The top players in Northern Kentucky this past season were nothing short stellar. The seniors lived up to their billing while several juniors let it be known they were forces to be reckoned with. The best were butting up big production and it seemed like most of them did it more than one phase of the game.
Here is a look at the 2016 TriState Football Northern Kentucky Player of the Year finalists.
NKY Offensive Player of the Year finalists
Jake Chisolm (Ryle) Chisolm was the gas that juiced the potent Ryle offense. All the junior did was run for 1,681 yards reel in 31 receptions for another 605 yards and scored 28 touchdowns (22 rushing, four receiving, two kick returns). He was named First Team All-NKY for his handy work. Chisolm will head into his senior campaign with 2,448 yards on the ground, 57 receptions for 881 yards and 40 touchdowns at the varsity level (31 rushing).
Dante Hendrix (Cooper) A true game-changer in phase offense, defense and special teams. Hendrix was named the Class 6A, District 5 Player of the Year and also earned First Team All-NKY accolades for a second straight season. He capped off a great career with 71 receptions for 1,405 yards, 20 touchdown catches, 42 total tackles and six interceptions including a pick six as a senior. As a junior, Hendrix was a TSF NKY Defensive Player of the year finalist and a First Team All-TSF receiver. His 40 career touchdown reception ties him for 16th most in Kentucky history and 2nd most in Northern Kentucky all-time (47 – Brett Hamblen, Highlands, 98-00). The 3,106 receiving yards Hendrix racked up is 12th best in Kentucky history and his 170 receptions at the varsity level is 19th best in Kentucky history. On defense he snared 13 career interceptions. Hendrix has verbally committed to Indiana State.
Armand Jackson (Conner) This Conner senior was a load to bring down. Jackson ran for 1,349 yards and 22 touchdowns as the Cougars went 9-3. He was named First Team All-NKY for his efforts.
Aiden Justice (Beechwood) The leading rusher for the state champion Beechwood Tigers. The versatile senior ran for 1,107 yards, caught 32 passes for 604 yards and found the end zone 26 times (18 rushing, seven receiving, one kick return). Justice finished his career with 1,666 yards rushing, 56 receptions, 948 receiving yards, 29 rushing touchdowns and 17 touchdown catches.
Jared Lonaker (Cooper) In his only year as the Jaguars starter Lonaker was sensational. The senior threw for 3,222 yards with 32 scoring strikes. Lonaker also added another 424 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
AJ Mayer (CovCath) The junior came away with Class 5A, District 5 Player of the Year and Second Team All-NKY honors after accruing 2,983 yards of total offense ( 2,461 passing, 521 rushing) and accounting for 31 touchdowns (20 passing, 11 rushing). In two seasons as the Colonels starter Mayer has thrown for 4,469 yards, ran for another 1,154 yards with 37 passing and 19 rushing touchdowns.
Tanner Morgan (Ryle) The senior was the catalyst for a Raiders team that went undefeated during the regular season and finished 12-1. He was named First Team All-NKY after throwing for 2,674 yards, running for 320 yards with 21 touchdown passes and two more scores on the ground. This is the second straight year that Morgan has been a finalist for the TSF NKY Offensive Player of the Year. Ryle went a combined 21-4 in Morgans two years as the starter since he transferred from Hazard after his sophomore season. Morgan is all over the Kentucky record books. His 681 completions and 10,303 yards passing are 8th most state history. The 104 career touchdown passes he tossed is tied for 14th most in state history. Morgan has verbally committed to Minnesota.
Cameron Racke (Simon Kenton) Racke played in 41 wins at Simon Kenton in his four years as letter winner. As senior he amassed 2,476 yards of total offense (1,808 rushing, 668 rushing), had four receptions for 50 yards and accounted for 40 Touchdowns (29 passing, 11 rushing). He was named Class 6A, District 6 Player of the Year and First Team All-NKY (ATH) for his efforts. This is the second straight year that Racke has been a finalist for the TSF NKY Offensive Player of the Year. An amazing career saw Racke put up 7,891 yards of total offense (5,622 passing, 2,269 rushing) while accounting for 104 touchdowns (67 passing, 37 rushing). Racke has verbally committed to Wofford.
NKY Defensive Player of the Year finalists
Justin Blackburn (Ludlow) This junior does it all for the Panthers and his efforts earned him Class 1A, District 4 Player of the Year this past fall. Blackburn threw for 268 yards, had a touchdown pass, ran for 1,111 yards, found the end zone 14 times (12 rushing) and recorded 75 total tackles. For his career Blackburn has 1,596 yards passing, 2,474 yards rushing, accounted for 45 touchdowns (15 passing, 28 rushing) and has racked up 248 total tackles.
Derrick Barnes (Holy Cross) Barnes was a beast all over the field in 16. He was named the Class 2A, District 6 Player of the Year and First Team All-NKY at running back and linebacker to top off his senior season. The 6-foot-3, 243 pound Barnes ran for 1,567 yards, averaged 10.4 per carry, had 22 rushing touchdowns, returned a kickoff for a score, amassed 1,979 all-purpose yards, was in on 126 total tackles (90 solo), forced three fumbles, recovered four fumbles and had a pair of pick sixes on his two interceptions. Barnes has verbally committed to Toledo.
Brian Carter (Simon Kenton) A tackling machine. Carter was in on 158 total tackles (99 solo) on his to First Team All-NKY honors as senior. Carter registered 316 total Tackles (195 solo) and had three interceptions during his career.
Sander Rocksvag (Cooper) Rocksvag is arguably the best lineman to ever come out of Cooper. The senior put his exclamation mark on that claim by being named First Team All-NKY as an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman. He finished 16 with 70 total tackles and had 137 tackles for his career. As a junior, Rocksvag was a Second Team All-TSF selection as an offensive lineman.
Hunter Ruber (Walton-Verona) An outstanding career culminated in Ruber being named the Class 2A, District 5 player of the Year and First Team NCKC as a senior. Ruber finished his senior season with 425 yards rushing, nine scores on the ground, 97 total tackles (73 solo) and two fumble recoveries. He leaves Walton-Verona with 202 career tackles and five interceptions.
Peyton Van Horn (Conner) A First Team All-NKY selection at linebacker after recording 131 total tackles, 12.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, an interception and a safety as a senior. He finished his career with 290 tackles, 350 yards rushing and four touchdowns (one rushing, two receiving, one kickoff return).
Alex Thurza (Scott) The junior was named the Class 4A, District 7 Player of the year and Second Team All-NKY as a linebacker. A pretty impressive feat considering Scott went 2-9 this past season. Thurza also ran for 410 yards and four scores
Join us as we recognize Team of the year winners from Dayton, Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky & Indiana, Player of the year finalists from all of those areas, WCPO Player of the Week winners and all members of the 2016 Postseason All-TSF squad as they will be honored at our upcoming TSF Year in Review Show on Monday, February 20th at The Holy Grail – Banks in downtown Cincinnati.