Football: All-County defense

Brady Stanifer was listed as a linebacker and a wide receiver on Whiteland’s football roster, but the senior proved pretty difficult to label this fall.

Depending on the moment, you could find the 6-foot-4, 214-pounder just about anywhere on the field. Linebacker. Safety. Defensive end. Stanifer did a little bit of everything.

And he did it all pretty well. He made a county-leading 126 tackles and showed his versatility by reaching double digits in tackles for loss (10), quarterback pressures (15) and pass breakups (11) while helping the Warriors march all the way to the Class 5A state championship game.

For his efforts, Stanifer is the Daily Journal’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Constantly switching positions — not just week to week, but multiple times in the same game or even on the same series — wasn’t a big deal for Stanifer, who felt comfortable enough with his knowledge of defensive coordinator John Preston’s packages to adapt to whatever was needed.

“For me personally, it was pretty easy to adjust to all three levels,” Stanifer said. “My junior year, I played safety, and whenever you play the safety in Whiteland’s defense, you have to know where everyone plays. You have to know everyone’s responsibility, because you’re the leader of that defense. So me having that experience from the year before, being able to move to linebacker, it really gave me an advantage. Knowing what I was supposed to do and still being able to help out the safeties, call the defense and get everybody in the right spot.”

More often than not, Stanifer was in the right spot. He made 17 tackles in a Week 4 shutout of Franklin and 14 in Whiteland’s semistate victory at Castle — a win that propelled the Warriors into the title game for the first time.

Though the ride ended with a heartbreaking 35-31 loss to Valparaiso, Stanifer looks back with pride on what he and his teammates accomplished this season, as well as the impact that it made on the community as a whole.

“It was eye-opening to me,” he said. “I’ve been around Whiteland my whole life; my dad went to Whiteland; we’re a Whiteland family. All the people that have known him and our family throughout our lives, it was just great to see them out at the games, just talking to us. I’ll be walking through the store and some old guy will stop me and just talk to me, tell me how good we’re doing. Just knowing the community was there to support us, seeing them all together at Lucas Oil … it was really eye-opening for everybody, to show everybody what it meant for the town to be there.”

Stanifer plans to play college football next year, although he’s not quite sure where yet. Perhaps not surprisingly, different schools are projecting him at different positions. His top two choices at the moment are the University of Indianapolis, which wants him as a tight end, and Butler, which sees him as an outside linebacker.

In the end, Stanifer says, his decision will come down to the best academic fit and not a positional fit on the gridiron. He’s not sure yet what his career path will be, but figuring that out will be a higher priority over the next four years or so.

Still, he’ll have the opportunity to keep playing the sport he loves — a sport that just gave him and the entire Whiteland community a year to remember.

“We all kind of thought it was crazy, talking about it before the season, Stanifer said. “Playing in the state championship, because a team’s never done it before at Whiteland, but being able to accomplish that and make it that far as a team was just remarkable.

“I just hope the guys next year can get it done.”


The 2022 All-County defense for football:

DL Elijah Chandler, Center Grove junior: Finished with 67 tackles, nine of those for loss, for the Class 6A state champion … Collected 5.5 quarterback sacks, all but one of those in the postseason.

DL Mason Darlington, Whiteland senior: Earned IFCA Class 5A Senior All-State recognition after collecting 72 tackles (nine for loss) and five sacks while also forcing four fumbles and recovering one.

DL Jake Houston, Franklin senior: A Class 5A Senior All-State pick who made 48 tackles, including nine for loss, and six quarterback sacks for the Grizzly Cubs.

DL Ryne Roehling, Center Grove senior: Finished with 27 tackles for 6A state champs, nine of those behind the line of scrimmage … Added 3.5 sacks … An Academic All-State selection.

LB Owen Bright, Center Grove junior: An IFCA Top 50 honoree who led the Trojans’ defense with 91 tackles, 13 of those for loss … Contributed five QB sacks as well.

LB Dalton Hughes, Whiteland senior: Made 93 tackles for the Warriors, adding two QB sacks and a pair of interceptions … Also averaged 34.3 yards per punt with a long of 67.

LB Brady Stanifer, Whiteland senior: Racked up a county-leading 126 tackles, 10 for loss … Broke up 11 passes and also scored two on offense … Earned Class 5A Senior All-State recognition.

DB Beau Baker, Franklin senior: Named to Class 5A Senior All-State team … Made 93 tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown … Had a kickoff return TD and rushed for nine more.

DB Nyrius Moore-Smith, Whiteland sophomore: An Class 5A Junior All-State pick after coming up with five interceptions and 10 pass breakups … Also rushed for 587 yards.

DB Gage Rees, Center Grove senior: A vocal leader for the Trojans’ defense … Totaled 77 tackles and added two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

DB Jalen Thomeson, Center Grove senior: Named to IFCA’s Top 50 … Made 14 tackles … Had an even larger impact on offense, rushing for 1,087 yards … Will play at Ohio University.

K/P Nolan Foley, Center Grove senior: Converted five field goals and made 57 of 60 PATs … Averaged 35.0 yards per punt, landing 14 kicks inside the 20-yard line.

Honorable mention

Braylon Bryant, Edinburgh; Lance Butler, Indian Creek; Caleb Dewey, Edinburgh; Nathan Goins, GCA; Jackson Hartwell, Edinburgh; Kaden McConnell, Center Grove; Evan McIntire, GCA; Gavin Oakes, Center Grove; Jordan Palmer, Whiteland; Maalik Perkins, Whiteland; Zach Reese, Franklin; Keegan Smith, Edinburgh; Isiaha Steinke, Edinburgh