Offensive Player of Year
Eric Casey rushed for 1,871 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior running back at Vian as one of two key players back from a semifinal team ransacked by graduation losses. The 5-9, 160-pounder helped get the Wolverines back there again, finishing with a repeat loss to Davis two weeks ago.
“He really grew up this year, a 160-pounder carrying 250 times and was very durable. He was fortunate enough to have some guys step up in the secondary which allowed him to go just one way,” said Vian’s coach Brandon Tyler.
“With a year of weights after basketball I think he’ll be better next year.”
Casey saluted his young offensive line that included one freshman and three sophomores.
“I have to say that’s a big reason I had the year I had,” he said. “We’ll all be back together next year and I can’t wait.
“No one expected us to be where we were. Next year will be special.”
Defensive Player of Year
The pressure is growing on seventh-grader River Simon. His brother Rylee Simon has another season before handing him the baton but there’s been a Simon named Small School Defensive Player of the Year for three seasons now.
For Rylee, it’s his first. His older brother Rowdy won the honor as a Vian linebacker the previous two seasons. The younger Simon led the Wolverines in tackles for the third straight year with 169, yet because of a senior-loaded team last year, gave way to a few of them on this squad.
Now there’s the streak to worry about.
“He needs to put on several pounds. He’s a little-bitty fellow,” Rylee said of River.
But first there’s another year for River’s second-biggest brother to defend it.
“I hope I can,” Rylee said.
Good linebacker play is a family tradition that extends to their father. Joe Paul Simon starred at Vian then played collegiately at Tulsa.
“You might say he bred them to be great linebackers. There’s definitely a high standard of accountability. They’re great kids on the field and show great character off the field,” Tyler said.
Rylee wasn’t shabby at quarterback. He ran for 1,166 yards and threw for 1,290 yards. He also punted for a 39 yard average.
With his running back returning in 2014, Rylee, like his Rowdy the past two seasons, will pursue as the No. 2 vote-getter on the offensive side. Rylee was third in the MVP vote.
He doesn’t mind yielding to Casey again.
“That’s fine with me,” he said. “I’ve played defense my whole life. In first through sixth grade you could only play one side of the ball and that’s always been what I loved to do.”