It’s come that time of the high school football season to take a deeper dive into the IndyStar Mr. Football race for 2015.
A disclaimer: This list of 10 candidates will lean heavily on quarterbacks and running backs. Since Mr. Football was first awarded in 1992 to Franklin County running back Alex Smith, 20 of the 23 winners have played either quarterback or running back. Terry McLaurin, a receiver at Cathedral, was the last non-quarterback or non-running back to win it, in 2013.
Another disclaimer: This is not an “official” finalist list. Coaches vote for Mr. Football and the Mr. Football position winners after the season.
Yet one more disclaimer: Only seniors are eligible to win Mr. Football, so standout underclassmen Titus McCoy (Center Grove) and Markese Stepp (Cathedral) will have to wait their turn.
That said, let’s take a closer look at 10 candidates (in alphabetical order):
Kiante Enis, Winchester, RB
By the numbers: The 6-2, 200-pound Michigan recruit has rushed for 1,251 yards and 14 touchdowns for the 5-2 Golden Falcons. He’s also caught two touchdown passes and has a TD on an interception return, a punt return and a kickoff return. Enis has intercepted five passes.
Why he will: Enis does it all for Winchester. He had a huge junior season, rushing for 3,189 yards and 49 TDs.
Why he won’t: Players from smaller schools generally don’t get the same consideration as those from larger programs. Winchester was 10-2 last year but has never won a sectional.
Chris Evans, Ben Davis, RB
By the numbers: The versatile Michigan recruit has rushed for 541 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 37 passes for 498 yards and four TDs.
Why he will: Evans had a huge junior season for the 6A state champs. He finished with 1,249 yards and 18 TDs rushing and caught 51 passes for 676 yards and 10 TDs. Evans was a well-known name going into the season.
Why he won’t: Ben Davis is 3-4. While still dangerous and capable of making a run, the Giants aren’t the offensive juggernaut of a year ago. Defenses can focus on Evans.
Luke Johnston, Southport, QB
By the numbers: The 6-5 Johnston has completed 68 percent of his passes (140-for-206) for 1,783 yards and 23 TDs (to five interceptions) for the 5-2 Cardinals.
Why he will: Johnston’s numbers stack up well against anybody. As a junior, he passed for 3,228 yards and 28 TDs and as a sophomore passed for 2,695 yards and 29 TDs.
Why he won’t: Southport has won back-to-back sectionals, but Warren Central is in the same field with the Cardinals this year. Getting out will be tough.
Austin Mack, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, WR
By the numbers: The 6-2, 205-pound Ohio State commit has caught 22 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 404 yards and nine TDs, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, one punt return for a score and returned one of his two interceptions for a TD.
Why he will: Mack is arguably the most talented player in the state. Luers made it to a semistate last year and plays a schedule that should prepare it for a deep run in Class 3A.
Why he won’t: There are others with bigger numbers. Mack doesn’t play quarterback or running back full-time (he does play some running back).
Collin Miller, Hamilton Southeastern, DL
By the numbers: The 6-4, 250-pound Purdue recruit had 52 tackles (32 solo) through six games for 6-1 Hamilton Southeastern. He also has made four sacks and caused three fumbles.
Why he will: Miller has been dominant in big wins for the Royals, including those over Avon and Fishers.
Why he won’t: He plays defense.
Alex Neligh, New Palestine, QB
By the numbers: Neligh has completed 71 percent of his passes (80-for-112) for 1,220 yards and 16 touchdowns (with just one interception). He’s also among the state’s leading rushers with 1,179 yards and 19 TDs (9.8 yards per carry).
Why he will: New Palestine has won 22 games in a row and is coming off a title in Class 4A. Neligh passed for 2,469 yards and 28 TDs as a junior and rushed for 1,185 yards and 19 TDs.
Why he won’t: New Pal has moved to 5A this year due to the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s tournament success factor. Its regular-season schedule doesn’t match up with other top 5A programs, though that’s little fault of its own.
Brandon Peters, Avon, QB
By the numbers: The 6-5 Michigan recruit has completed 63 percent of his passes (115-for-184) for 1,723 yards. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is 23-to-2. He also has rushed for two TDs.
Why he will: It’s hard to argue with the notion that Peters is the best senior quarterback in the state. Peters could be Michigan’s starting quarterback soon, perhaps even next year. He hasn’t made many mistakes this year for 5-2 Avon, a legitimate state title contender.
Why he won’t: Avon may not get out of the sectional. It will likely have to get through defending state champion Ben Davis, which has defeated the Orioles five consecutive times. Of the 23 Mr. Football winners, only three have lost in the sectional.
Aidan Smith, Fort Wayne Carroll, QB
By the numbers: The Northwestern recruit has completed 62 percent of his passes (103-for-165) for 1,218 yards. He has nine TD passes for four interceptions and has rushed for 303 yards and 10 TDs.
Why he will: Smith passed for 1,505 yards and eight TDs and rushed for 336 yards and six TDs as a junior. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the state.
Why he won’t: Carroll has won three consecutive sectionals but will probably have to get past Carmel (or HSE, Fishers or Noblesville) in the regional. Its past two meetings with Carmel were losses of 56-6 and 38-7.
Jovan Swann, Center Grove, DT
By the numbers: The big lineman has 36 solo tackles, four sacks, one caused fumble and one fumble recovery for the Class 6A top-ranked Trojans (7-0).
Why he will: Swann, who has offers from a number of FBS programs (he’s taken an official visit to Stanford), is arguably the most disruptive defensive player in the state. He even blocked a punt in a crucial situation to spark a comeback win over Warren Central.
Why he won’t: He plays defense.
Michael Viktrup, Carmel, QB
By the numbers: The Air Force recruit might fly under the radar a bit, but his qualifications hold up. Viktrup has completed 67 percent of his passes (80-for-120) for 979 yards and 14 touchdowns (to just two interceptions). He’s also rushed for 382 yards (7.3 yards a carry) for six TDs.
Why he will: Carmel is 5-2 and ranked No. 2 in the state going into Friday’s game versus Warren Central. The Greyhounds have as good a shot as anyone on that side of the bracket of making a run to the state finals.
Why he won’t: Carmel spreads the wealth on offense, so Viktrup’s numbers aren’t always flashy. If it comes down to a statistical comparison of quarterbacks, there will be others with bigger numbers.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.