PREBLE COUNTY — It wasn’t a banner year for football in Preble County but that doesn’t mean there was no good football played.
Two area teams – Tri-County North and Twin Valley South – were both in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season, while teams like National Trail and Eaton were in transitional years and both made strides at better futures.
But one thing remained consistent: North plays quality football.
The Panthers lost three games this year to teams which combined for six total regular season loses among them. They played every opponent tough and were the best team in the county.
Through the course of the season, North saw outstanding play from Logan Elmore, the 5’7”, 140 pound senior halfback and defensive back who was also the team captain.
He served as a compliment to the Panther’s Garrett Woodyard in the backfield, especially stepping up when Woodyard went down with an injury for a few games.
Elmore averaged 181.3 all-purpose yards on the year, scoring 15 touchdowns. Six game on the ground, six through the air, two off punt returns, and he also returned one fumble for a score on the defensive end, where he led the team in tackles.
He contributed in every aspect of the game.
It’s because of his versatility and ability to make an impact in all areas that he has earned our Player of the Year honor.
Elmore also set two school records, recording the longest punt return for a touchdown (88 yards) and the longest fumble recovery for a touchdown (89 yards). He earned first team All-CCC honors and was named the CCC Special Teams Player of the Year as well.
Joining Elmore on our list is teammate and quarterback Lane Gunder.
Gunder was first team All-CCC, leading the Panther’s offense and amassing 24 total touchdowns and averaging 185.5 all-purpose yards per game. He was 77-137 on the year with 1,168 passing yards and 15 touchdowns through the air. On the ground, Gunder added 61 rushes for 687 yards and nine touchdowns.
Another first team All-CCC runner to join our list is North’s Woodyard.
Woodyard missed three games on the year and it showed on the field when he was absent. And even with only seven games under his belt, he still carried the ball 97 times for 562 yards and nine touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for 125 yards and two scores. Finally, he was a four year letter winner on the roster as well.
Joining the three North players is Aaron Deaton, a senior from Twin Valley South. Deaton was the cornerstone of the offensive and defensive line for South and earned the Lineman of the Year in the CCC. He was also first team All-Southwest District and first team All-CCC and was third on the team in tackles (three sacks, nine tackles for a loss, 35 solo tackles, and 55 assists).
“On the offensive line he was like having another coach out there and we don’t keep stats on pancakes but he had double digits in multiple games,” said head coach Tyler Cates.
Joining Deaton is teammate J.J. Utz, a senior wideout slash running back and defensive back. Utz was the team’s big play maker and he tied or broke four school records. This was only his second year in pads as well.
Utz was named first team All-CCC and first team All-SW District, compiling 11 touchdowns (school record), including four in one game (another school record). He had 32 catches on the season for 652 yards (yet another record) and 222 yards in a single game (his final school record). On the defensive end, he had two interceptions and 30 tackles and served as the teams kicker, going 25-30 on PATs.
Rounding out the first teamers for South is senior quarterback Jacob Bassler. The signal caller amassed 1,264 yards passing, going 88-176 for 15 touchdowns and six interceptions and rushed for over 200 yards. He was also instrumental on the defensive side, contributing 40 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
“He helped our defense get lined up. The smartest kid I have ever coached,” said Cates.
Bassler also broke a school record during their matchup against Covington, throwing for 300-plus yards and completing 25 passes in a single game. He earned a special mention in the CCC and was second team All-SW District.
Eaton’s Lew Bowser also joins our list. He served as the team’s quarterback but his biggest impact came on the defensive side, putting in 65 tackles and an interception. He was selected to first team All-SWBL. Under center, he had 1,745 yards of total offense and 14 touchdowns.
Bowser’s teammate, junior Kevin Melling also earns a spot on our list. He was big in the trenches for the Eagles, playing on the offensive line and was a linebacker. On the season, Melling had 101 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble.
Shawnee’s Trey Smith finds a spot on our list. He only played in seven games this season but still managed 61 catches for 1,007 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per catch while earning seven touchdowns on the year. He holds all receiving records as an Arrow.
His teammate and quarterback, Joby Williams, also makes the cut. Williams is a senior and a four year starter for the Arrows. On the season, he completed 59 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,715 yards and 13 touchdowns. On the ground, he ran for 462 yards and eight scores and also holds all the passing records for Shawnee.
Rounding out our list is Tyler Glander from National Trail. Glander was the team’s outside linebacker and best overall player – not just in the ‘stats’ department either, said head coach Randy Kerns.
He was first team All-CCC and led the team in tackles for loss as well as tackles per game. He was also huge on the offensive line as well for the Blazers.
Tanner Booth, a junior lineman from North, has played every game at guard for the Panthers over the last two seasons.
“He is the anchor of our offensive line and is extremely fast,” said head coach Bill Derringer. “He is able to pull and trap and also leads our backs around the outside when needed. He was a big reason why we averaged 348 yards of offense per game.”
Booth was a first team All-CCC selection.
His teammate, another junior in Zack Edgin, also earns second team honors. Edgin was the kicker for North and often gave them an advantage in the field position game, netting six touchbacks and several kicks within the five yard line. He was 40-42 on extra points and converted on two field goals as well.
Another well deserving player is Chad Ehler from South. He was a senior and played all four years at the varsity level. Ehler was one of the backbone’s of the Panther defense, setting two school records with 26 tackles in a game and 147 tackles on the season. He also had two fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown.
On the offensive end, he was a fullback, carrying the ball 40 times for 150 yards and two scores.
Andrew Augspurger, a junior from South, joins Ehler. He served more as a utility player – playing on the line, as a tight end, a defensive end, and a linebacker. He was also second on the team in tackles with 97 and had three fumble recoveries. The only time Augspurger stepped off the field was during field goals.
Nick Frost from Shawnee also makes it. He was a senior and interior lineman on both sides of the ball. He graded out for the year at 94 percent and “destroys players when he pulls and kicks out,” said head coach Matt Hopkins. He was also an first team All-SWBL player.
Joining him is another Arrow, Luke Lovley, a sophomore running back and linebacker. Lovley had 99 tackles – including five for loss and 1.5 sacks on the reason. He also ran for 526 yards and five touchdowns while pulling in 76 receiving yards and a score as well. He was second team All-SWBL.
Shelby Ward from Eaton joins the list. He was a defensive back for the Eagles and had 59 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. He was voted second team All-SWBL.
Ward’s teammate, Donnie Nicodemus, was a strong defensive and special teams player for Eaton as well. He had 36 tackles, two sacks, one interception, and one fumble recovery on the year. As the team’s punter, he averaged 35.5 yards per punt with a long of 63 yards. Nicodemus was second team All-SWBL.
Damon Willard, the Eagles senior running back, was an SWBL honorable mention, amassing 886 total yards and 10 total touchdowns on the season.
Rounding out our second team list is a pair of National Trail players.
First, Ben Sullivan. He was a first team All-CCC player and did everything for Trail. He had 500 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns on the season but was also huge on the defensive end and special teams as well.
His teammate, and only senior on the team, Michael Bane also earns a second team nod. He was the quarterback on the year and was second team All-CCC. Bane kept getting better as the season progressed and was third in the CCC in passing yards with 907.
Colton Scott, senior, TCN; Gavin Overholtz, junior, TCN; Jordan Overcash, senior, TCN; Josh McIntosh, senior, TCN; Brandon Via, junior, TCN; Dakota Dixon, sophomore, TCN; Mike Meyers, junior, TVS; Sammy Shockey, junior, TVS; Izik Paxson, junior, TVS; Kolten Dillon, senior, Shawnee; Alex Steele, junior, Shawnee; Kevin Ketring, junior, Shawnee; Aaron Tolliver, sophomore, Eaton; Ghye Wilson, junior, Eaton; Drew Moore, senior, Eaton; Tyrell David, senior, Eaton; Matt Todd, senior, Eaton; Josh Bulach, senior, Eaton; Michael Ray, sophomore, Trail.
Jeremy can be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH.