MOUNT VERNON — When Fredericktown junior Austin Hoeflich burst onto the high school football scene as a sophomore and put up outstanding numbers, a lot of people were questioning whether they were legitimate or not. He answered those critics with another outstanding season this year and proved he was the player his statistics suggested. For his efforts, Hoeflich, a linebacker, was selected as the News’ Defensive Player of the Year.
Joining Hoeflich on the All-Area First Team are: Defensive Linemen — Andrew Wildermuth, Fredericktown, John Fernandez, Mount Vernon, and Nick Stacey, Fredericktown; Linebackers — Derek Baker, Mount Vernon, Quentin Ferenbaugh, Danville, and Derek Posey, Utica; Defensive Backs — Matt Boucher, Mount Vernon, Tyler Hathaway, Fredericktown, Zach Brewer, Danville, and Michael Shepard, Highland; and Punter — Ethan Zuber, Highland.
Hoeflich’s numbers were solid this season, registering an area-best 155 tackles in 10 games. He also had 2 1/2 sacks and three interceptions. His best game came against Johnstown when he registered 26 tackles.
“Austin is everything you would want out of a middle linebacker,” said coach Luke Beal. “The one thing about Austin is that he is very smart; he is a very smart football player. He is almost never out of position; he understands exactly what you expect from him. When he studies the opposing offense, it doesn’t take long for him to see what people are trying to get accomplished. He is very disciplined. The other thing is he has got great instincts, which is something you can’t teach. He’s got a nose for the football, and when he finds the football, he is an impact hitter. He’s just exactly what you want your middle linebacker to be. There is no doubt he is the leader of our defense.
“Austin is probably more impressive from the neck up than from the neck down. He is such a smart football player and a tough football player. He gets the absolute most out of his athletic ability. He was our leading rusher as well as our defensive leader.”
Hoeflich had 63 solo tackles this season, but his 92 assisted tackles attest to his ability to fly around to the football. Hoeflich always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
“(His instincts) are the reason he is as successful as he is, but it is not just instinct. He works very hard to really improve his strength. During the offseason, he made tremendous strides in both his strength and speed,” said Beal. “With linebackers, you can teach kids to read their keys and teach them to be where they are supposed to be, but there are certain individuals that pick it up a little faster and understand what you want. With Austin, that was definitely the case. He understands how to play his position and that makes him that much better.”
As only a junior, Beal is excited to have Hoeflich back for another season, and expects him to provide a bigger boost next season.
“Austin is going to be one of the keys for us going into next year,” Beal said. “He was a great leader for us this year; he was voted as a team captain as a junior and gave us great leadership, so we will expect that much more out of him next year. I’m sure he’ll expect it out of himself also. He pushes himself very hard, and I think he’s got high expectations for himself. He is not going to be satisfied with anything less than a great season next year. He is also going to push his teammates. Austin’s the type of person that makes his teammates better. You always know that, in the right way, he not only plays well but elevates the play of the entire defense. When you’ve got a player like that, that’s what’s enabled us to have the success we’ve had this year.”