Today, let’s take a look at the potential IndyStar Mr. Football candidates for this season. Avon’s Brandon Peters won Mr. Football last year, marking the 21st time in 24 years a quarterback or running back was voted the winner.
Only seniors are eligible for Mr. Football, which is voted on by the state’s coaches. Here’s a look at 10 potential candidates going into the season, in alphabetical order:
• Mitchell Burton, Columbus North
The 6-2, 190-pound Burton was ninth in the state last year in rushing yards per game (175.7). Burton finished with 1,757 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns for a team that finished 6-4 and lost to Class 6A state champion Center Grove in the sectional. Burton was limited to under 100 yards just once – 83 yards in a loss to Bloomington South. Center Grove is still a roadblock for Burton and Columbus North in Sectional 8.
• Blake Evans, Southport
Here’s a sneaky dark horse pick. The 6-foot, 195-pound wide receiver is getting some Division I interest after posting huge numbers (1,325 yards and a state-leading 22 touchdowns) as a junior. Evans also led the state with 104 receptions for the 8-3 Cardinals. On the downside – Southport is breaking in a new quarterback after the graduation of Luke Johnston.
• Bryant Fitzgerald, Avon
Two Avon winners in a row? The 6-foot, 200-pound Indiana commit is one of the state’s top all-around athletes. Fitzgerald played linebacker, running back and returned kicks as a junior. He racked up 18 tackles in Avon’s 35-34 semistate loss to Center Grove and finished with 100 tackles overall. Fitzgerald also rushed for 587 yards and 11 touchdowns in part-time duty as a running back. The highlight was a 26-carry, 172-yard, four-touchdown effort in a 27-22 sectional win over Ben Davis.
• Mac Hippenhammer, Fort Wayne Snider
The 6-foot, 170-pound receiver has offers from a number of high-major programs, including Michigan State and Penn State. Hippenhammer helped Snider to the Class 5A state title as a junior, setting school records with 67 catches and 953 yards. He had six TD catches and was a standout in the return game, bringing back two kickoffs and one punt for a touchdown.
• Hunter Johnson, Brownsburg
Johnson, a Clemson recruit, is considered the top high school quarterback in the country by 247sports.com. Johnson’s numbers improved dramatically from his sophomore to junior year as he passed for 2,545 yards and 31 touchdowns. He should be on the short list for Mr. Football but Brownsburg will need to improve on last year’s 4-6 record to give him a legitimate shot. He has passed for 4,424 yards and 44 TDs for career.
• Dayne Keller, Castle
Keller led the state last year with 43 touchdown passes and completed 63 percent of his throws for 3,119 yards (ranking third in the state). Castle was 8-5 last season and lost in the Class 5A semistate to New Palestine. Keller passed for more than 300 yards in five games last season and threw for at least five touchdowns in four games. Castle could make a run in Class 5A, which could help Keller’s chances.
• Drew Keszei, Homestead
Keszei, an Ohio commit, put together an excellent junior season as he passed for 2,750 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for 773 yards and eight TDs. Homestead finished 8-4 and won a Class 6A sectional before losing to Carmel in the regional. Keszei rushed for more than 100 yards in all three of Homestead’s tournament games.
• Mikey Kidwell, West Lafayette
Kidwell was second in the state in passing yards as a junior (3,218 yards, 40 touchdowns) as West Lafayette made a run to the Class 3A championship game, losing to Bishop Chatard. Kidwell completed 67 percent of his passes. He has passed for 5,605 career yards and should finish somewhere in the top-15 in career passing yardage in the state.
• Titus McCoy, Center Grove
McCoy might be the front-runner going into the season after helping the Trojans to a Class 6A state championship as a junior. McCoy rushed for 1,912 yards and 28 touchdowns, carrying the load in Center Grove’s biggest wins. For his career, McCoy has rushed for 3,280 yards and 40 touchdowns and caught 50 passes for 602 yards and three TDs. Those numbers come against the best competition in the state, which should be taken into account.
• Jalen Walker, Carmel
The 5-8, 165-pound Walker caught 54 passes for 855 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. Walker, who recently committed to Cincinnati, is a playmaker who could also benefit from his team making a tournament run. Carmel was 10-3 last year, losing to Penn in the Class 6A semistate.
Five other names to consider: Cedric Mitchell, Concord WR; Trey Powell, Sullivan QB; Zach Summeier, Warren Central QB; Pete Werner, Cathedral LB; Kurtis Wilderman, Evansville Mater Dei QB.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.