Did Hunter Johnson’s chances to win the state’s top award in high school football take a hit Friday night?
Maybe. Maybe not. How’s that for a definitive answer? Johnson, the Brownsburg senior quarterback, saw his team’s season come to an end with a 49-13 loss to Ben Davis in Class 6A Sectional 5. But that doesn’t mean he’s out of the running for IndyStar Mr. Football presented by Marian University.
The vote, which is made by the state’s high school football coaches, won’t take place until after the season. There’s still plenty of time for other candidates to make a statement. But let’s take a look at Johnson’s case, specifically.
Unofficially, the 6-3, 195-pound Clemson recruit finished the season 166-for-318 (52 percent) with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In his four-year career, Johnson completed 51.4 percent of his passes (only 33 percent as a freshman) for 6,658 yards, 69 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. This season, Johnson rushed for 529 yards and three touchdowns.
From a team perspective, Brownsburg was 3-7 in 2013 and ’14 and 4-6 last season before improving to 8-2 this year and winning the Hoosier Crossroads Conference. Brownsburg hasn’t won a sectional game since 2011, however.
Johnson is the top-ranked recruit in the state by Rivals. But that hasn’t always meant much toward the Mr. Football vote. Going back to 2002, here are the top recruits by Rivals:
2015, Austin Mack – Fort Wayne Bishop Luers
2014, Darrin Kirkland Jr. – Lawrence Central
2013, Justin Brent — Speedway
2012, Jaylon Smith – Fort Wayne Bishop Luers
2011, Gunner Kiel – Columbus East
2010, Remound Wright – Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger
2009, James Hurst – Plainfield
2008, Montez Robinson – Avon
2007, MarQueis Gray – Ben Davis
2006, Jerimy Finch – Warren Central
2005, James Aldridge – Crown Point
2004, Selwyn Lymon – Fort Wayne Harding
2003, Chris Graham – Warren Central
2002, Clayton Richard — McCutcheon
Out of that group, Smith (2012), Kiel (2011) and Richard (2002) won Mr. Football. Only three out of 14. But it’s also worth noting that two of the three were quarterbacks. The only other quarterback who was also the top-rated recruit and didn’t win Mr. Football was Gray in 2007. Paul McIntosh of Evansville Reitz, also a quarterback, was the selection that year.
In all, there have been 12 quarterbacks selected in the 24 years of the award. That is the most of any position, edging out running back (nine).
Johnson’s chances largely depend on his competition. Players like Russ Yeast (Center Grove), Warren Central’s Zach Summeier and Tristen Tonte, West Lafayette’s Mikey Kidwell and several others are still playing and can help themselves.
Johnson can’t. The last Mr. Football winner not to win a sectional was Richard, in 2002. McCutcheon was 10-2 that season, losing 28-21 to Zionsville in the sectional championship.
• Did we get a sneak peek at a potential front-runner for next year’s Mr. Football on Friday? Ben Davis quarterback Reese Taylor was electric in the Giants’ win over Brownsburg, who passed for 207 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 151 yards and two TDs. Those numbers were in the first half.
Taylor, a junior, said he hasn’t received much recruiting interest yet. I don’t expect that to last. His height (5-10) probably means he’ll be a receiver or defensive back in college, but Taylor’s speed and elusiveness should generate plenty of attention from college coaches.
He’s also a heck of a high school quarterback. Going into Friday’s game, he’d passed for 1,672 yards and 13 touchdowns this season and rushed for 615 yards and 18 TDs.
I mentioned to Taylor after the game that he looked a lot like former Ben Davis running back Chris Evans running up and down the field.
“That’s like my big brother,” Taylor said of Evans, now a freshman at Michigan. “Chris did a lot for me.”
• There are two top-10 teams in Class 6A eliminated (Brownsburg No. 5 and Hamilton Southeastern No. 9) going into sectional championship week. Same for 5A, where No. 2 New Palestine and No. 8 Decatur Central are gone. In 4A, No. 5 Mississinewa, No. 6 Evansville Central and No. 10 East Chicago Central are out. In 3A, No. 1 Gibson Southern, No. 3 Guerin Catholic, No. 5 Tri-West and No. 10 Hanover Central are out. In 2A, No. 1 Woodlan, No. 4 Scecina and No. 10 Eastside have been eliminated. In Class A, No. 7 Carroll (Flora), No. 8 Northfield and No. 10 Shenandoah are out.
Only six of the 96 teams remaining have a losing record. One is Fishers (4-6), which knocked off Noblesville 28-14 last week and will play at Carmel (6-4) for the Sectional 4 championship.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.