Football Area POY: Hightower finishes strong

Football Area POY: Hightower finishes strong

DANVILLE — When B.J. Luke took over the struggling Danville football program at the start of the 2005 season, there was this pesky little kid at every practice and every game. Only in sixth grade at the time, Dennis Hightower had a few years before he could suit up for the Vikings, but he was so enamored with the new coach that he wanted to be around the program and be one of the guys.

"He's been here since the first day I stepped on the practice field," Luke said. "He's a neighborhood kid, little tiny guy that was running around picking up balls and (tackling) dummies and wanting to be the ball boy. He's been to about every practice since I've been here at Danville."

No one, not Luke or Hightower himself, could have anticipated what that little ball boy would become once his turn to suit up for the Vikings came.

As the starting quarterback his junior season, Hightower passed for 1,724 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 1,263 and 21 more scores while leading the Vikings to a 9-0 mark in the regular season and to the Class 6A semifinals. This fall as a senior, Hightower led the area in rushing (1,910), rushing touchdowns (28) and passed for 613 yards with nine touchdowns, leading the Vikings to a 10-2 mark — both losses were by one point — and a berth in the Class 6A quarterfinals. The 5-foot-11 Hightower, who also excelled as a safety, is The News-Gazette's All-Area Player of the Year.

"What I like most about Dennis is he's a kid that when the game is on the line or when it's game time, he's ready to play," Luke said. "He enjoys the game, and he's not one to back away from a challenge. It's always fun for a coach to have a kid like that."

Great athletes always are looking for something to keep them motivated, and their coaches strive to do the same. When Hightower and Luke opened their News-Gazette on the day of the Vikings' season opener against Urbana, player and coach had all the incentive they needed. The Tigers' Cameron Mammen was featured as the Preseason Player of the Year, not Hightower after his sterling junior campaign.

"That was all I needed right there," Hightower said.

"It probably got me more fired up than it did him," Luke said. "Good Lord, my kid threw for 1,700 yards, rushed for 1,300, he was responsible for 40-some touchdowns. That's a pretty good kid coming back."

As the season continued, Normal West quarterback Alex Jefferson was dominating the talk in Big 12 circles, even though Hightower was posting his gaudy stats while fighting through the pain caused by a separated shoulder — he missed one game — and continuing to win games.

"I don't think he likes being put on the shelf, I'll tell you that," Luke said.

But when it was all said and done, it was Hightower who received the most votes for the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year and his team went deepest in the playoffs. It's a ride Hightower and the folks in Danville won't soon forget.

"It's been pretty good. I was around when Danville wasn't very good, the 1-8 Danville teams," Hightower said. "When Coach Luke came around, we turned it around, and instead of being a 1-8 team, we're an 8-1 team and we were 9-0 last year. I wanted to be a part of it because I just knew his game plan was going to work, and I grew up watching him and how things were going around him and I just picked things up as I went. Now, I know exactly what to do and when to do it because of Coach Luke."

What the future holds for Hightower remains to be seen. He's currently working through some academic issues that might force him to attend a junior college to start his career, though he has generated interest from Division I programs as a defensive back.

"The first two years, it was all about sports," Hightower said. "Now, I'm focused on school and not just sports like I used to be. I've turned it around a lot. This year and last year I've been on top of (the academics)."

However things turn out, Luke is confident that given the opportunity to showcase his skills at the highest level, Hightower will come out on top.

"I like him because he's such a gamey kid. I think he can play a lot of places and do some things for folks," Luke said. "He's a kid who's been responsible for like 83 touchdowns over the past couple years, and he wants to play defense. That's just his nature. He's about as tough as they come, and he doesn't get credit for that a lot of times."

Elite company
Dennis Hightower makes it two Vikings in a row to win All-Area Player of the Year. A look:
2011    Dennis Hightower    Danville
2010    Justin March    Danville
2009    Dylan Sturgeon    Unity
2008    Andrew Brewer    Mahomet-Seymour
2007    Caleb Pratt    Westville
2006    Mikel Leshoure    Centennial
2005    Henry Deters    Unity
2004    Preston Williams III    Urbana
2003    Dylan Ward    Prairie Central
2002    J Leman    Champaign Central
2001    Marquis Johnson    Centennial
2000    Morris Virgil    Urbana
1999    Brian Royse    St. Joseph-Ogden
1998    Dustin Ward    Centennial
1997    Dusty Burk    Tuscola
1996    Dusty Burk    Tuscola
1995    Curtis Blanden    Danville
1994    Lenny Willis    Centennial
1993    Chris Jones    Paxton-Buckley-Loda
1992    Juan Herrera    Arcola
1991    Carl Brown    Villa Grove
1990    Andy Schofield    Danville
1989    Jimmy Phillips    Georgetown-Ridge Farm
1988    Jeff Taylor    Rantoul
1987    Adon Navarette    Rantoul

N-G All-Area first team

NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    POS.    HT.    WT.    COACH
Dennis Hightower    Danville    Sr.    QB    5-11    185    B.J. Luke
Philip Meyer    Tuscola    Sr.   QB    5-10    180    Rick Reinhart
Michael Lafenhagen    Unity    Sr.    RB    5-10    195    Scott Hamilton
Chase Diedrich    Mahomet-S.    Sr.    RB    6-1    185    Keith Pogue
J.J. Gardner    GCMS    Sr.    OL    6-0    260    Mike Allen
Matt Wiemelt    Cerro Gordo/D-W    Sr.    OL    5-11    190    Andy Kerley
Marty Thomas    Arcola    Sr.    OL    6-0    205    Gerald Temples
John Strauser    St. Thomas More    Jr.    OL    6-2    225    Dan Hennessey
Robert Lopez    Tuscola    Sr.    OL    5-11    210    Rick Reinhart
Kevin Carroll    St. Thomas More    Jr.    WR    6-0    170    Dan Hennessey
Adam Baker    Bismarck-H.    Sr.    WR    6-1    170    Mark Dodd
Pedro Leal    Arcola    Sr.    PK    5-10    145    Gerald Temples
Ryan Donohue    Monticello    Jr.    Spec.    6-1    210    Cully Welter

NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    POS.    HT.    WT.    COACH
Aaron Hardimon    Danville    Jr.    DL    6-0    271    B.J. Luke
Zak Kaesberg    Mahomet-S.    Sr.    DL    6-1    251    Keith Pogue
Lonnie Fourman    Unity    Sr.    DL    6-1    175    Scott Hamilton
T.J. Onstott    Tuscola    Sr.    LB    5-9    195    Rick Reinhart
Kyle Negangard    Unity    Sr.    LB    6-0    205    Scott Hamilton
Reed Collins    Bismarck-H.    Sr.    LB    6-0    190    Mark Dodd
Hans Carmien    Fisher    Jr.    LB    6-2    220    Matt Leng
T.J. Blake    Tri-County    Sr.    LB    6-0    225    Adam Clapp
Fletcher Evans    Centennial    Jr.    LB    6-3    215    Mike McDonnell
David Sacre    Salt Fork    Sr.    DB    6-1    165    Brian Plotner
Marcus Hendricks    Urbana    Sr.    DB    6-1    160    Nathan Watson
Jesse Boma    GCMS    Jr.    DB    5-10    170    Mike Allen
Mitchell Baker    Champ. Central    Sr.    P    6-2    195    Ira Jefferson

N-G All-Area second team

NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    POS.    HT.     WT.     COACH
Terry Deaville    Rantoul    Sr.    QB    6-1    165    Shane Carter
Taylor Black    Unity    Sr.    QB    6-0    190    Scott Hamilton
William Morris    Danville    Jr.    RB    5-7    180    B.J. Luke
Shane Overshiner    Westville    Jr.    RB    5-11    160    Guy Goodlove
Conner Stewart    St. Thomas More    Sr.    OL    6-0    220    Dan Hennessey
Danny Shroyer    Unity    Sr.    OL    6-3    240    Scott Hamilton
Skyler Knox    Tri-County    Sr.    OL    6-2    260    Adam Clapp
Luke Roush    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    OL    6-2    255    Keith Pogue
Jacob McBride    Danville    Sr.    OL    6-0    279    B.J. Luke
Jordan Scribner    Tuscola    Sr.    WR    6-2    170    Rick Reinhart
Jamir Stovall    Champaign Central    Sr.    WR    6-0    170    Ira Jefferson
Cody Payne    Unity    Jr.    PK    5-10    155    Scott Hamilton
Ryan Strange    Oakwood/A-P    Sr.    Spec.    5-6    165    Gary Denhart

NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    POS.    HT.     WT.     COACH
Morgan Supergan    Bismarck-Henning    Jr.    DL    6-2    280    Mark Dodd
Josh Warren    Monticello    Sr.    DL    6-4    215    Cully Welter
Derek Bunch    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    DL    5-9    250    Keith Pogue
Andy Bensyl    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    LB    5-9    190    Dick Duval
Ryan Pearce    Villa Grove    Jr.    LB    6-0    175    Chad Musselman
Austin Blair    Watseka    Jr.    LB    5-9    175    Steve Lucas
Shane Bruning    LeRoy    Jr.    LB    6-1    185    B.J. Zeleznik
Jacob Williams    Monticello    Sr.    LB    5-8    175    Cully Welter
Kyle Dollahon    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    LB    5-9    170    Keith Pogue
Brad Wright    Champaign Central    Sr.    DB    5-9    175    Ira Jefferson
Cameron Mammen    Urbana    Jr.    DB    6-1    175    Nathan Watson
Ryan Dieu    Georgetown-RF/C    Sr.    DB    6-0    165    Josh Cavanaugh
Addison Bounds    Prairie Central    Jr.    P    6-3    185    Brian Hassett

Special mention

ARCOLA — Clayton Johnson, Sr., WR; Zach Moutria, So., LB; Cole O’Rourke, Sr., WR; Jared Peters, Jr., OL; Quinton Risley, Jr., OL; Andres Rojas, Jr., DL; Omar Rojas, Jr., RB; Hector Salinas, Sr., DB; Jose Tamez, Jr., SB; Brook Van Gundy, Jr., LB
ARGENTA-OREANA — Ryan Barnes, Sr., RB; Cam Cripe, Sr., OL; Ryan Redpath, Jr., PK; Kyle Stinson, Sr., LB; Dylan Sunderland, Sr., P
ARTHUR-LOVINGTON — Jake LaGrou, Jr., DL; Curtis Plank, Sr., WR; Tyler Schuring, Fr., QB
BISMARCK-HENNING — Kevin Allen, Jr., LB; Josh Kessler, Sr., DL; Joey Moulton, Sr., OL; Austin Reinken, Jr., DE; Sam Shoaf, Sr., LB; Seth Talbott, Sr., PK; Chase Whorrall, Sr., DB
BLUE RIDGE — Johnny Bruden, Jr., QB; Trenor Hildreth, Sr., LB; Jordan Schrock, Sr., P; Devin Voyles, Sr., OL
CENTENNIAL — Jalen Anderson, Sr., DB; Will James, Sr., OL
CERRO GORDO/DeLAND-WELDON — Cole Blickensderfer, So., P; Jordan Crist, Jr., LB; Kyle Gideon, Jr., LB; Kaleb Krigbaum, Sr., DB; Kybric Lamb, Jr., OL; Bailey Runyen, Jr., OL; Darion Woods, So., RB; Cody Woollen, Sr., RB
CHAMPAIGN CENTRAL — Noah Lessaris, Sr., OL; Tim Turner, Jr., RB
DANVILLE — Devin Lewis, Sr., LB; Jon Lomax, Jr., OL; Dennis Rose, Sr., OL; Guy Rowell, Sr., LB; Trent Sherfield, So., DB
EAST CENTRAL — Cole Board, Jr., DL; Colin Daly, Sr., RB; D.J. Robertson, Jr., P
FISHER — Dylan Chapman, Sr., TE; Boyd Estes, Sr., DB; Carson Perrero, Sr., RB; Parker Perrero, Sr., DB; Josh Wallick, So., OL
GEORGETOWN-RIDGE FARM/CHRISMAN — Ryan Berry, Jr., WR; James Dailey, Sr., OL; Tanner Kelley, Sr., LB; Evan Oleson, Jr., DL; Derrick Shuman, Jr., DL; Korie Vire, Sr., LB
GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY — Lane Ferguson, Sr., OL; Jake Johnson, Sr., PK; Jordyn Schultz, Jr., RB; Trevor Smith, Sr., RB
HOOPESTON AREA — Zach Drollinger, Sr., LB; Alex Golladay, Jr., OL; Robbie Irvin, Sr., RB; Terrence Poke, Sr., QB; Matt Watson, Sr., DL
IROQUOIS WEST — DeMory Barber, Sr., OL; Tyler Clay, Sr., LB; Matt Mogged, Sr., QB
LeROY — Shane Bruning, Jr., LB; Austin Eddy, Jr., RB; Dusty Lane, Sr., OL; John Morrell, Sr., DL; Nic Stevens, Jr., PK; Tyler Woolridge, Sr., DL
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR — Austin Armetta, Sr., DB; Jacob Eckhoff, Sr., DE; Brad Izatt, Sr., QB; Clay Kibler, Sr., WR; Marshall Graham, Sr., DB; Jon Reed, Jr., OL; Garret Risley, Sr., DB; Matt Turner, Jr., TE
MILFORD/CISSNA PARK — Beau Anderson, Jr., DB; Jacob Gullquist, Sr., TE; Travis McKay, Sr., OL; Eron Marquez, Sr., RB
MONTICELLO — Drew Benson, Sr., OL; Ramsey Hoss, Sr., DB; Colton Gibson, So., TE; Scott Huisinga, Sr., WR; Brendan Menacher, So., DL; Vinny Strack, Jr., DB
OAKWOOD/ARMSTRONG-POTOMAC — Craig Ayers, Jr., LB; Hunter Tharp, Jr., DE; Cameron Lee, Sr., OL
PAXTON-BUCKLEY-LODA — Dylan Kingren, Sr., OL; Gauge Snider, Sr., TE; Weston Weber, So., QB; Dakota Zenner, Sr., DB
PRAIRIE CENTRAL — Lucas Diller, Sr., OL; Cole Fairley, So., LB; Tyler Keneipp, Jr., OL; Brad Moody, Sr., WR; Kyle Moody, Jr., WR; Peter Severson, Jr., DE
RANTOUL — Jackson Carver, Sr., DB; Cord Church, Jr., WR; Chris Deaville, Jr., WR; Darian Dorsey, Sr., LB; DeAndre Green, Sr., DE
RIDGEVIEW — Tyler Maxwell, Sr., DL; Bryce Powell, Sr., WR; Ben Tracy, Sr., WR; Josh Weier, Jr., P
SALT FORK — Drew Collom, Jr., OL; Adam Depratt, Sr., DL; Brandon Dixon, Sr., RB; Ryland Fluhr, Sr., DB; Grant Ford, Sr., DL; Taylor Kirby, So., DB; Clay Manning, Sr., LB; Steven Meade, So., LB; Austin Ringus, So., PK; Ryan Schonert, Sr., DE; Kaleb Weaver, Sr., WR
SCHLARMAN — Tyler Russell, Sr., RB; Maher Samawi, Jr., TE; Michael Seilhymer, Sr., OL; Lucas Spezia, Sr., WR
SOUTH PIATT — Corey Garrett, Sr., PK; Phil Irace, Sr., OL; Steve Isbell, So., WR; Andrew Maltby, Jr., DL; Ethan Morton, So., P; C.J. Somers, Jr., RB; Andy Webb, Jr., LB
ST. JOSEPH-OGDEN — Corbin Hesterberg, Jr., DB; Blake Hoveln, Sr., QB; Dylan Troyer, Sr., WR
ST. THOMAS MORE — Paul Comet, Sr., RB; Travis Whitley, Sr., OL; C.J. Young, Sr., LB
SULLIVAN/OKAW VALLEY — Alex Bailey, Sr., OL; Kent Hanson, Sr., DB; Bailey Matheson, Jr., DL; Caden May, Jr., RB; Mason Ohm, Sr., OL; Jacob Vail, Jr., LB
TRI-COUNTY — Tanner Bodle, Sr., RB; Luke Clapp, Jr., QB; Doug Findley, Sr., WR; Dakota Kirchner, Sr., DB; Brandon Walsh, Sr., OL
TUSCOLA — Josh Brookins, Sr., RB; Dillon Hoel, Sr., WR; Jimmy Knight, Sr., WR; Chance Little, Sr., LB; Austin Sexson, Sr., LB; Nolan Walsh, Jr., DB
UNITY — Tyler Bialeschki, Sr., TE; Gage Bolt, Jr., OL; Austin Fender, Sr., LB; Micah Johnson, Jr., WR; Mitch Negangard, Sr., LB; Kendall Neverman, Sr., OL: Seth Tolliver, Sr., DB
URBANA — DeAngelo Johnson, Sr., RB; Mustafa Odeh, Jr., OL; Jerrod Webster, Sr., LB
VILLA GROVE — Travis Arnold, Sr., DB; Shane Frick, Jr., LB; Dillon Frost, Sr., OL
WATSEKA — Daulton DePatis, Jr., DB; Brock Myers, Jr., DL; Caleb Parsons, Sr., DB; Logan Schippert, Jr., DL; Dylan Schuler, Sr., LB; Shane Snyder, Sr., QB; Jeff Ward, Sr., OL
WESTVILLE — Kane Atwood, Sr, DE; Trae Ford, Sr., OL; Brett Hayes, Sr., DL; Dalton Hilligoss, So., DB; Jon Hoepner, Sr., LB; Ethan Novick, Sr., P; Ryan Pinter, Sr., OL; Zach Waclaw, Sr., WR

Final N-G Top 10
SCHOOL (previous)     REC.    COMMENT
1. Tuscola (3)    11-3    Top two rushers, two of top three receivers were seniors
2. Unity (2)    11-2    Top two rushers, two of top three receivers were seniors
3. Danville (1)    10-2    One of top two rushers, top three receivers were juniors
4. Arcola (4)    8-4    Top two rushers underclassmen, top two receivers were seniors
5. Bismarck-Henning (5)    9-2    Two of top three rushers, top three receivers were seniors
6. Monticello (6)    7-4    Two of top three rushers, two of top three receivers were underclassmen
7. GCMS (7)    8-3    Two of top three rushers, top three receivers were seniors
8. Prairie Central (8)    7-4    Top three rushers, top three receivers were underclassmen
9. Salt Fork (9)    9-1    Top three rushers, top three receivers were seniors
10. Mahomet-S. (10)    8-2    Two of top three rushers, two of top three receivers were seniors


Sections (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports

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