Loss of Luker hurts, but decorated group of linebackers comes back


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2013 FINAL RECORD: 13-1, lost in Class 4A semistate to eventual state champ Columbus East, 49-14.

OFFENSIVE STARTERS WHO WILL BE LOST TO GRADUATION:

7 — QB Blake Luker, WR Tyler Walden, WR Nolan Guedel, WR Justin Wiggins, LT Josh McKean, C Nick Buckhorn, RG Drake Towne

OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING IN 2014 (with current grade):

4* — WR Duke Blackwell (10), LG Andrew Yazel (10), RT Alex Barnes (11), RB James Young (11). *Trent Mahaney (11) was a starter at center the first half of 2013 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He should return in 2014.

DEFENSIVE STARTERS WHO WILL BE LOST TO GRADUATION:

5 — DL Josh McKean, DL Nolan Hill, DL Nick Buckhorn, OLB Brian Wagner, CB Nolan Guedel

DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING IN 2014:

6* — ILB Sterling Curran (11), ILB Gabe Estes (11), OLB Noah Grable (11), CB Chaz Hill (11), FS Garrett Kuhn (11), SS Nick Brickens (10). *Trent Mahaney (11) was a starter on the defensive line before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

THE OBVIOUS LOSS:

Blake Luker. The key to New Palestine’s offensive machine, Luker accounted for nearly 4,000 yards this season. The senior quarterback passed for 2,630 yards, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions while combining with senior WR Tyler Walden to rewrite most of the program’s passing and receiving records. When he tucked the ball, Luker was equally effective, rushing for 1,132 yards and 21 more touchdowns. Luker’s versatile athletic ability, smart decision-making and quick grasp of rookie head coach Kyle Ralph’s multi-faceted offense was the biggest difference between the 3-7 Dragons of 2012 and this year’s Final Four team. Backup sophomore QB Alex Neligh threw a total of 17 passes in mop-up duty this season. Junior Chaz Hill has also seen time at QB the last two years, and freshman Gunnar Large is another possibility for 2014 signal-calling duties.

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