Panthers hand out end-of-season honors

Asher voted Most Valuable Teammate

Panther quarterback Ethan Asher (No. 3) follows the block of teammate Dalton Woodward against Jackson during the final game of the season at Panther Stadium last month. Asher was named Most Valuable by his teammates at Tuesday’s awards ceremony at Powell High School.
Panther quarterback Ethan Asher (No. 3) follows the block of teammate Dalton Woodward against Jackson during the final game of the season at Panther Stadium last month. Asher was named Most Valuable by his teammates at Tuesday’s awards ceremony at Powell High School.
Tribune photo by Don Cogger

Eight members of the 2018 Powell High School football team have been honored for their contributions to the Panthers’ season.

The team’s end-of-season awards recognized the Rookie of the Year, the Lee Blocking Award, Most Improved, Most Inspirational, Most Valuable Defensive and Offensive Players and Most Valuable Teammate. The awards were voted on by the players’ peers.

Participation certificates were also handed out, and 35 athletes were awarded varsity letters.

Rookie of the Year — Toran Graham

A new category for the Panthers this year, the Rookie of the Year Award is awarded to a first-year varsity player who made a positive impact on the team. The 2018 winner was freshman linebacker Toran Graham, a player first-year head coach Aaron Papich said showed a lot of potential, and whose future he’s excited about.

“Toran was actually our top defensive point-getter in the game against Jackson, and he started that game,” Papich said. “He just did an awesome job this year for us. He started on special teams, and we pulled him up to varsity because of how physical he was on our scout team. We thought, ‘Hey man, this kid can play.’”

Graham was inserted into the defensive rotation late in the season, and had success.

“The physicality to play varsity football as a freshman is impressive,” Papich said.

Special Teams Player of the Year — Hawkin Sweeney

Freshman kicker Hawkin Sweeney was named Special Teams Player of
the Year.

“Hawkin definitely made an impact at that position,” Papich said.

Most Improved — Macen Thomas

Junior lineman Macen Thomas was awarded Most Improved for his play on the line on both sides of the ball.

“Macen is someone that, if you would have told me at the beginning of the season he was going to start most of our varsity games, that would have surprised me,” Papich said. “His footwork and his quickness and his coachability was really awesome. He really proved himself this year, and it was really fun to watch him play. He did a great job.”

Lee Blocking Award — Carter Olsen

Olsen was a force to be reckoned with this season, and Papich called the senior the “leader on the offensive line.”

“Carter’s football IQ as an offensive lineman was really impressive,” Papich said. “He picked up fast all the schemes we were trying to do, and he really made the whole unit better. He was a lot of fun to coach.”

Most Inspirational — Kadden Abraham

Abraham was second on the team in rushing with 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns, despite being hobbled by injuries for most of the season. He was also a standout on defense, leading the team in tackles with 72 and in defensive points, with 105. The sophomore finished with five tackles for loss, including three sacks, and recovered a fumble.

“Kadden had a very productive season at linebacker and running back,” Papich said. “He wasn’t always 100 percent healthy, but he battled through adversity and found a way to keep practicing and playing at a high level. His toughness inspired our team.”

Defensive Player of the Year — Carson Heinen

Senior captain Carson Heinen is being recruited by colleges as a tight end, but it was his play on the defensive side of the ball that caught opposing coaches’ attention. Heinen was named to the 3A West All Conference and 3A All State teams as a defensive end. When asked to take a larger role in the team’s defensive strategy, Papich said Heinen didn’t hesitate.

“Carson did an awesome job on the defensive side of the ball,” Papich said. “For a player being recruited as a tight end, he wasn’t above stepping up on the other side of the ball. Being All State on defense while being recruited on offense just shows he took that talent to the other side of the ball, where we needed him the most. I’m really happy for him.”

Offensive Player of the Year — Kaelan Groves

Groves rarely came off the field during the 2018 season, and shined on both sides of the ball. Though he was named to the All Conference and All State teams as a defensive back, he was also second on the team in all-purpose yards, and played every skill position on offense at one time or another, including at quarterback.

“Kaelan told me before the season that his goal was to be the best football player he could be,” Papich said. “I really think that he did that.”

Most Valuable Teammate — Ethan Asher

Asher was named the starting quarterback in the third game of the season, throwing for 668 yards and six touchdowns on the year. He also made things happen with his feet, rushing for 184 yards and three touchdowns.

“Ethan, by just his play, allowed everybody to be their best,” Papich said. “What he helped do as a true leader was continually make people better. He’s a tough competitor and a tough kid. We’re happy to have him back next year.”

Papich called the season a success, despite the team’s final record of 1-7, and emphasized that many factors play in to what constitutes a successful season.

“I think these kids’ toughness and resiliency this year was awesome. That’s what really stood out for me,” he said. “It felt great to beat Douglas, and we led in the third quarter against four of the state’s top five teams. I knew that these guys were responding above the line, and that was the culture we wanted to bring to this program.”