BY ROB WITZEL
CAYUGA, Ind. —
During the 2012 season, the North Vermillion football team had its best season in school history and was one of the best teams in the state.
The Falcons went 12-1 and did not lose a game from the start of the season until the IHSAA Class A Regional Championship.
The offense ranked seventh in the state in points scored per game with an average of 43.31, meanwhile the defense ranked 26th in points allowed at 13.08. Much of the team’s success came from quarterback/defensive back Brayden Woodard, the 2012 Commercial News Player of the Year.
“He was crucial to what we did this year.” North Vermillion coach Brian Crabtree said. “Brayden ran the option so well. He and Kody (Zumwalt) were so good running that it made it hard for a defense to zero in on just one of them. An athlete like (Woodard) makes your offense so dynamic and hard to stop.”
The junior quarterback had over 3,000 yards of total offense with 49 touchdowns, but he realized early on the importance of his teammates.
“I had a great team around me and we really came together this year.” Woodard said. “The offensive line was great, giving Kody (Zumwalt) and me lots of running room. The receivers and I were almost always on the same page too. It was great.”
Football is a team sport so it’s difficult to give one player all the credit, especially on a team with this much talent at nearly every position. That being said, Woodard had an incredible stat line in 2012.
With his arm Woodard completed 61 percent of his passes, and threw for 1601 yards and 19 touchdowns.
On the ground Woodard was even more spectacular. He ran for the second most yards on the team with 1,496 and a team-high 30 touchdowns.
His partner in crime was Kody Zumwalt, who ran for 1,677 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Woodard’s offense is not the only reason he is the player of the year, as he also had success on defense.
At cornerback Woodard had 22 tackles and intercepted the opposing quarterback four times, returning one for a touchdown.
“He didn’t get a ton of tackles but usually if a corner does, there’s something wrong with your defense,” Crabtree said. “What he did was make it hard to throw against. He had four interceptions this year and each time he had the ball in his hands on defense it wasn’t just a turnover but another chance to score.”
The season began with a new coach and with that a new system of offense. While the Falcons returned to the spread offense, new terminology and having to make a good first impression were early obstacles that he leaped over with ease.
“My first impression of him was what a great athlete he is,” Crabtree said. “He’s a great runner but I was more impressed with the way he led by example. When things went well he did a great job spreading the credit around to different guys and that’s a pretty important demeanor to have from a leader and your quarterback.”
As the season progressed Woodard continued to impress his coach.
“There were a couple times against Rockville and Covington that before the ball was even snapped you could tell it was going to be for a long touchdown run and sure enough he’d follow through with it.” Crabtree said. “But my favorite memory from this season came in the game against Covington. We were running the option and he pulled the ball and with what he read, he really should have pitched it. I exclaimed something from the sideline but then sure enough he made two or three Covington guys miss and he ended up scoring on a long touchdown run.”
In that game, Woodard ran for 204 yards and four touchdowns on just eight carries. He also threw for 116 yards and a touchdown in the 68-7 win.
Woodard’s favorite moment this season came from arguably the biggest game against Fountain Central Mustangs.
At the time both teams were 7-0 and while North Vermillion was respected, the reputation of the Mustangs made them the favorite for that game.
In that game Woodard scored one touchdown on the ground and one through the air, but most important he led the Falcons on a come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter. The Falcons won 25-21 and staked their claim as Wabash River Conference Champions.
“The Fountain Central game was the one that stood out.” Woodard said. “They’ve been the top team for like five or six years now. That was a fun, hard fought game and when it was all done we felt like we had taken over as the best team.”
The team went on to win the Wabash River Conference and the Sectional Championship for the second consecutive year and third time in school history.
The dream season came to a halt when the Falcons lost their regional matchup to Indianapolis Scecina 27-0.
With all the accomplishments, awards and recognition, Woodard is already looking forward to the 2013 season.
“I hope we’re even better next year.” Woodard said. ” I’ve been pushing a lot of guys to spend time in the weight room and keep working. We have the pieces, it’ll just be about putting them all together like we did this year.”