• Val T.

All-RTC football team: Starring for regional champs, Pioneer’s Ezra Lewellen is Player of the Year

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

High school football offers a chance to display some offensive variety.

For those who might disagree, just look at the RTC area schools. From Caston’s triple option to Culver’s power-T to Pioneer’s wing-T to Rochester’s more pro-style offense to the creative looks from teams like Tippecanoe Valley and Winamac, and one could see different offensive philosophies on a weekly basis.

If the coronavirus pandemic was going to cut down on time together during the offseason, it didn’t seem to affect offensive play that much as scoring seemed to be up.

If scoring was down anywhere, it was at Winamac, but the Warriors adapted by doing it by playing sterling defense for much of the year en route to their first sectional title since 2016.

The team that had the best season in our area, however, was Pioneer. The Panthers had a complete team, mastering their wing-T and bringing a fundamentally sound defense with them to the field every week.

The Panthers beat No. 1 Andrean to win their fifth regional in seven years. The season ended with a loss to Fort Wayne Luers in the semistate.

That leads us to our all-RTC football list. We put 22 kids on the first team, but unlike the way some all-star teams are put together, we did not designate any player as an offensive or defensive player. Because when one is dealing with schools this size, two-way players abound.

All-RTC football team

  • Ezra Lewellen (Pioneer) (Player of the Year) – Lewellen rushed for 1,859 yards and 24 touchdowns, but that only explains part of his contribution. Combined tremendous speed and strength and was also a standout at safety and was everywhere on special teams. He also made the catch of the year for the game-winning touchdown against Chesterton.

  • Addai Lewellen (Pioneer) – Addai Lewellen overcame an ankle injury early in the season to rush for over 1,100 yards. He saves his best football for Pioneer’s best opponents.

  • Sam Smith (Caston) – Smith worked tirelessly on the field as both a running back and one of the area’s top linebackers.

  • Tyler Gaumer (Pioneer) – Guards play a huge role in Pioneer’s offense because of all the pull and trap blocks they have to set. Pioneer’s running game – they had a mind-boggling 4,800 yards rushing on the season – had a lot to do with Gaumer’s blocking. He’s also a stud linebacker.

  • Mason Schnurpel (Pioneer) – It’s hard to think of Gaumer without thinking of Schnurpel, also a crucial factor on the offensive line.

  • Shane Shuman (Culver) – Culver’s power-T offense relies on workhorse backs like Shuman, and he filled the role this year, looking like a bowling ball rolling over helpless pins.

  • Wade Melanson (Tippecanoe Valley) – Melanson was a two-way force on both the offensive and defensive lines for Valley. In a year full of injuries, Melanson was there to block for whoever the next man up was.

  • D.J. Estep (Tippecanoe Valley) – Estep raised eyebrows last year as a sophomore, and he became one of the best two-way linemen in the TRC as a junior.

  • Logan Schultz (Winamac) – Schultz has a nice combination of strength and mobility on the Winamac line.

  • Derrick LeGrand (Pioneer) – LeGrand made as many big plays on the Pioneer defensive front as anybody.

  • Hunter Evans (Culver) – Evans was Culver’s most consistent two-way lineman.

  • Marshall Fishback (Rochester) – In a season where yards were often hazard to come by, the Zebras had their most success running behind Fishback at right guard. He was also a fixture on the defensive line.

  • Brock Robinson (Pioneer) – Robinson showed glimpses of being a good running back in 2019, and he really blossomed in 2020, rushing for over 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns before a collarbone injury ended his season. He was also a strong defender in the secondary.

  • Johnny Gonsalez (Tippecanoe Valley) – A sturdy linebacker and team leader, he led Valley with 103 tackles.

  • Russell Compton (Winamac) – Compton, a junior quarterback, became more of a factor as a ball carrier in John Hendryx’s offense while spreading the ball to multiple receivers.

  • Jamasyn Virgil (Tippecanoe Valley) – Virgil was the next man up for a Valley offense beset by injuries. He ran for 859 yards, added another 272 receiving, and was also second on the team in tackles.

  • Grant Hickle (Caston) – Injuries ended his season early, but Hickle gave the Caston offense a boost with his athleticism at quarterback.

  • Trent Fox (Winamac) – Fox was tough and dependable and was also hugely important in Winamac’s sectional final win over North Judson.

  • Rex Kirchenstien (Tippecanoe Valley) – Kirchenstien, a junior, had not played organized football in high school prior to this year, but he got the hang of wide receiver and was an explosive deep threat.

  • Logan Smith (Pioneer) – Smith was one of the area’s top outside linebackers and also contributed some of the biggest pass plays in the offense at receiver.

  • Noah Swango (Rochester) – Swango moved from center to left guard this year, but he was most effective on defense as a linebacker always filling the hole.

  • Zac Taylor (Pioneer) – Taylor was a disruptive defensive lineman who combined quickness and strength.

Honorable mention

  • Wyatt Marshall (Pioneer)

  • Jaden Terry (Winamac)

  • Brayden Lynch (Winamac)

  • Branson McBrier (Tippecanoe Valley)

  • Hayden Clark (Winamac)

  • Damian Sullivan (Caston)

  • Noah Pearson (Pioneer)

  • Marquez Anderson (Culver)

  • Alex Deming (Rochester)

  • Brady Beck (Rochester)

  • Cayden Hill (Pioneer)

  • Blake Thompson (Culver)

  • Caydin Webb (Caston)

  • Aiden Lowe (Pioneer)

  • Ben Bowser (Tippecanoe Valley)

  • Michael Sexton (Tippecanoe Valley)

  • Landon Shafer (Caston)

  • Braedon Pinder (Rochester)

  • Joel Cisneros (Tippecanoe Valley)

  • Caleb Sweet (Pioneer)

  • Hunter Eherenman (Tippecanoe Valley)

  • Auston Zehner (Culver)


RTC Football Player of the Year Pioneer's Ezra Lewellen

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