When the Brownstown Central football team was on offense this season, there was a very good chance the ball was going to Derek Thompson.
The Braves knew it, their opponents knew it and everyone in the stands knew it.
And every time he touched the ball, he could hardly be stopped.
Rushing the ball 164 times this season, Thompson amassed 1,463 yards, which was tops in the county by nearly 400 yards, and was always a threat to score if he broke through the first line of defense.
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A large chunk of those yards came against county rival Seymour, where Thompson rushed for 300 yards — a Brownstown Central single-game record — to lead the Braves to a 34-28 win over the Owls.
It’s that kind of performance that set Thompson apart from the other players in the county and earns him the distinction of Jackson County Football Player of the Year.
That big-time performance in the Jackson Bowl also just happened to be Thompson’s favorite moment of his career.
"My favorite memory would have to be beating Seymour this year," he said. "I broke the school record for most rushing yards in a game with over 300, and it was the game we finally put everything together, like everything clicked."
But Thompson showed off more than his running ability this season.
Thrust into the quarterback role over the summer, he also showed he was a capable passer. Though he attempted just 52 passes in 10 games, he completed 57% of them with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Any time the Brave offense would lull teams to sleep with their running game, Thompson would hurl the ball deep for a big gain.
With one exception, Thompson’s average yards per completion was in the double digits.
In addition to being the Braves’ signal caller, he was their punter and played a little defense in close games.
Thompson has found a lot of success during his football career and admits it has been hard to want to put on pads and go to practice some days, but he has never thought for one second about giving it up.
He credits a lot of the success he and the Braves have had over many years to coach Reed May, who according to Thompson, will get in your face if you mess up during practice.
"He’s so hard on us at practice because he wants the games to seem easier," Thompson said. "This definitely carries over to games and contributes to our success on Friday nights."
He hopes the successes he has had on Friday nights will translate into success somewhere on Saturdays at the next level.
Though he hasn’t decided where to attend, he hopes to play college football next fall.
The biggest thing for him, no matter where he goes, is he continues to grow as a player and individual and makes an impact.
In the not-too-distant future, he has traded in his cleats for sneakers with the hopes of contributing to another good season for the Brownstown Central boys basketball team.
Looking ahead to the next Brownstown Central football season, Thompson offered a key piece of advice to players preparing for next year.
It might also help keep coach May off your back, too.
"One of the biggest things they can do is learn their plays," he said. "Start now. This will make practices so much better if you know what you’re doing."
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Player of the Year
Derek Thompson, QB, Brownstown Central
Key stats: 164 carries, 1,463 yards, 8.9 yards per carry, 146.3 yards per game, 9 100-plus-yard games, 20 rushing touchdowns, 5 touchdown passes
Accolades: Academic all-state, all-Mid-Southern Conference first team, Brownstown Central football Mason Watson Award winner
School record: Single-game rushing record (300 yards)
Eli Brown, DB, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: 24 tackles, all-MSC first team, academic all-state
Sam Huber, OLB, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: 44 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, all-MSC first team
Jalen Tiemeyer, DL, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: 37 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, all-MSC first team, academic all-state
Braeden Walker, RB/DB, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: 60 carries, 484 yards, 4 touchdowns, all-MSC first team
Lucas Hines, MLB, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: 123 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, all-MSC first team
Joseph Striegel, OL, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: Paved the way for 3,020 rushing yards, all-MSC honorable mention
Justin Brewer, DL, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: 31 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, all-MSC honorable mention
Nathan Steinkamp, OL/DL, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: Paved the way for 3,020 rushing yards, 27 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 sacks, all-MSC honorable mention
Isaiah Wineinger, DB, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: 19 tackles, all-MSC honorable mention
Jake Cope, WR, Brownstown Central
Key stats/accolades: 11 catches, 263 yards, 23.9 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns, all-MSC honorable mention
Jake Roberts, OL, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: Paved the way for 2,109 rushing yards, all-Hoosier Hills Conference first team
Adam Carter, OL, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: Paved the way for 2,109 rushing yards, all-HHC first team
Cameron Barr, OL, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: Paved the way for 2,109 rushing yards
Brayden Barker, TE, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: 6 catches, 100 yards, 16.7 yards per catch, 25 yards per game, 1 touchdown
Chandler Drummond, RB, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: 173 carries, 1,068 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, 106.8 yards per game, 8 touchdowns
Ely Henderson, WR, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: 23 catches, 365 yards, 15.9 yards per catch, 52.1 yards per game, 3 touchdowns
Ethan Corwin, LB, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: 102 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 interception, all-HHC first team
Josh Pennington, LB, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: 120 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
Steven Wilson, DL, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: 45 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack
Cameron James, DB, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 45 tackles
Brendan Smith, QB, Seymour
Key stats/accolades: 114 carries, 558 yards, 54 of 121 passing for 940 yards, 7 rushing touchdowns, 10 touchdowns passes