All-RTC football: Culver 2-way star Shuman is Player of the Year
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The coronavirus pandemic reinforced something that area high school football fans already knew: Do not take the Bell game for granted.
The Bell game returned in 2022 after the 2021 game was canceled, and it was like two years of hype went into one game. It wasn’t just that both teams were undefeated but that both teams were undefeated and dominating their opponents going into the game.
Valley eventually won 26-17, and the Zebras and Vikings wound up in a three-way tie for the Three Rivers Conference title with Southwood. It’s a return to dominance of Rochester and Valley in the TRC, something we have not seen since the pre-Peru, pre-Maconaquah days of the early 2010s.
And while no area team won a sectional title, Rochester did reach a sectional final for the first time since 2000.
Meanwhile, Pioneer’s six-game losing streak to close the season was a trend in the opposite direction. Pioneer’s 2-8 record marked their first losing season since 1995, and their two wins were their fewest in a session since 1994.
The RTC Player of the Year was someone who did not play for Rochester, Valley or Pioneer however.
Our pick is Culver fullback-linebacker Shane Shuman. No player quite impacted a game as much as Shuman did. No player meant as much to his team as Shuman did.
Here is the rest of our all-RTC football team. We do not designate offense or defense with the players we select so much as we try to put a value on a player’s overall contribution to their team.
We thank area coaches for sending us stats and information, and we thank them for talking to us throughout the season. Sometimes you just had to be there, but when we couldn’t, coaches helped fill us in.
Having said that, this list is ours and ours and alone, and we take full responsibility for this list.
Shane Shuman (Culver) (Player of the Year) – Shuman set the school’s all-time rushing record, and how many times did players like Jason Cadle and Ethan Binion gain big yards just because Shuman was being a decoy? And having said that, Shuman might have been even more impactful as a linebacker. Culver was the surprise team in the area at 7-5, and it all stemmed from Shuman.
Alex Deming (Rochester) – Deming’s rushing-yards-per-game average went down from 199 to 135, and his per-carry average went down from 7.5 to 6.4. That might have something to do with playing more games and not having any COVID pauses, and that might also have to do with opposing defenses being more geared up to stop him. Still, he’s a short-yardage beast, scoring 49 touchdowns in two years and converting seemingly dozens of third-and-ones and fourth-and-ones.
Nate Parker (Tippecanoe Valley) – Valley went 9-2, and we thought Parker’s best game might have been his four-touchdown performance in a loss to Southwood in the regular season finale. He had 1,375 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground, and he might have lost some yards just because Valley was way ahead in so many games that Parker was getting rested.
Wade Jones (Tippecanoe Valley) – Jones made the Junior All-State team as a defensive back again. Offensively, Valley lined him up in several different spots to try to get him the ball in space and take advantage of his electrifying speed.
Rylahn Toloza (Pioneer) – A quick fullback, Toloza ran for 1,069 yards while no teammate had more than 240. Toloza ran for 15 touchdowns while the rest of his teammates had four rushing touchdowns combined.
Brady Beck (Rochester) – Brady Beck impressed by giving multiple efforts every play, often hustling down the field to make a second or third block to help players like Deming.
Alex Bailey (Tippecanoe Valley) – The maturation of Valley’s offensive and defensive lines after a 10-1 season in 2021 was a key to their 2022 success, and Bailey’s improvement symbolized the entire line’s improvement.
Ben Lee (Culver) – Lee made the Senior All-State team as an offensive lineman, and he was an absolute rock at right tackle for Culver.
Hunter Shriver (Rochester) – Shriver is a big guy at 6-3 and 280 pounds but also a technician at the right tackle spot, and he often escorted Colton Ferverda for big yards along the right side.
Steven Pugh (Culver) – Pugh stepped in at center and was a big force and a leader on the interior of Culver’s offensive and defensive lines.
Austin Rogers (Rochester) – Rogers often had to block bigger defensive tackles from his center spot, but the belly play that Rochester ran with Deming over and over again worked because Rogers would always find the right angle to block his man.
Grant Yadon (Caston) – The Comets went from a military academy-style option offense to more of a spread, and Yadon caught 24 passes on a 19.2-yards-per-catch average. He’s a very talented athlete with good hands.
Landon Durkes (Tippecanoe Valley) – Durkes is only a junior, but of all the players on this list, we are most curious of how he might be at the next level. At 6-4 and 230 pounds, he has ideal size for a tight end and can play anywhere on defense from the line to a box safety spot.
Payton Luhnow (Rochester) – The season started with Luhnow looking like he would be a two-way star, but as the season progressed, he received fewer and fewer snaps on offense but gained a greater and greater impact as a cornerback on defense.
Caleb Sweet (Pioneer) – Sweet was the leader of the Panther defense, recording 58 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, from his middle linebacker spot.
Brant Beck (Rochester) – Brant Beck’s season was something of the opposite of Luhnow’s. His contributions on offense went from modest early in the season to indispensable later on, and much of the talk was about his work at safety. Then, he had four consecutive 100-yard rushing games and finished with 867 yards on fewer than 80 carries. And he’s only a freshman.
Dalton Alber (Tippecanoe Valley) – Alber excelled as both a lead-blocking fullback and as a terror at defensive end.
Devin Burkett (Culver) – Burkett could get out and pull from his right guard spot for the Cavaliers. So many of Shuman’s big runs came running behind Burkett.
Colton Ferverda (Rochester) – Ferverda running a counter around the right side from his wingback spot was one of the Zebras’ signature plays, and he might have also been their surest-handed tackler on defense.
Cayden Hill (Pioneer) – Hill had an outstanding year as an aggressive run-stuffing safety, leading Pioneer with 65 tackles.
Noah Prater (Tippecanoe Valley) – Valley has a reputation for great linebackers, and Prater’s ability to fill holes was a key part of Valley’s gap-control defense.
Ethan Brock (Rochester) – A varsity player since his freshman year, Brock blossomed as a defensive end, and the combination of Deming and him hemmed in the pocket for most opponents.
Eli Swango (Rochester)
Evan Maish (Tippecanoe Valley)
Landon Shafer (Caston)
Ethan Binion (Culver)
Xavier Vance (Rochester)
Cody Eastgate (Tippecanoe Valley)
Jabez Yarber (Caston)
Tyler Zellers (Pioneer)
Karl Parker (Tippecanoe Valley)
Kyle Roudebush (Caston)
Gavin McKee (Rochester)
Ian Brown (Culver)
Cody LeGrand (Pioneer)
Peyton Schnurpel (Pioneer)
Wesley Meadows (Rochester)
Blake Wiggs (Tippecanoe Valley)
Cameron Mason (Tippecanoe Valley)
Joshua Sullivan (Caston)
Owen Miller (Pioneer)
Aaron Swango (Rochester)
Quinlan Kelly (Caston)
Parker Wallace (Rochester)
Top: Alex Deming, Brady Beck, Austin Rogers
Middle: Caleb Sweet, Grand Yadon, Alex Bailey
Bottom: Nate Parker, Wade Jones, Brant Beck