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GORCHES: QB Hooker makes the difference for Tipton

Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune  

Post-Tribune sports writer Steve Gorches

Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune Post-Tribune sports writer Steve Gorches

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Updated: December 24, 2013 6:16AM



TIPTON — One player makes a world of difference, especially when he’s the quarterback of a football team.

Just ask numerous NFL squads what it’s like after their franchise QB goes down with an injury (i.e. Green Bay Packers).

So when Tipton was missing its QB earlier this season — a kid who is breaking Indiana football records held by a current NFL signal caller — and it lost a low-scoring game to Rensselaer, most knew it would be a different story this time around.

It was quite apparent early on during Tipton’s 27-0 thrashing of the Bombers in Friday’s Class 2A semistate that senior Austin Hooker makes the Blue Devils roll in ways most teams could only dream of.

From the second drive of the game when Hooker had three 10-yard runs, the last one resulting in the first score of the game, it was obvious he was the best player on the field.

Hooker scored all four Tipton (11-3) touchdowns — the fourth one coming with 6:39 left on a five-yard run. That drive was the epitome of why he could be playing football on Sundays in a few years. The Blue Devils started on their own 10-yard line, and left-hander hit wide receiver Jake Devendorf for 28 yards on the first play. A minute later, he connected on a screen pass with running back Brody Dell for 25 more yards. Dell added a 35 yards on another screen pass that set up the last TD.

Hooker’s numbers weren’t eye-popping — 84 yards rushing, 8-for-15 passing for 161 yards — but he was the man when he needed to be the man.

“He’s one of the best players to come through the state,” Rensselaer coach Chris Meeks said. “He’s breaking Rex Grossman’s records and he was playing with a chip on his shoulder.”

That chip came from not being able to face the Hoosier Conference rival in Week 4, and he said as much.

“I definitely have been wanting these guys since we lost to them the first time,” Hooker said.

In case you were wondering, that is the same Rex Grossman who led the Bears to the Super Bowl in January 2007, and who is still earning a paycheck in the NFL. Grossman held the all-time career passing mark in the state while playing at Bloomington South from 1995 to 1998 — until last week.

Hooker surpassed that record, and added to it on Friday with one more game to go at Lucas Oil Stadium against Indianapolis Ritter.

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games and our big time players didn’t make enough big time plays,” said Meeks, who has led the Bombers to the semistate three times in the last five years, but has lost each time. “We need a go-to player. Tipton has one and we need to find one.”

The Bombers (11-3) do have a bright future with a roster full of juniors who got some valuable experience on Friday. Dylan Wright had been a great field general this postseason, but he just wasn’t on his game against a tough Tipton defense. The Rensselaer running game is a trademark, but other than a 55-yard scamper by Rylan Arihood late in the third quarter, there wasn’t much to be had.

The first time the Bombers reached the semistate in 2009, they returned the very next year. Meeks knows that and has plenty of confidence.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be back here next year,” he said.



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