by Beau Wicker
There’s no denying Lewis Cass’ and Pioneer’s football teams have been the area heavyweights in recent years.
The Kings and Panthers once again put together impressive seasons on the gridiron, and their players again have been piling up the postseason awards, including this year’s top All-Loganland honors.
Cass senior Sheldon Slusser is the Loganland Defensive Player of the Year, and Pioneer senior Joey Miller is the Offensive Player of the Year.
Slusser, a 6-foot-1, 179-pound senior, excelled on both sides of the ball for the Kings, who got back to their double-digit win total ways this season. They went 11-2 and won their first sectional title since 2009.
On defense Slusser finished with 26 solo tackles, 27 assists and three tackles for a loss from his outside linebacker position.
Slusser was also the Kings’ starting quarterback. He was 43 of 84 passing (51.2 percent) for 873 yards with 11 touchdowns to go with just one interception. He was the team’s second-leading rusher with 669 yards on 116 attempts (5.8 yards per carry) with a team-high 19 TDs.
“He was a playmaker, the kind of guy you want in charge on the field,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “He’s one of the most dedicated players I’ve ever coached. He has a real intense work ethic and made himself a player. With a doubt, he’s the strongest quarterback I’ve had, physically. He was a captain and guy who his teammates had a lot of respect for.”
The Kings’ only losses this season were to Class 3A state runner-up Hamilton Heights and Andrean in a five-overtime classic in a regional battle. They had wins over the likes of Pioneer, West Lafayette, Northwestern, Western, Bremen, Fairfield and North Judson.
“The highlight was sectionals, the sectional championship, and playing Andrean five overtimes,” Slusser said. “Having only one loss leading up to that was huge.”
Slusser expects the Kings’ strong tradition in football to carry on.
“New faces, same game: old-school football,” he said.
Slusser said he plans to join the Marine Corps this summer.
Miller was finally able to show what he was capable of doing when fully healthy for Pioneer. After being hampered by ankle and foot injuries the previous two seasons, the 5-8, 168-pound fullback rushed for 1,990 yards and 25 touchdowns in 12 games his senior year for the Panthers. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry.
“I wish I could have stayed healthy my whole career, but I’m glad that I finally got one season under my belt, and I’m glad it was my senior year,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
Miller rushed for 101 yards on 21 carries in a sectional loss to eventual Class A state champion Lafayette Central Catholic.
“To rush for 100 yards against the best run defense we see says a lot about his ability,” Pioneer coach Mike Johnson said. “To run for almost 2,000 yards in a season is pretty good. Had he stayed healthy all those other years, there’s a good chance he would have been our career leader. He has good quickness and instincts with the ball.”
Miller also started at cornerback and finished tied for second on the team in solo tackles with 28 and added 21 assists.
The Panthers finished 10-2 with the only two losses coming against Cass and LCC. They once again dominated in Midwest Conference play and have won 47 MWC games in a row and 78 out of the last 79.
Miller expects the tradition to continue.
“Every single year people say ‘they might be a little down,’ but I guarantee you that we’ll reload next year. We’ve got a freshman class and a sophomore class, those guys are going to be good, and they’re going to get in the weight room and lift. Those are some good grades, and I wouldn’t expect anything less than great from Pioneer next year,” Miller said.
Miller puts up good combine numbers and plans to continue his football career at the next level.
“I’ve ran hand-time 4.5 40s, and my pro agility is always the fastest one at the camp. It’s just right now being 168 pounds, 5-foot-8, that I’ve got to get someone to take a chance,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to send out my highlight film to a bunch of colleges. I should be going up for a few workouts next month for some Division-II schools. Saint Joe’s been in, a school up in Michigan, Ferris State, I’ve been in contact with them. I plan on playing, I have just not decided a school yet.”
2012 All-Loganland Football
QB — Zach Shidler, Winamac
RB — Bo Bullard, Logansport
RB — Jeremy Gonzalez, Caston
RB — Tyler Katschke, Winamac
RB — Joey Miller, Pioneer
RB — Drew Shepherd, Cass
WR — Justen Downhour, Cass
WR — Levi Schultz, Winamac
TE — Stephen Whitlock, Pioneer
OL — Connor Adams, Cass
OL — Gavin Fulmer, Winamac
OL — Josh Lytle, Pioneer
OL — Grant Maxwell, Cass
OL — Adam Nolte, Logansport
DL — Chanse Ault, Caston
DL — Lucas Knutson, Cass
DL — Dillon Stanton, Pioneer
LB — Braxton Berkshire, Logansport
LB — Blake Cain, Cass
LB — Matt Dorris, Pioneer
LB — Keegan Kasten, Winamac
LB — Corey Moss, Caston
LB — Sheldon Slusser, Cass
DB — Quentin Douglass, Caston
DB — Sam Kiser, Pioneer
DB — Jacob Pomasl, Logansport
DB — Daniel Scales, Caston
DB — Tyler Smith, Logansport
Honorable mention: Cass — Garrett Riley, Gabe Welch, Payton Young; Caston — Alex Corn, Brock Hartman; Logansport — Nate Bullard, Isaac Eastburn, Alex Emmerd, Ryan Schrock, Jacob Snow; Pioneer — Jacob Lytle, Shaun Miller, Hector Osorio, Mitchell Williams; Winamac — Dalton Button, Parker Fox, Sean Lynch, Zach Markley.
The All-Loganland football team was selected by the football head coaches from Logansport, Cass, Pioneer, Caston and Winamac and Pharos-Tribune sports editor Beau Wicker.
Pick up Friday's Pharos-Tribune for complete coverage of the 2012 All-Loganland football team.