The 2020 all-Wabash Valley team as chosen by the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association is a little different this year, just like everything else has been.
For one thing, it’s only a little over half completed. WVFCA members from Illinois are hoping to have their own list in the spring, so the 20 Indiana schools have prepared what they are calling the Indiana All-Wabash Valley Team. The 2021 All-Star Game rosters will be chosen from both those lists, if all goes well.
In-person meetings to hash out the selections were also not considered a good idea, so in many cases the Indiana players honored were the all-conference selections from those schools. Thus there isn’t a first team, a second team and honorable mention, as in the past, just a list of players from each school. So here are the players being honored.
• Terre Haute North — I was sad to learn that Chris Barrett had left the coaching ranks, but his last team was one he’ll remember. The Patriots played with huge amounts of heart their last four games against some of the best teams in the state, and that’s all he ever asked.
The two Patriots who typified that kind of performance were quarterback Jace Russell and linebacker Conner Lutz, both undersized but never letting that be a handicap.
Also honored from North are two-way linemen K.C. Bowling and Kyle Merritt; arguably the best pair of defensive ends in the Valley, Jazz Brown and Keegan Collins; defensive backs Jayson Cottrell and Jack Dailey; and running back/kick returner Damon Sturm.
• Terre Haute South — Despite a less-than-perfect record, there were times this season when the Braves looked unstoppable, largely due to the passing game led by quarterback Caleb Stultz and receivers James Mallory, Andrece Miller and Brayden Bender; Bender was also a contributor defensively.
Other Braves selected include the two members of an outstanding kicking game, Ashton Hayne and Brock Barger, and defensive players Mekhi Moore and Jacob Rutledge (who also carried the ball many times).
• West Vigo — Evan Wyrick was my favorite defensive lineman of this season for a couple of reasons: he always played well, and he’s not much bigger than I am.
The Vikings also had some big-play offensive performers in Zander Wilbur, Cayden Cinotto and Jarrell Sholar — all of whom also played defense — and Shea Andrews was a bully at inside linebacker.
• Northview — North may have had the best pair of defensive ends, but the Knights had the best defensive end because Ilias Gordon (who also found things to do offensively) might be the only first-team all-stater among the players honored. And no, I don’t know when — and maybe the question is “if” by now — the Associated Press plans to do a team of its own; Gordon was picked by the Indiana Football Coaches Association.
I didn’t get to see the Knights this fall, but I know Korbin Allen was a stud fullback, Keegan Garrison a solid quarterback and Parker Jordan a tough linebacker.
Northview revealed an emerging star in linebacker/tight end Braxton Sampson, one of the top juniors on these lists. Also honored were wide receiver/defensive back Easton Morgan and two-way linemen Gabe Stockrahm and Dylan Zentko. (No left-handed team for football, Dylan, so we’ll have to have a baseball season this spring).
• Sullivan — The Golden Arrows were the last Valley team standing and have four representatives on this team. If you’d ask coach Blaine Powell if these four were better offensively or defensively, he could answer “yes” and be correct.
Representing Sullivan are Grant Bell, Tristan Drake, Karver Queen and William Newby, another of the great juniors honored.
• South Vermillion — The Wildcats were a top-10 team pretty much all season, with at least two of them — tight end/linebacker Joey Shew and quarterback Anthony Garzolini — headed for Indiana State. Garzolini is another of the junior stars.
Other South Vermillion players on the list are Peyton Hawkins, James Mancourt, Thomas Brooks, Kadin McMahan, Sam Natale and Anthonio Nieves.
• Linton — Landon Giles is the only senior among the players chosen from the Miners, who could make a good season even better in 2021 led by Gabe Eslinger, Jayden Miller, Drew Smith and sophomore quarterback Hunter Gennicks (who has some bloodlines).
• Parke Heritage — Count on the Wolves continuing to be a top-10 team next fall too. Linemen Louis Monik and Quinton Hanks are seniors — and Hanks is another kicker recognized too — but junior receivers Noble Johnson and Anthony Wood are back, and quarterback Christian Johnson is just a sophomore.
The rest of the Indiana teams will be ranked in order of the number of players selected.
• Seven — That would be South Putnam, winner of the Western Indiana Conference Green Division and a top-10 Class A team represented by Hayden Switzer, Dru Teipen, Parker Hacker, Mitchell Bock, Luke Switzer, Riley Stone and Matt Goodpaster.
• Six — Eastern Greene nominated Ty Rollins, Brenden Johnson, Bryan Rippy, Ian Borst, Trevor King and Ryan Perry for the all-Southwest Conference team.
• Four — Greencastle had a family affair with Brach Carrington, Logan Carrington and Chase Carrington joined by Mark Hernandez; North Central submitted Jeremiah Swalls, Hunter Boone, Anthony Crockett and Rowdy Pierson; and Covington is represented by Alan Karrfalt, John Kiger, Neil Elmore and Duncan Keller.
• Three — Edgewood is represented by Tyler Smith, Brody Schaeffer and Cole May.
• Two — North Putnam was led by Gunner Burress and Mason Ray.
• One — My list of the top three sophomores on this team includes Derron Hazzard of Riverton Parke, along with Christian Johnson and Hunter Gennicks; Weston Rowe was a worthy veteran at North Vermillion; Cloverdale is represented by Hunter Fox; and Kahner Welch and Hunter Wray were picked from Owen Valley and Monrovia respectively.
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A non-football note:
• Giants — Two of the giants who walk among us passed away during the past few days.
Bill Welch, of course, ranks at or near the top of any list of all-time great high school coaches in Vigo County history, which is quite an impressive list. The 1972 state cross country championship and the national recognition earned by those runners is the first thing I think of, but there was probably not a sport he didn’t coach at some time during his career. He also coached two state-championship American Legion baseball teams, and finished his coaching career at Rose-Hulman.
He even recruited me as a timer at one of his track meets that I was supposed to be covering at North, but that worked out fine — sort of. It was raining so hard that day that I couldn’t have taken notes anyway, but the stopwatch kept running.
Then there’s Bennie Kiburis, who probably isn’t on the all-time list of Vigo County greats but possibly should be.
When golfers reach a certain age, shooting their age is something they strive for. For about the past 15 years, Bennie would have been devastated anytime he didn’t shoot his age or lower. Remember, he went to high school with Clyde Lovellette.
I was expecting to see his name in the scores for the Wabash Valley Classic a couple of months ago. I’m sad to realize why he wasn’t playing.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at 812-231-4277; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808. Follow TribStarAndy on Twitter.