DARKE COUNTY – Three seniors who ended their high school football careers with big seasons are The Daily Advocate’s football players of the year.
Ansonia’s Max Wardrip has been named The Daily Advocate’s overall football player of the year, Arcanum’s Daniel Coats has been named The Daily Advocate’s offensive football player of the year, and Versailles’ Kurtis Rutschilling has been named The Daily Advocate’s defensive football player of the year.
Wardrip was a crucial piece of Ansonia’s success on both offense and defense this season, helping guide the Tigers to the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“His contributions to the team were invaluable,” Ansonia football coach Eugene Hoening said. “I don’t think we would have had the success we had without him. He played great linebacker for us and in the backfield he was our best blocker, most consistent blocker, the guy we ran the ball behind. Coach (Matt) Macy manipulated formations so Max was always the blocking back. So for that reason Max didn’t get a lot of yards or a lot of carries, but because of his blocking his teammates were able to gain those yards.”
Wardrip had 215 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers. He averaged fewer than four carries a game but made them count as he gained more than 5 yards per carry.
“He was a tough runner,” Hoening said. “He averaged 5.5 yards a carry. That’s nothing to sneeze at.”
Wardrip could have run the ball more often but was too valuable as a blocker. His unselfish attitude was a key part of Ansonia gaining more than 3,000 yards on the ground this season.
“He was more concerned about the team success,” Hoening said.
On defense Wardrip led the Tigers in tackles with 84 including eight tackles for loss. He also had two sacks and caused a fumble.
“On film it looked to me that he was tackling much more aggressively,” Hoening said.
Wardrip was a good leader throughout the season for the Tigers. He worked hard and picked up his teammates both figuratively and literally.
“I think he set a good example for the underclassmen to follow,” Hoening said.
Coats was second among Darke County football players this season with 1,135 rushing yards, trailing only Tri-Village’s Jared Buckley.
“For us, he was our go-to guy all year long,” Arcanum football coach Jason Schondelmyer said. “Not to mention just his ability to not just be a running back but also to return kicks for us.”
Coats was named the Cross County Conference returner of the year after returning five punts for touchdowns this season. His five punt returns are tied for eighth most in OHSAA history for a career, and he accomplished the feat in just one year.
“I thought he did a great job with that,” Schondelmyer said of Coats’ big-play ability. “I thought he got better as the year went on.”
Teams would scheme their defenses around stopping Coats, who finished the season with 14 touchdowns.
“You don’t always find a kid who can get hard yards up the middle and then also make people miss when you’re trying to create speed in space and he had the ability to do both,” Schondelmyer said.
Whether it was in games or practice, Coats was a great contributor for the Trojans.
“He always did what was expected of him and then some,” Schondelmyer said.
Rutschilling led Versailles with 106 tackles this season, which was third most in Darke County. He also had nine tackles for loss, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“He made a lot of plays,” Versailles football coach Adam Miller said.
Rutschilling earned several big honors this season including being named the state’s Division V defensive player of the year by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association and the Midwest Athletic Conference defensive player of the year by the league.
“Our league puts a lot of pride in playing good defense,” Miller said. “There were quite a few good players that were put up against him, and he was able to come out on top.”
Prior to games, opposing coaches consistently praised Rutschilling.
“He’s one that always seems to get compliments from opposing coaches,” Miller said.
One of Rutschilling’s top plays this season came against Fort Recovery. He stopped MAC offensive player of the year Will Homan in the backfield, forced a fumble and then recovered it.
Rutschilling was able to have a lot of success despite coming off an ACL tear during his junior season.
“He worked really hard to come back from that,” Miller said. “I don’t know if we really noticed any point in the year that he tore his ACL.”
Rutschilling’s hard work is why he was so successful.
“He’s probably been one the hardest workers I have ever seen in a high school kid,” Miller said.