All-RTC football: Deming, top ball carrier for rejuvenated Rochester, is player of the year
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Football excellence was all around our area in 2021.
Tippecanoe Valley and Winamac both had undefeated regular seasons. They were complete teams, senior-laden teams with explosive offenses and firm defenses.
A rejuvenated Rochester program went from zero wins in 2020 to five in 2021 under new coach Ron Shaffer.
Pioneer lost a conference game but also had a nine-game winning streak and made it to the sectional final.
Culver also made it to a sectional final and set a single-game scoring record when they scored 68 points against South Newton in the sectional quarterfinals.
But who is the RTC Player of the Year? And how do you pick between, for example, a really good running back, a really good two-way lineman or somebody who can star on the outside as both a wide receiver and a defensive back?
And with COVID-19 still invading our society, how do you compare players when they don’t always play the same number of games? (Rochester, Culver and Winamac all had COVID-related pauses during the regular season and had to cancel games.)
After a lot of thought, our pick is Rochester sophomore Alex Deming.
Deming ran for 1,589 yards and 21 touchdowns, even though the Zebras lost two games to a COVID pause.
He averaged 198 yards per game. He ran for big yards against bad teams. He ran for big yards against good teams. LaVille had a superb defense and stopped just about everybody they faced, and Deming ran for 158 yards on a 6.9-yard per carry average against them.
He gained the tough, gritty yards necessary to win games, converting a lot of third-and-ones and fourth-and-twos. He also had the big, flashy 50 and 60-yard runs.
His running style was ideal for the wing-T offense that Shaffer implemented. And even though opponents knew they had to stop him, he still averaged 7.5 yards per carry for the season. In a four-minute span in the second quarter of a game at Whitko, he ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
A career for many, four minutes for Alex Deming.
We considered the following very seriously before deciding on Deming: Jamasyn Virgil, Russell Compton, Shane Shuman, Braden Shepherd, Wade Jones, Derrick LeGrand and Sam Smith.
As always, we thank area coaches for giving us their time and insights throughout the season and helping us learn about the game and their players. Having said that, this list is ours and ours alone, and we take full responsibility.
Alex Deming (Rochester) – Deming also had 45 tackles and four tackles for loss from his inside linebacker spot.
Jamasyn Virgil (Tippecanoe Valley) – This was Jamasyn Virgil’s stat line against long time Valley nemesis Southwood in the regular season finale: 217 yards rushing, four touchdowns, an interception on defense, and an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He was the best player on the best team.
Braden Shepherd (Tippecanoe Valley) – After an injury-plagued 2020, Shepherd averaged 108 yards per game rushing plus receiving and was also a top cornerback. He had tremendous speed and was a threat to score no matter where he was on the field.
Shane Shuman (Culver) – Winamac coach John Hendryx said trying to tackle Shuman was like trying to tackle a bus. We might have been more impressed with him as a linebacker who had to be accounted for by opposing offensive lines.
Russell Compton (Winamac) – Compton just glides on a football field. He is an accurate passer in the pocket and a mobile quarterback outside the pocket. He was also an outstanding defensive back.
Wade Jones (Tippecanoe Valley) – With passing games continuing to evolve in high school football, it’s never more important than now to have a good secondary. Combining great athleticism and football smarts, he had 11 interceptions and was one of the state’s top safeties.
Sam Smith (Caston) – Smith ran for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, he also caught nine passes, and he had 76 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown on defense. And he was a member of the Indiana Academic All-Star team.
Wade Melanson (Tippecanoe Valley) – Watching Wade Melanson’s highlight videos are mesmerizing. At 345 pounds, he would fly out of his right guard spot and have a block party against a regretful opposing defender. He was also a star at defensive tackle.
D.J. Estep (Tippecanoe Valley) – We already knew that Estep was a very good right tackle on offense, but his ability to fill in at middle linebacker, a position unfamiliar to him, after an injury to Joel Cisneros raised him another notch in our eyes.
Hayden Clark (Winamac) – Clark was a fearless competitor, slightly undersized at fullback and a ferocious tackler at linebacker.
Derrick LeGrand (Pioneer) – LeGrand was the area’s best defensive end. He had 20.5 tackles for loss. If you were playing Pioneer, you had to line up your tight end on the same side as LeGrand because he was too quick, too strong, too smart and too much to handle for just about any tackle.
Logan Schultz (Winamac) – He was the best offensive lineman on an all-senior Winamac front wall.
Kyle Olds (Winamac) – Olds formed a great 1-2 duo with Schultz as a two-way lineman.
Marshall Fishback (Rochester) – When Rochester needed a big yard, they usually handed it to Deming and had him run behind Fishback. Having said that, we thought Fishback might have been more valuable on defense, lining up on the inside in a 4-3 and at end on a 3-4.
Caleb Sweet (Pioneer) – He went from offensive tackle to tight end to quarterback in a span of a few weeks, and his pocket presence helped the Panther offense find a rhythm.
Jaden Terry (Winamac) – On a team loaded with offensive weapons, Terry was Compton’s favorite target in the passing game.
Oscar Solano (Pioneer) – Solano had 17 tackles for loss and was a nightmare from his nose tackle spot.
Dalton Alber (Tippecanoe Valley) – Valley was loaded with great seniors, but it was their sophomores who should reassure Valley fans that they will not be having a rebuilding year any time soon. Alber is a beast of a fullback and is expert at penetrating into opposing backfields from the defensive line.
Austin Rogers (Rochester) – Austin Rogers went from being an unknown to being a critical two-way lineman at center and on the defensive line.
Brock Robinson (Pioneer) – Unfortunately, Robinson’s senior season was curtailed by ankle and shoulder injuries. But he was a force at quarterback, fullback and cornerback when he did play.
Rex Kirchenstien (Tippecanoe Valley) – He improved from 19 catches in 2020 to 27 catches in 2021, and he went from five touchdowns to seven. He was another one of the big-play threats on Valley’s offense.
Hunter Eherenman (Tippecanoe Valley) – Eherenman represented the gritty side of Valley football, always getting big yards from his fullback spot and making big tackles from his safety spot.
Auston Zehner (Culver)
Zayne Bell (Winamac)
Logan Smith (Pioneer)
Beau Brandt (Winamac)
Cayden Hill (Pioneer)
Brady Beck (Rochester)
Branson McBrier (Tippecanoe Valley)
Tucker Fisher (Culver)
Beau Mersch (Pioneer)
Grant Hickle (Caston)
Garrison Hickle (Caston)
Alex Zehner (Culver)
Cody LeGrand (Pioneer)
Payton Luhnow (Rochester)
Landon Shafer (Caston)
Emiliano Ortiz (Culver)
Xavier Holehan (Winamac)
Antonio Schlosser (Rochester)
Jaxon Roudebush (Winamac)
Eli Swango (Rochester)
Karl Parker (Tippecanoe Valley)
Blake Thompson (Culver)
RTC Player of the Year Alex Deming