By JOSH SIGLER
Tipton wide receiver Blake Hoover was able to put up solid numbers last season playing alongside Kokomo Tribune All-Area MVP Jake Dye, earning first-team honors after a season that included 45 catches for 822 yards and eight touchdowns.
Hoover didn’t have the luxury of a playmaker like Dye on the opposite side of the formation this season. That didn’t stop Hoover from compiling even more gaudy numbers on his way to leading the Blue Devils to their first double-digit win season in over a decade.
For his well-rounded play in all facets of the game, Hoover is the Tribune’s 2012 All-Area MVP.
“There were a lot of great players out there this year,” Hoover said. “I just wanted to be the best player I could be. Coach [Aaron Tolle] always says ‘Be a good player on a great team’ and that’s what I always tried to make my mindset. This is the No. 1 individual award for me [in my career]. With all the great players around here this year, it’s a big honor.”
Hoover was Tipton’s No. 1 option at wideout with the departure of Dye a season previous, and he didn’t disappoint. The six-foot, 170-pound senior caught 59 passes for 984 and 16 TDs. He added 10 carries for 96 yards and another score for an offense that averaged 38 points per game and scored 40 or more eight times.
At defensive back he was just as impressive, finishing the season with 31 tackles (28 solos) and seven interceptions, four of which he returned for TDs. He was also the Blue Devils’ go-to guy in the return game, where he returned three kickoffs and a punt for scores.
“I expected him to have a big year, but he had an even better year than even I anticipated. And, I had really high expectations for him,” Tolle said. “What makes him the best player in the area has to be the fact of how well-rounded he is and everything he brings to a football team. Everybody knows he’s a great wide receiver. He’s been that for three years for us. He started in the secondary for three years, and has been our best cover guy for the last two. He returned kicks and punts. He holds for our extra points, and was our kicker at certain times during the year. You’d be hard pressed to find a guy who’s more valuable to a team than that in our area or even state. He’s just a great athlete, and it makes it even better that he’s coachable and is a great team guy.”
He led the area in catches, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and scoring, and tied for the area lead in interceptions with Cass’ Drew Shepherd and Carroll’s Brandon Dillon. His 25 touchdowns ranked second in the area to Tri-Central’s Martavius Hunt, who scored 26.
“Having Jake by my side last year was a big help,” Hoover said. “It helped me out my junior year, and I tried to work as hard as I could so I could pick it up as a senior and have stats that were comparable to his from . The most important stat to me was the wins, but individually, the touchdowns [stand out] because obviously more touchdowns lead to more wins.”
Hoover’s great statistics came in a season where Tipton finished with an 11-2 record, its best since the Blue Devils also went 11-2 in 2001.
The Blue Devils opened the season with a 19-14 victory over eventual Class 3A state runner-up Hamilton Heights at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Tipton’s lone regular season loss came to eventual Class A state champion Lafayette Central Catholic, 24-13 on Sept. 21 in Lafayette.
The Blue Devils won six straight after that, claiming their third straight Class 2A sectional championship after a 35-17 win at Benton Central.
The season came to a gut-wrenching end in the regional round in a 22-12 loss to eventual Class 2A state champion Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, a game in which the Blue Devils led 12-7 with seven minutes to play.
“We had high expectations coming into this season,” Hoover said. “We were successful the last couple seasons, but the core group of the football team really wanted more than what we have been. That really helped us set high standards for our football team.”