One was on the line, the other in the backfield.

One is a sophomore, the other a senior.

Different players, but both were so important to one of the state’s top defenses.

New Palestine sophomore defensive tackle Michael Thacker (6-foot-1, 268-pounds) and senior defensive back teammate Blaine Nunnally (5-10, 171) are The Daily Reporter Football Defensive Co-Athletes of the Year.

Nunnally was a vocal leader and big playmaker for the Dragons.

He had 112 tackles, 72 solos, four interceptions, and was the defensive quarterback of a unit that ranked tied for 17th overall in the state and fourth in Class 4A with a defensive scoring average of 11.85 points per game.

Class 6A Westfield, a high-powered Mt. Vernon offense and Roncalli, the team that beat the Dragons in the Class 4A regional championship, were the only teams to score over 14 points against the unit known as the Red Rage.

Thacker’s numbers are eye-popping. The sophomore lineman had 103 tackles and a team-best 74 solos from his tackle position. He had 34.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and 20 hurries.

Nunnally couldn’t have achieved some of his stats without Thacker, and vice versa.

“He was outstanding, all over the place. Unreal,” Thacker said of his veteran teammate. “He was able to play defense, offense, he was all over the place a DB, safety. He helped me a lot. He really was the one that helped me figure out what the offensive line was doing most of the time. He was able to call out their plays. He was on my side and he would tell me what they were going to run and what formation they were in when I was in my stance.”

Thacker praised Nunnally’s ability to call and switch defensive plays depending on the opponent’s formations. He recalled a time he and Nunnally were on a blitz and were going to stunt. Nunnally switched it at the last second, took on Thacker’s blockers so he would go virtually unscathed for a quarterback sack.

As much as his tackles and interceptions, Nunnally’s knowledge of the opponent may have been his biggest contribution to the Dragon defense.

“His game preparedness really reminds me of some of the all-time great players we’ve had here,” New Palestine head coach Kyle Ralph said. “He did so much for us. He’s incredibly into the plans every week, really intelligent. He’s a defensive-minded kid, really physical and aggressive.”

Ralph said Thacker’s accomplishments are reminding him of some of the all-time greats, too.

“I honestly don’t know if I’ve seen anything like it from a kid of that age,” Ralph said. “We’ve had some pretty incredible things go on since I’ve been here. We’ve had guys that have had 150-plus tackles in a season, six interceptions, over 45 tackles for loss in a year. Three guys have had 18 sacks (in a season). Kyle (King, a Mr. Football lineman now playing at Ball State) broke the all-time sack school record.

“Mike’s done a little bit of all that by himself already. As a defensive tackle to register over 100 tackles, over 30 tackles for loss and a bunch of sacks, and that’s in a season. He’s done a little bit of what everyone has done exceptionally well and he’s done it in a year.”

Thacker had 22 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a freshman. He said he didn’t get in the starting lineup right away, but once he was called on, it was going to be hard to get him out.

“(As a freshman) we did scrimmages over the summer and I got moved up to varsity,” Thacker said. “I was practicing but I wasn’t starting. Someone got tired and they subbed me in and I did well and they didn’t take me out ever since.”

“It’s a blessing knowing I can be a little more aggressive in the secondary due to the fact that Michael is putting pressure on the quarterback every play,” Nunnally said. “He’s not going to take off plays. What people forget is he’s only a sophomore. I have had to ask myself that a couple of times. There are some things he does that you just are like, ‘Wow!’, and he’s only a sophomore.”

Nunnally, a three-sport start for the Dragons, said he plans on playing baseball in college.

Thacker is already getting big interest from big schools to play football. He already has offers on the table from Ball State, where his brother, New Pal wide receiver Isaiah Thacker has signed to play next year, Tennessee and Toledo.

2022 Daily Reporter Fall Sports Honors

Football (Offensive) Athlete of the Year

Daniel Tippit IV, New Palestine

Football (Defensive) Co-Athletes of the Year

Blaine Nunnally, New Palestine

Michael Thacker, New Palestine

Football Coach of the Year

Kyle Ralph, New Palestine

*All-Hancock County Team


Pos.;Name, School;Ht.;Wt.;Class

QB;Daniel Tippit IV;New Palestine;5-9;146;12

RB;Grayson Thomas, New Palestine;6-0;184;11

RB;Andrew Zellers, Greenfield-Central;6-0;200;12

RB;Kain Sotelo;Eastern Hancock;6-3;185;12

WR;George Burhenn, Mt. Vernon;6-5;215;12

WR;Isaiah Thacker, New Palestine;6-0;186;12

OL;Luke Burgess, New Palestine;6-7;291;12

OL;Brayden Flener, Greenfield-Central;6-2;300;11

OL;Kyler Grill, Mt. Vernon;5-10;225;12

OL;Ian Moore, New Palestine;6-6;290;11

OL;Thomas Wood, New Palestine;6-2;284;12

ATH;Eli Bridenthal, Mt. Vernon;6-3;190;12


Pos.;Name, School;Ht.;Wt.;Class

DL;Brad Allen, Greenfield-Central;5-11;233;12

DL;Brock Brownfield, New Palestine;6-2;231;9

DL;Tyler Kimberly, Mt. Vernon;6-2;225;12

DL;Michael Thacker, New Palestine;6-1;268;10

LB;Jake Hinton, Greenfield-Central;6-4;185;11

LB;Eli Hook, New Palestine;6-2;205;12

LB;Kellan LaBelle, Mt. Vernon;5-11;200;12

DB;Owen Anderson, Greenfield-Central;5-11;170;12

DB;Dylan Bowman, Eastern Hancock;6-0;170;11

DB;Blaine Nunnally, New Palestine;5-10;171;12

DB;Daniel Thacker, New Palestine;5-8;145;12

Special Teams

Pos.;Name, School;Ht.;Wt.;Class

K;Brendan Tanksley, New Palestine;5-7;162;12

P;Aaron Redmon, Eastern Hancock;6-3;160;11

R;Kirk Knecht, Greenfield-Central;6-0;170;11

Honorable Mention

Eastern Hancock: Logan Hoskins, Kayden Ruble, Brayden Tincher, Jacob Wickard; Greenfield-Central: Brayden Herrell, Reese Hill, Dallas Freeman, Lane Wadle. Mt. Vernon: Ren Davis, Ben Roembke, Luke Ertel, Rylan Vinard. New Palestine: A.J. Reierson.

*Determined by coaches nominations and The Daily Reporter