Football

Insider: A midseason look at IndyStar Mr. Football race

It's never too early to break down the IndyStar Mr. Football race.

It’s never too early to break down the IndyStar Mr. Football race.

Believe it or not, there are just four regular-season games left in the high school football season. It seems as good a time as any to assess the race for IndyStar Mr. Football presented by Marian University.

We included 10 players in our preseason look at Mr. Football. Since then, injuries have taken a toll on some of the front-runners. Homestead quarterback Drew Keszei suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the first game and Center Grove running back Titus McCoy has been limited to 45 rushing yards and one touchdown after suffering an ankle injury in his opener.

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Other players have since jumped into the mix. Let’s take a look at 10 candidates through five games (and a few other names at the end):

• Trey Bilinski, NorthWood
NorthWood's Trey Bilinski

NorthWood’s Trey Bilinski

The 6-3, 190-pound Bilinski is putting together a strong season for 5-0 Class 4A second-ranked NorthWood. He has passed for at least three touchdowns in all five games (17 total). Bilinski is completing 67 percent of his passes for 1,565 yards (three interceptions). He also has rushed for 151 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and four TDs. That’s on the heels of a strong junior season (2,095 passing yards for 20 TDs) for an 8-4 team.

Chances: NorthWood is a strong program and plays a schedule that stacks up with any 4A team with the possible exception of Roncalli. Bilinski is putting up these numbers against a quality schedule.

• Mitchell Burton, Columbus North
Columbus North's Mitchell Burton

Columbus North’s Mitchell Burton

The Bull Dogs are 5-0 and up to No. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll for Class 6A. Burton, a 6-3, 190-pound Miami of Ohio recruit, is a big reason why. He has rushed for 656 yards and eight touchdowns (6.4 yards per carry) and caught three passes for 67 yards and a score. Burton has also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Those numbers are on top of 1,757 rushing yards and 22 TDs last season as a junior.

Chances: Keep winning. Burton and the Bull Dogs have a legitimate shot at a 9-0 record in the regular season, but would likely run into Center Grove in Sectional 8. A big game there would really boost Burton’s chances.

• Mac Hippenhammer, Fort Wayne Snider
Fort Wayne Snider's Mac Hippenhammer

Fort Wayne Snider’s Mac Hippenhammer

The 6-foot, 170-pound Penn State recruit has caught 22 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns for unbeaten Snider, the No. 1 team in Class 5A and defending state champion. He also has rushed for 170 yards and three TDs (6.5 yards per carry) and returned five punts for a 21.4-yard average. Hippenhammer broke school records last year with 67 catches for 953 yards.

Chances: With a new quarterback this year, Snider has relied more on its run game. Hippenhammer’s receiving statistics have taken a bit of a hit. But he’s an explosive player and Snider should again have a chance to make a deep run in 5A.

• Hunter Johnson, Brownsburg
Brownsburg's Hunter Johnson

Brownsburg’s Hunter Johnson

The Bulldogs already have more wins than last season, sitting at 5-0 and ranked No. 6 in the latest AP poll for Class 6A. Johnson, a Clemson recruit, has been a steady hand in Brownsburg’s fast start, which includes wins over Lawrence North, Avon and Fishers. Johnson has completed 51 percent of his passes for 1,056 yards and 10 touchdowns (with four interceptions) through five games. He’s also rushed for 205 yards and two TDs.

Chances: Johnson has a better team around him this year, so his passing numbers (2,545 yards and 31 TDs last year) might not be as gaudy. But if Brownsburg continues to win and can make some noise in Sectional 5 (Ben Davis, Avon, Pike), he’ll have a good shot.

• Mikey Kidwell, West Lafayette
West Lafayette's Mikey Kidwell

West Lafayette’s Mikey Kidwell

The 5-9, 170-pound Kidwell is making a serious run up the career passing charts. After leading West Lafayette to the Class 3A state championship game last year, Kidwell has completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,311 yards and 14 touchdowns (three interceptions) as the Red Devils are 4-1 and ranked No. 2 in 3A. He’s also rushed for 167 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and three TDs. Kidwell has 6,916 career passing yards with several games remaining.

Chances: Kidwell should be among the names seriously considered when it comes time to vote. Another run to the state championship game would help. West Lafayette plays tough competition for a 3A program every year.

• John Lux, Shelbyville
Shelbyville's John Lux

Shelbyville’s John Lux

The 6-1, 190-pound Lux is leading the state in passing yardage (1,586 yards) through five games for unbeaten and Class 4A sixth-ranked Shelbyville. Lux is completing 56 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has rushed for 166 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and three TDs. Lux passed for 1,639 yards and 22 TDs as a junior and 1,463 yards and 18 TDs as a sophomore.

Chances: A good game against New Palestine next week would help. So would a sectional title, which the program has never accomplished.

• Cedric Mitchell, Concord
Concord's Cedric Mitchell

Concord’s Cedric Mitchell

The 6-2, 180-pound Mitchell, a Bowling Green recruit, is somewhat of a dark horse but deserves mention as an all-around threat. Through five games for the Class 5A Minutemen, Mitchell has caught 10 passes for 323 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown, returned two kickoffs for TDs (a 39.9 average on nine attempts) and returned two punts for touchdowns (a 31.2 average on six attempts). Mitchell leads 3-2 Concord with 45 tackles and has two interceptions from his safety position, returning one for a touchdown.

Chances: Those numbers, from offense, defense and special teams, are amazing. Big Ten programs have been sniffing around. But Concord probably needs a tournament run for Mitchell to have any real shot.

• Zach Summeier, Warren Central
Warren Central's Zach Summeier

Warren Central’s Zach Summeier

The 6-foot, 185-pound quarterback probably isn’t going to be 100 percent healthy the rest of the season. He injured his right shoulder in Warren Central’s 31-28 loss to nationally-ranked Cincinnati Colerain in Week 2. But good luck getting him out of the lineup. Summeier has completed 70 percent of his passes for 974 yards and eight touchdowns (four interceptions) for the 4-1 and Class 6A second-ranked Warriors. He also has rushed for 123 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown.

Chances: Summeier might not be a high-profile recruit, but he’s earned a spot on a short list of candidates – especially if Warren Central is playing at Lucas Oil Stadium in November. Don’t forget he also passed for 2,087 yards and 13 TDs as a junior.

• Tristen Tonte, Warren Central
Warren Central's Tristen Tonte

Warren Central’s Tristen Tonte

Another one from Warren Central? I’m not sure there’s a more versatile player in the state on the 6A level than the 6-1, 220-pound Tonte. He’s playing primarily at running back this season and has rushed for 396 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. But he also has lined up at quarterback on occasion (8-for-11 for 138 yards and a touchdown) and caught nine passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Chances: Warren Central has an excellent stable of receivers and spreads it around. Tonte won’t have huge numbers, most likely. But there might not be a position on the field he can’t play.

• Russ Yeast, Center Grove
Center Grove's Russ Yeast

Center Grove’s Russ Yeast

The 5-11, 180-pound Yeast has fit right in – and some – after transferring in from Ohio in January after his father took the offensive coordinator position at Franklin College. Yeast has rushed for at least 100 yards in all five games for a total of 676 yards (8.8 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. He also has caught eight passes for 100 yards and returned five punts for a 24.4-yard average.

Chances: Yeast is a bolt of lightning in Center Grove’s offense. McCoy will certainly receive his share of carries as he gets healthy and returns to the regular rotation, but there’s definitely a spot for a big-play threat like Yeast. Only playing his senior year in the state might hurt his chances with some voters.

Here are five more names to watch:

Blake Evans, Southport: After a monster junior season (104 receptions, 1,325 yards, 22 TDs), the 6-foot, 195-pound receiver has put together three consecutive games of at least nine catches and 100 yards. For the season, he has 40 catches for 492 yards and nine TDs.

Avon's Bryant Fitzgerald

Avon’s Bryant Fitzgerald

Bryant Fitzgerald, Avon: The 6-1, 200-pound Indiana recruit has spent the majority of his time on defense through five games, making 48 tackles (37 solo), including seven for loss. He’s returned one interception for a touchdown and averaged 43.2 yards on five kickoff returns. Fitzgerald has also rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns (5.7 yards per carry).

DuRon Ford, New Palestine: The 5-8, 170-pound Pike transfer has helped the Dragons to a 5-0 start and Class 5A No. 2 ranking. Ford has rushed for 957 yards (8.7 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns. If New Pal makes another run to Lucas Oil Stadium, Ford will likely have huge numbers.

Castle's Dayne Keller

Castle’s Dayne Keller

Dayne Keller, Castle: Keller led the state last year with 43 touchdown passes and passed for 3,119 yards but hasn’t gotten off to as fast a start in 2016; he’s passed for about 200 yards per game and 11 touchdown. Castle is 4-1.

Trey Powell, Sullivan: The 6-3, 175-pound quarterback posted an outstanding 35-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a junior as he passed for 2,817 yards and completed 67 percent of his passes. He’s off to a good start again for the 4-1 Golden Arrows, passing for 1,243 yards and 15 touchdowns (three interceptions).

Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.

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