All-Area 2012: McVicker named top defensive player
By KLINT SPILLER
NESS CITY -- Ness City High School football coach Chris Bamberger was stunned when he saw senior defensive end Blake McVicker's tackling stats a few weeks into the season.
In previous seasons, senior linebacker Dalton Gantz was the one chasing down all the tackles, so Bamberger expected Gantz to be on the top of the tackling list.
Instead, it was McVicker.
"It was crazy when we looked at the stats a few games into the season, and we said, 'Holy cow, Blake is our leading tackler,' " Bamberger said.
Gantz still had a solid season with 90 tackles, but he was no McVicker.
McVicker kept up the pace and led his squad with 111 tackles, despite playing a position where it is difficult to generate massive tackling numbers.
For his efforts, McVicker was named the Defensive Player of the Year on the 29th Annual HDN All-Area Super 11.
"How did he do that?" Bamberger said. "Let me know and we'll coach our kids to do that every year."
Defensive linemen face constant blocking, and typically, they are used to jam offensive linemen, which allows linebackers to read the holes and stop the ball carrier.
But with McVicker, he was a one-man army.
"That's just crazy," said senior quarterback/cornerback Koltyn Ratliff. "I don't know how he does it."
McVicker finished the year with 8.5 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and an average of 9.3 tackles a game -- all were team highs. He also had two interceptions, a forced fumble and four pass deflections.
His nine hurries were more than half of his team's total for the season.
"He was relentless," Bamberger said.
McVicker isn't a behemoth, standing just 5-foot-10 and weighing 177 pounds, but Bamberger said McVicker and senior defensive end Tucker VonLehe were athletic for their size, using their speed and strength to overwhelm offensive linemen.
"They were able to, but they weren't the kinds of guys that were going to run down the middle of people," Bamberger said. "They were going to use their speed and athleticism to get away from those big heavy guys. It made them pretty dangerous."
McVicker and VonLehe, 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, served as outside containment for the best defense in eight-man football.
Ness City (13-0) allowed a total of 70 points all season. It was the fewest points allowed by an eight-man team since Victoria allowed 66 in 2007, according to preppowerindex.com, but the Knights did it with two fewer games.
"It gives me chills," McVicker said regarding what Ness City's defense accomplished this year.
McVicker said at times, it turned into a competition between the two defensive ends.
Though VonLehe had a terrific season -- 55 tackles and 4.5 sacks -- McVicker won that contest by a mile.
However, McVicker said the competition drove the two and made them better.
"Me and Tucker, we'd always watch each other to make sure that we stayed on top of each other," he said.
McVicker also delivered when it mattered the most.
In the Eight-Man Division I state championship against Mankato-Rock Hills, McVicker had nine tackles and two sacks, which came on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter and pushed Rock Hills back 13 yards.
Ratliff said McVicker made it easier for the rest of the defense. His tenacity forced opposing teams to make mistakes and helped Ness City post 21 interceptions.
"When he would rush the quarterback, most of the time he would just throw it and it would land in our hands," Ratliff said.
McVicker credited his offensive and defensive line coach, Dave Kempke, for his success.
Kempke taught the linemen to use their speed and technique to get around their blocks.
McVicker said his speed was a big reason why he had so much successful chasing down ball carriers.
"Our main deal is to get a good jam and let the backers get all the tackles, but it worked out that I got them all," he said.