Around the New Year holiday, it’s a journalism tradition to do a bunch of “best of…” stories that serve as a look back at the year gone by.
© MIKE LAWRENCE / THE GLEANER
Henderson’s Logan Green (6) makes a cut in front of Daviess County’s Carter Hamilton (1) as the Henderson County Colonels play the Daviess County Panthers in the first round of the 6-A playoffs at Henderson’s Colonel Field Friday evening, November 8, 2019.
We wanted to add a different kind of story this time around: Who were the unsung MVPs of the past year in local sports? Who were the players that didn’t get much of the spotlight, but were an integral part of a team’s success? Who was the guy or girl that the rest of the roster couldn’t live without?
We asked the Courier & Press and Gleaner sports staffs to find four. Their stories follow.
Mark Doyle, Heritage Hills
In the midst of their run to the Class 3A football state championship game this past fall, it seemed that the same members of the Heritage Hills football team were always mentioned.
Names like Cole Sigler, Phoenix Rodgers and Jacob Wetzel — all players who lined up at what are known as the “skill positions” — are the ones you often read about in the newspaper or heard called by the play-by-play commentators on the radio.
© Christiana Botic / Courier & Press
Heritage Hills’ Mark Doyle (79) receives his runner-up medal after the Heritage Hills vs Bishop Chatard IHSAA State Football Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
But Mark Doyle often flew under the radar as one of the core guys for the Heritage Hills football team. As a member of both the offensive and defensive line, Doyle didn’t always get the glory.
Did that matter to him or his teammates in the trenches? Not one bit.
“Us (linemen) might not get credit for it in the newspapers or whatever but we just know the team’s success is helped by our contributions,” Doyle said.
As a member of the offensive line, he helped a talented group of running backs to rush for over 3,700 yards this year. On defense, he was a captain of a group that allowed a state-low 6.15 points per game entering the state finals.
While his name may not always get called, if you’ve ever seen a Heritage Hills football game chances are you’ll spot Doyle right away. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, his stature mixed with his play has helped him earn attention from Division I football programs including Western Kentucky.
In addition to his actions on the field and his size, his leadership is a quality that his coaches have praised him for repeatedly.
“He’s a leader, he’s always here on time — he just always has the team’s best interest in mind,” head football coach Todd Wilkerson said. “He’s a great role model, not just on the field but in school as well. He’s just been a joy to coach.”
Doyle is also a member of the Heritage Hills basketball team and was one of the team’s primary starting pitchers last season on the baseball field.
No matter the sport, Doyle is always sure to give his all.
“I just like to keep myself busy and always stay involved,” Doyle said. “I want to work hard, stay in shape and make myself better at whatever sport I’m playing.”
— Hendrix Magley
Jacob Norman, USI men’s basketball
Having covered USI for both years the trio of Reitz High School grads was on the team, I always felt like I didn’t show appreciation toward Jacob Norman.
Alex Stein got the headlines and Nate Hansen received his share of attention on occasion when he’d have big games, but like Stein, Norman spent all four of his college years as a Screaming Eagle. Those two refused to call fouls in pickup games as freshmen, instilling a work ethic and a humility factor.
© MaCabe Brown / Courier & Press, MaCabe Brown
University of Southern Indiana’s Jacob Norman (2) passes the ball to University of Southern Indiana’s Alex Stein (20) during the NCAA Men’s Division II Quarterfinals at Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., Wednesday, March 27, 2019. USI defeated West Texas A&M, 94-84.
He most definitely was the unsung MVP of last season’s Division II Elite Eight run.
“They have really stamped their fingerprints solid into the culture,” USI coach Rodney Watson said at season’s end.
The 6-foot-5 Norman wasn’t tremendously athletic, though maybe sneakily considering he held his own on the glass and occasionally dunked or swatted a shot. He didn’t stuff the box score either, averaging 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds during his career.
But he worked hard enough to go from being at the back of the rotation as a freshman to starting 34 games as a senior. He was respected by his teammates and coaches alike.
“Jacob will go down in my mind as one of the premier gentlemen,” Watson told me before Norman’s senior season. “He’s a great Christian guy and is outward about his faith in the proper way, and he’s great to have in that locker room and on the bus.”
He ultimately was named to the all-GLVC Defensive Team as a senior and grabbed nine rebounds during the Elite Eight victory inside Ford Center, where a sea of USI students reenergized the program seemingly to its heights in the 1990s.
Norman didn’t get the glory. He did the dirty work – diving on the floor, locking down the other team’s best player, uniting a team by being a voice of reason.
“Getting to have four years at an incredible university and experience success — it’s indescribable,” Norman said in March. “It’s hard to put into words, it’s really special.”
— Chad Lindskog
Maci Foster, Gibson Southern
Kyle Brasher heard rumblings when he took the Gibson Southern job in March of 2018.
There was a junior varsity player who could possibly earn some minutes that winter. She wasn’t going to score much. Her basketball worth would come on the defensive end.
Her name? Maci Foster.
“During practice last season, I thought we can’t take this girl off the court,” said Brasher. “I fell in love with her intensity and competitiveness. The girl hates to lose. It’s just fun to have her out there.”
© MIKE LAWRENCE / COURIER & PRESS, Mike Lawrence
Gibson Southern’s Maci Foster (3) and Memorial’s Soffia Rieckers (31) chase a loose ball as the Gibson Southern Titans play the Memorial Tigers for the Class 3A Sectional Championship in Fort Branch Saturday, February 2, 2019.
That’s Foster, now a senior captain for Gibson Southern. She isn’t going to have the same name recognition as other teammates. USI-bound Meredith Raley gets the points and rebounds. Tabby Klem was a scorer and leader on last year’s sectional championship team. But the Titans don’t win it without Foster.
Averaging just 2.1 points per game as a junior, Foster plays an integral role in the success of one of the better teams in Class 3A. She is tasked with guarding the opposition’s best perimeter player, which can be some of the best in Southern Indiana.
As long as it helps the Titans win, she is rosy. Foster averages a team-high 2.4 steals per game.
“Applying ball pressure to their best player every night,” Foster says when explaining her role. “For me, knowing that I’m helping the team is enough. Before coach (Brasher), I didn’t get many varsity minutes. Him noticing me on the defensive end and having success last year has really meant a lot.”
Brasher and the coaching staff noticed during summer practice last year. Opposing teams surely know of her by now, even if the average fan doesn’t. Her role hasn’t changed during her senior campaign.
The 5-foot-4 point guard is averaging 5.1 points and shooting 33 percent from the field. But she’s helping Gibson Southern (12-2) win. That’s the definition of an unsung MVP.
“It’s hard to find teenagers who are willing to not get the notoriety for this or that,” said Brasher. “You can’t be a good basketball team without girls like (Maci).”
— Kyle Sokeland
Logan Green, Henderson County
It’s unusual that a running back who rushed for more 2,500 yards in his career would be considered unsung MVP, but that’s exactly what Logan Green was for the Henderson County football team.
Often discounted because of his 5-foot-4, 150-pound frame, Green was a workhorse for the Colonel offense the last two seasons.
Green didn’t have breakaway speed. He only scored 13 touchdowns in his career. The longest run of his career was 73 yards, but he did average 5.7 yards a carry.
As a junior, Green played second fiddle to powerful quarterback Skip Patterson, who totaled more than 2,300 all-purpose yards and accounted for 32 of the team’s 58 touchdowns. Though Green went over 1,000 yards for the second straight season in 2019, he was often overshadowed by a receiving corps that combined for nearly 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Green had more than 20 carries in nine of the 24 games he started in his junior and senior years, and finished his career with 2,564 yards which is the sixth-most in Henderson County football history.
Pound-for-pound, Green might be one of strongest, most powerful backs to ever wear the Maroon and White.
“I’m so little compared to everybody else. I’m slippery. I just slide through there,” Green said during the 2018 season. “Defenses can’t see me. I fly through there and get through before they even know I’m there.”
“He’s sneaky,” said Henderson County coach Josh Boston, who noted that Green’s quick feet and his shiftiness made him elusive. “He does a really good job of keeping his shoulders square. With a lot of backs, if things start to go bad they will turn their shoulders to try to do something. They can only go in one direction then. Logan keeps his shoulders here (pointing straight ahead), it makes him be able to go in any direction.”
— Kevin Patton
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: The unsung MVPs: Four athletes who didn’t get the glory, but helped get the wins