Special to Chargerblue.com
by Andy Brown
Another postseason banquet with much of what we have come to expect. Prime rib in the buffet line and plenty of interesting speeches by the senior players. I have always wished that they would have the senior speeches before the season. It would be nice to know these guys a little bit before watching them play. That would give us some context when broadcasting the games. The blurbs in the media guide are nice, but the insight we gain at these banquets is really special. Again, almost all of the players began to cry when thanking their families and teammates. The highlight of the speeches probably came when Coach Otterbein tried to cut off his son Steve whose speech was easily the longest of the afternoon.
It was interesting to hear about the trials and tribulations of guys like Steve Balone and Andy Dion. Andy Dion claimed that the training staff had to increase their budget to afford tape to keep him playing. Balone’s speech about watching the last two games from the sidelines was particularly touching. He said that whenever Tom Korte made a big play, he came off the sidelines and told Steve he was doing it for him. I felt particulary bad for Aaron Scholl. That young man is a class act all of the way–and I wish he could have stayed healty this year. It would have been great to see him on the bussiness end of some Mark Nicolet passes.
I guess if there was a surprise, it was that Phil Martin was shut out of the postseason awards. The most valuable offensive back award went to Mark Nicolet, and the team MVP award was given to sophomore linebacker Tom Korte. Martin leaves Hillsdale as the second leading rusher in school history, but doesn’t win an award? That was a surprise to me—but I totally agree. The team MVP award was voted by the players, and who can argue with their choice? Tom Korte was more than just the best player on this team, he was the emotional leader. It is perhaps a bit more surprising that Nicolet beat out Martin for outstanding offensive back. However, the way that Nicolet ran this offense, especially in the second half of the season, put him over the top. Martin will absolutely be missed, and his place in the record books is secure, but good quarterbacks are worth their weight in gold.
Looking back on the year one cannot surpress at least a slight feeling of disapointment. With the schedule the Chargers had this year, a winning season was not too much to expect, and 8-3 was not out of the question. Barry Fagan told me before the banquet he could not believe that they didn’t finish at least 8-3, and would not have been surprised at an even better record. Coach Otterbein said that they were just a half dozen plays away from 8 or 9 victories and possibly a postseason birth. Unfortunately, after three seasons of 4-7, the Chargers were only able to muster their second consecutive year at 5-6. Perhaps with Korte and Nicolet coming back, along with the entire offensive line, and a similarly favorable schedule next year, we will finally experience that elusive winning season. I can tell you this much, the coaches and players have already begun working toward that end. Playoffs next year? In the words of Barry Fagan, we are this close to a breakout year–and next year is as good as any other.