COLUMBUS – It’s rare that a defensive player earns Player of the Year in the Muskingum Valley League, but Tri-Valley’s Grant Nolder did just that in 2015.
His accolades grew even more Monday.
A senior, Nolder joined sophomore kicker Chase Dinan on the third team as the Associated Press announced its Division II All-Ohio teams Monday. Division III and IV will be released Tuesday.
The teams are chosen by the AP in Columbus based on recommendations from voting members of the media from each district.
Nolder is a former soccer player who was a kicker his freshman year. When it became apparent his skills were suited for more than just a special teams contributor, Tri-Valley coach Justin Buttermore urged him to try a different position.
He found his match at defensive end, where he started on three teams that won MVL titles and reached the playoffs, won three playoff games and boasted some of the best defenses in league history.
After a standout season on the line with Cameron Little and All-Ohioan Johnny Alford last season, he had an even better year as a senior with a far less heralded supporting cast — he had nine tackles and 3 1/2 sacks for a defense that didn’t spend much time on the field.
A spindly build at 6-1, 195 pounds, he didn’t pack the prototype size of most defensive linemen, but he was able to defeat bigger, more powerful offensive linemen with his speed, instincts and ability to diagnose plays.
“People think that they’re going to maul him, but they can’t get to him because he’s so quick and active that people never get a good shot on him,” Buttermore said. “Teams never got a good push on him. He’s as disruptive a player as I’ve had in my 12 years here. He played the wide side of the field, and you couldn’t run roll out his way or kick him out. He was effective against the running and passing game.”
Dinan was arguably the area’s top placekicker, hitting 6 of 8 field goals and 47 of 49 extra points in the regular season. He also regularly hit kickoffs into the end zone, and even averaged 44.3 yards on four punts.
“He was a big part of our defense the last two years with his ability to pin teams deep and affect field position,” Buttermore said. “And this year, we attempted more field goals than we ever have, and I can see him kicking even more next year. We think he can get even better.”
Cincinnati LaSalle’s Jeremy Larkin and Massillon Perry’s Keishaun Sims were named Co-Offensive Players of the Year. Perry’s Keith Wakefield was Coach of the Year, while Perrysburg’s Chaz Westfall was Defensive Player of the Year.