did whatever was needed for the Pirates, playing both ways and providing an instant spark, including arguably the biggest pass breakup of the 2023 season against Valparaiso.

The two-sport athlete is a two-star recruit with an offer from Wayne State. We believe that wherever a college may want to play him position-wise, he is an instant impact.

Hayden DeMarco | Senior | Defensive Back

STATS: 110 Total Tackles, 5 Tackles for Loss, 3 Sacks, 379 Kick Return Yards

One thing should be certain about DeMarco: he is not afraid of contact. 

Standing at only 5’8, 140 pounds, the Senior is a tackling machine for the Trojans. Typically roaming in the safety position, DeMarco is quick enough to come downhill and make a play wherever needed. 

Also a talented wrestler, the All-Conference selection uses his wrestling background for his sound tackling skills. 

Lane Zander | Senior | Athlete

STATS: 32 Receptions, 679 Receiving Yards, 52 Total Tackles, 2 Interceptions, 791 Kick + Punt Return Yards, 15 Total Touchdowns

2023 was quite the jump for Lane Zander, as the All-Conference Senior more than tripled his All-Purpose yardage from his Junior campaign. Alongside being voted Team MVP, Zander set two single-season school records – receiving yards and most kick return touchdowns. 

Zander made his presence felt in all three phases of the game better than just about anyone else in the area, which is why he finds a spot on our list. 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Drayden Wilcox | Junior | Kicker/Punter

STATS: 56 Kickoffs, 50.8 Average Yards Per Kickoff, 32 Punts, 34.5 Average Yards Per Punt, 34 of 35 on PAT, 6 of 8 on Field Goals

Wilcox had a solid season for the Vikings, winning the Most Valuable Punter for the conference. Also a baseball player, Wilcox is shaping out to be one of the best athletes in all of Valparaiso High School. 

Jack Doty | Senior | Kicker/Punter

STATS: 5 of 6 on PAT, 4-7 on Field Goals (42 long), 17 Kickoffs, 7 Touchbacks, 10 Punts Downed Inside the 20

Alongside having a game-winning field goal in a Week 1 upset over New Prairie, the Most Valuable Kicker in the DAC has a case for one of the best special team players in program history. 

Luke Granzow | Senior | Long Snapper

The Air Force commit has steadily been the best long snapper in the area. The combination of him and Kicker/Punter, Zander Lankford, propel Hobart as one of the top special teams units around.

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