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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Putnam County players shine in WVFCA All-Star game

Monday, June 25, 2012

South Putnam's Rob Gibson (black jersey) and North Putnam Nate Bryan (light jersey) each won the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association/Pete Varda Hall of Fame Scholarship during Saturday's All-Star game. [Order this photo]
It was a picture perfect evening for Troy Burgess and the Black squad Saturday night at ISU's Memorial Stadium.

The South Putnam head coach helped guide his team to a 44-41 victory over the Gold Squad and was pleased with the effort the squad put in to the week.

"This is what we wanted. By doing the draft system we implemented this year, this is the kind of game we wanted. These kids have been all-stars," Burgess said.

"They've worked hard all week and deserved to come out and play a competitive game. It hasn't been that way in year's past. The format worked exactly the way we envisioned it working."

Burgess added, "These kids are all-stars and they're going to make big plays. No lead is safe. People saw some talented players on this field tonight. We played well in all three areas and so did the Gold squad."

The Black squad head coach also added his appreciation for the local athletes competing Saturday.

"The thing that really is nice about tonight is that Putnam County was represented pretty dog-gone well. The kids from North Putnam made some great plays. The kids from Cloverdale made some nice catches," Burgess said.

"Levi App from Greencastle made some nice defensive plays. I thought the guys from South Putnam played real well. As the South Putnam coach, the Putnam County kids represented us very well tonight."

Burgess pointed out that the competitive spirit eventually came to the forefront late in the game.

"Like any all-star game, it's all fun and games early. Late in the game, these kids took over. They decided that it may be an all-star game, but they were going to try and win it. That's what they did," Burgess said.

"What a great drive by the offense late in the game to get down and kick the field goal. The defense then came up with the big stop when we needed it."

As for the players themselves, the week proved to be a success on and off the field.

"It was a lot of fun to get out and play with my teammates for one last time, with Coach Crabtree and Coach Barrett. It was a nice time to be with a lot of people from high school for one last time," said North Putnam's Nate Bryan.

"It felt great. I was excited Sunday when we started and it's been building up all week. Everyone jumped right in and picked up things quickly," fellow Cougar Kolten Everts said.

Teammate Hunter Logan added, "It was kind of rough starting off for a lot of guys getting back into it but by the end of the week it was a good way to show the guys going into college how they're coming along."

"It was also one last chance for guys that aren't going on to play one more game," Logan pointed out.

For most, the week proved to be as much about playing as it was about meeting and gelling with new teammates from two states.

"It was a great time meeting all these new guys. I met the Marshall players and Charleston's Chris Creek. It was fun to play linebacker with these guys. Tsali Lough, the safety from Terre Haute South, is a great guy. He was always yelling and keeping the team jacked up. It was a great time," South Putnam's Cody Heller said.

Greencastle's Levi App added, "This week was fun. I made a lot of new friends and some of them I'll be friends with for a long time to come. They're a good group of guys who play like I like to, playing their hearts and it was great to get the win."

With many Putnam County players moving on to the college level, the experience over the week was a boost to the confidence of several players.

"It felt awesome. It was great competition with great teammates and everything I could ask for. This felt really good because I was nervous going over (to Franklin). With this week of practice and playing another game, I'm ready to go," Cloverdale's Ethan Atwood said.

"Kolten (Everts), Tyler (Shorter) and I have been at Marian two or three days a week getting their offense down," South Putnam's Rob Gibson added.

"We've been practicing as teammates, so we had to get used to playing as opponents again. But this will be the last time we do that because we're teammates for the Knights."

Gibson and Bryan were chosen as recipients of the Pete Varda WVFCA Hall of Fame Scholarship. The award was chosen by the players of both squads.

"It's a huge honor to know the way my peers view me. There's no greater honor in my opinion. I came out here to have fun and be nice to everyone. Everyone had a great time and they chose who they wanted to," Bryan said.

Gibson added, "Earning the respect of your teammates is probably the most important thing as well as earning the respect of the coaches. We kept encouraging players whether things were good or bad. It was a great honor to win that award."

Former North Putnam head coach Brian Crabtree, part of the Gold division coaching squad, enjoyed the week with the squad and added his congratulations to Bryan.

"Nate's such a special young man. It's in everything he does. It's been a real honor to get to work with him and he's got so many great things ahead of him in the future. He's the kind of young man you hope your kids grow up to be like. He's well deserving of that scholarship," Crabtree said.

"The thing that makes it special is that the coaches had nothing to do with it. Rob's peers voted for him and the Gold squad did the same for Nate Bryan. It speaks volumes about the kids from Putnam County," Burgess added.

"We know Rob Gibson and Nate Bryan are tremendous players on and off the football field. It's nice that 80 guys come out here for one week and realize that those two kids are that special and that they're quality young men."

"That means a lot for me as a coach for Rob to get that and for them to represent Putnam County in such a class way."