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Huskies' playoff run comes with league-wide accolades

by: JO WHEAT - Tyler Saucedo was named to the Tri-Valley Conference Second Team this year, one of 12 players from the North Marion football team to earn all-league honors this season.When the voting results from the Tri-Valley all-conference awards were announced, the North Marion football team received a great deal of recognition for the program’s best season in years. Twelve different players combined for 16 all-conference awards on offense and defense, not to mention head coach Doug Bilodeau’s award for Tri-Valley Coach of the Year.

In Bilodeau’s second season coaching the Huskies, the team finished in second place in the conference and qualified for the postseason with a 6-4 record. North Marion’s success largely was decided in the trenches, where the team combined a run-heavy Wing-T offense with a blitzing defense to disrupt opposing teams at the line.

League coaches took notice of North Marion’s successes, and credited senior Brennan Patterson as the conference’s best lineman. Patterson made the Tri-Valley’s First Team on offense and defense, in addition to being named Lineman of the Year. Bilodeau credits Patterson’s success with the senior’s commitment to offseason training.

“Last year Brennan weighed 318. He came back weighing 250,” said Bilodeau. “He took it upon himself and lost the weight, kept it off, and I believe he’ll keep it off forever.”

Patterson was fueled by a desire to play on the defensive-side of the ball where the team uses up-tempo blitzing packages to blow up opposing teams before they get a chance to develop a play. The style requires a good deal of speed and endurance from North Marion’s defensive players, and Patterson was determined to be a part of that unit, said Bilodeau.

“He made a decision. He couldn’t play defense last year because our play is based on quickness and speed,” said Bilodeau. “This year, he came off once every 20 plays. He was key on defense for us.”

Patterson’s commitment to fitness not only benefited his play, but made an impact in the locker room, where younger players were able to witness Patterson’s dramatic change as a player and the success he had on the field as a result.

“It’s good when you have a leader like that,” said Bilodeau. “People don’t realize that a varsity kid like that – a senior – is so valuable because of who is watching him. Brennan is definitely going to be missed. He’s a special guy, he’s a great teammate, he’s all that.”

On offense, he was joined by teammates Shane McKillip, Kyle Williamson and Hunter Beachy as First Team award winners. Williamson was a do-it-all receiver who was a constant threat to take the ball to the end zone, be it on an acrobatic catch, a kick return or an end-around run.

“We put him at the wing and we ran a play called the rocket toss to him,” said Bilodeau. “The beauty of that is our fans saw him go there, and they would start cheering. Their defense was yelling, ‘There he is!’ And their bench was screaming that he’d get the ball, and he’d still get it.”

On defense, the team featured Patterson and Wampole on the defensive line, with Emry Patterson blitzing teams from the inside. All three earned First Team nods on defense, and if any player got past them to the secondary, Second Team defensive back Brody Gragg was often there to blow up a play.

“Brody is like the cleanup guy,” said Bilodeau. “If something breaks through, he has to stop the run and he has to help out on the pass. You couldn’t take him out because he was such a competitor.”

Gragg had perhaps North Marion’s biggest defensive play of the season against La Salle on Oct. 4. Down 27-26 with under a minute left to play, the Falcons attempted a two-point conversion that would have given them the lead and likely a win. Gragg shot through the La Salle offense and stopped the Falcons for a five-yard loss to effectively win the game for North Marion.

“He got out there and said, ‘I’m going to be the guy to stop this,’ and he did,” said Bilodeau. “That was one of the biggest plays that we had.”

Sophomore defensive back Josiah Ramon joined Gragg on the Second Team. Other award winners include Jordan Kendall and Rafael Saldivar as Honorable Mentions on the offensive line. Tyler Saucedo, Ben Crumley and Wampole were all Second Team winners on offense. Crumley and Williamson were also honored for their play on special teams, earning First Team awards for punter and kick returner, respectively.

The Huskies lose a number of quality seniors this year, but the team’s depth will help them build upon their success, said Bilodeau. Beachy, Kendall and Saldivar give the team a trio of returning linemen, and McKillip and Saucedo could give the Huskies the best running tandem in the league next season.

“When you have guys of that caliber coming back, it’s like getting a tax return. That’s a super bonus that just adds to the whole mix,” said Bilodeau. “Here are two guys who had an opportunity, took advantage of it and worked hard.”