The Pointers picked up two of the football post-season awards from the Press Argus-Courier.
Gary Phillips, the junior starting quarterback for Van Buren was named the Offensive Player of the Year while teammate Cha’raun Page picked up the Defensive Player of the Year.
Alma senior Landon Blair earned the paper’s MVP award and sophomore Darryl Kattich was recognized as Rookie of the Year.
Offensive Player of the Year
Phillips helped the Pointers reach the playoffs and gave coach Crosby Tuck a winning season in his first outing as the head coach for Van Buren.
Van Buren finished 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the 7A West.
“Gary is a very versatile player,” said Crosby. “He throws the ball well and makes good decisions. He’s a real dual-threat guy. Gary isn’t just a quarterback who can run the ball when needed. He can run the ball and throw as well.”
Phillips completed 171 of 293 passes for 2,082 yards with 12 interceptions and 15 touchdowns. He also had 856 yards on 138 carries (6.2 ypc).
The junior quarterback was also elected to team captain this past season.
“We felt like he deserved it and he did well,” Crosby said. “He’s accountable, coachable and all the extra things you need in a good quarterback. He did very well in his first full season as a varsity quarterback and I know he’s anxious to get back out here again.”
Defensive Player of the Year
Van Buren utilizes a three-man front on defense and the coaches squarely placed Page right in the middle of it all.
“Man… Cha’Raun is just one of those players you just wish you can always keep,” said defensive coordinator Moe Henry. “He was the big dog in the middle, week in and week out. His quickness always demanded double teams and sometimes that didn’t work. He was a force in the backfield for us all season.”
As the nose tackle for the Pointers, Page had 44.5 tackles and seven tackles for a loss. He is also credited with four sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. Page chaulked up a pass break-up, forced a fumble and recovered one. He was also named to the 7A-West All-Conference team.
“His qualities of being a demanding, selfless, and a leader were the characteristics of Page both on and off the field,” Henry said. “We had a lot of good players on defense this season, but it all started with No. 62.”
Tuck also appreciated Page’s leadership on and off the field.
“His attitude and the energy he’d bring on Friday nights to help the team get ready to go,” said Tuck. “He’s that kind of guy… everything you want in a player, a leader and a member of the community. He will be missed. I’m very proud of him.”
Alma didn’t have a great start to the year. The Airedales began 0-5, but the squad never lost their resolve. The players and the coaching staff continued to work and found a way to get better every day.
Alma edged out Morrilton 29-28 in Week 6 and sparked a 5-0 run to end the season which ended with a second-round Class 5A playoff game.
The Airedales couldn’t have made the run without many of their individual players working as a cohesive unit, but Blair’s stalwart efforts during his senior season helped spearhead Alma’s run into the playoffs.
“Landon is a team-first player,” said former head coach Doug Loughridge, who is now the athletic director for Alma. “He will do whatever is asked of him by his coaches. This year, he bought in to being a downhill runner and led us with his legs and his size. He is fearless and will give you all he has for four quarters.”
The senior quarterback had 147 carries for 636 yards (4.32 yards per carry) with eight touchdowns. Blair completed 56 percent of his passes (102 of 181) with seven interceptions with 1,368 yards and 11 touchdowns. On defense, Blair had 50 tackles with a sack and two tackles for a loss.
Blair was a two-year starter for Alma and the Airedales reached the quarterfinals both of those years.
Rookie of the Year
Coach Max Washausen knew he had something special watching Kattich in junior high. The sophomore made the transition to high school football with relative ease.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind talent for sure,” said coach Max Washausen. “He’s tough, durable, competitive and coachable. Those are the traits which make him a great player.”
Kattich led the county with 1,511 yards rushing on 171 carries (8.8 yards per carry). He also made six catches for 29 yards and another TD. On defense, Kattich added 58 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, with a sack and an interception.
“I can see Darryl breaking high school records and becoming a college player,” Washausen said. “As a team we have a great group of kids coming up and we have goals of winning a conference championship and Darryl is a huge part of that.”