GREENWAVE GOES ALL-LEAGUE
He rarely took a snap behind center during his youth football days.
When an unfortunate event occurred in September, Sean McCormick was thrust into unfamiliar territory, challenging his leadership abilities at another level.
McCormick, who switched from receiver to quarterback when Elijah Jackson suffered a season-ending injury, flourished in Brooke Hill’s offense in addition to finishing as one of the best defenders in the state. As a result, McCormick was voted the Northern 3A’s Player of the Year as Fallon grabbed 11 all-league selections after a 10-3 season.
“I didn’t expect to do as well as I did,” McCormick said. “I knew I had to be a leader. I’m happy with how the season went.”
In addition to McCormick receiving the POY award, junior Ben Dooley (offense, lineman), sophomore Brock Richardson (offense, receiver) and senior Trent Thorn (defense, linebacker) were selected to the first team. Sophomores Ben Otuafi (offense, lineman) and Tommy McCormick (defense, linebacker) were selected to the second team, while Jackson, senior Christian Nemeth (offense, receiver), junior Gabe Hardy (offense, lineman), junior Brenden Larsen (defense, linebacker) and senior Tallon Amezquita (defense, cornerback) were honorable mentions.
Before becoming the team’s quarterback, McCormick was a threat at receiver along with Richardson, giving Jackson multiple threats downfield. When he switched positions, he not only kept Fallon on its path offensively, but he was able to do it in style.
“Versatility is one thing but it’s the level he played at,” Hill said of Sean McCormick. “There’s also lots of production. He was our leading receiver until he got moved. It’s pretty evident to the rest of the league of how good of player he is.”
McCormick finished with 1,015 yards in the air (fifth in the league) on 88 of 145 completions for 12 touchdowns against two interceptions. He also ran the ball for 1,294 yards (second in the league) on 138 carries and 17 touchdowns, and he caught 27 passes for 481 yards and five touchdowns. Defensively, McCormick finished with a league-leading 142 tackles and led the state with eight interceptions.
“I just happened be in right place at the right time,” McCormick said about his success on defense. “Being that deep safety, I was able to cover a lot of ground when the ball was in the air. The defense was set up for tackles to be made. Everyone else just did their job and I was the guy who just made his tackles.”
McCormick’s supporting cast on offense helped keep Fallon in the hunt for a league title before the Greenwave settled for a third-place finish. Dooley improved as the season went on and Richardson’s speed was showcased any time he touched the ball.
Richardson started the season at receiver before switching to running back when junior Reid Clyburn was sidelined with an injury. Richardson, whose older brother, Connor, plays at Division II College of Idaho, finished with 667 yards (fifth in the league) on 41 receptions and eight touchdowns. On the ground, he tallied 718 yards on 70 touches and 11 touchdowns, and he also had a 29.1-yard kick return average.
“He had one of the most productive sophomore seasons we’ve had,” Hill said of Richardson. “He’s just another real-quality athlete. He had a great sophomore year.”
Hill recalled Dooley from his wrestling season last year when he placed second in the state. He saw the potential and looks forward to his production next year.
“We knew what kind of athlete he was for being a big kid who can move,” Hill said. “He got better as the year went on. He understood how to play the game of football. That’s a big kid. He’s got a real future.”
Like McCormick running the offense, Thorn was the quarterback of the defense.
Although second on the team in tackles (to McCormick), it was Thorn’s leadership and athletic ability that had the Greenwave rolling on defense. Thorn finished with 105 tackles and led the team with 13 tackles for loss. He also had one sack.
“He was the heart of that defense, the captain of that defense,” Hill said. “When you get over 100 tackles in a high school football season, you’re doing a great job. He continued the tradition of great inside linebackers. You go back a long ways. He carried that on and we’re going to need someone to pick that up next year.”
Otuafi and Hardy provided more stability on the offensive line when it suffered injuries early in the season. Hardy moved to center while Otuaifi built on his freshman year at the varsity level.
“Benny was real close to being a first-team kid only as a sophomore,” Hill said. “Gabe is another kid who solidified the position. He’s a little undersized but he was tough.”
Nemeth, in his final year, gave McCormick another weapon and was instrumental in blocking schemes with both the running and passing games. The three-sport star hauled in 22 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns.
“He did a great job of that all year long. Blocking alone made him an all-league kid,” Hill said of Nemeth. “He did a really good job. He had to start for us in the secondary at the end. I’m really proud of the way he played. He did a really good job.”
And for Jackson to be recognized for playing just half a season, it’s a testament to the impact he made on the team. Jackson had 882 yards on 48 of 83 completions for 10 touchdowns and only one interception. He also ran the ball 37 times for 232 yards and four scores.
“If he doesn’t get hurt, he’s right up there with the best quarterbacks,” Hill said. “With what Elijah can do with his arm and legs, there was nobody as dynamic as him. Had he played a full season, he’d be a 2,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher. The great thing about him is he’s going to come back from that knee injury.”
Amezquita emerged as a contributor in all facets of the game. Most notably, though, he helped McCormick in the secondary and provided stability in the kicking game, making 80% of his point-after attempts.
“He came a long way from his lower level years. He was a really good team captain,” Hill said. “He made a lot of plays for us. He was a really hard working kid and one of those kids you need to have on your team to be successful.”
A year behind his brother, Tommy McCormick was another weapon on offense but he gave the team a bigger boost on defense at linebacker alongside Thorn.
“If you talk about a surprise, Tommy was the biggest surprise of the year,” Hill said. “We knew he was pretty athletic. He really did a great job for us. He’s real good at the technical part of the game and then he started to really grow. He’s a kid we expect to take a bigger jump.”
Larsen contributed late, giving Fallon a strong linebacker group this season, and Hill expects his junior to continue to rise next year and help fill in the void after Thorn graduates. Hill likens him to the program’s all-time leading tackler, Riley Williams.
“He started to come on as he got more adjusted to the defense toward the end of the year,” Hill said. “He had a strong junior year. He needs to be that captain of our defense.”