BY CHAD DARE
---- — CAYUGA, Ind. — North Vermillion senior Ethan Kunkle spent all last season trying to avoid offensive linemen.
The middle linebacker for the Falcons had a very successful junior season, racking up 100 solo tackles, 31 tackle assists and 11 tackles for the loss as North Vermillion went 12-1 and claimed its second straight Class 1A Sectional title.
So, it’s not surprising when North Vermillion coach Brian Crabtree calls him one of the best linebackers in this part of the state.
But, Crabtree is also calling on Kunkle to fill a big hole for the Falcons on the offensive side of the football.
Kunkle, who carried the ball seven times for 38 yards a year ago, has moved to offensive line as the starting right guard for the Falcons.
”It’s a new experience,’’ Kunkle said. “I’ve never been a lineman before this season.’’
And how did he feel after North Vermillion’s scrimmage against West Vigo last week?
”I like it,’’ he said. “I think I can do it.’’
According to Crabtree, the unselfish nature of Kunkle’s move from running back to offensive guard is exactly what he would expect from one of his senior leaders.
”Ethan Kunkle is an awesome young man,’’ Crabtree said. “When we switched him from running back to the offensive line, he was eager to do what was best for the team.
”He has a good skill set and his attitude will allow him to be successful.’’
Kunkle admitted that he wanted to do whatever it took for him to be on the field more this season.
”I just played middle linebacker on defense last season,’’ he said. “I wanted to play both ways this year, and I like to see how far I can push myself.’’
Has it been a difficult transition?
”Not really,’’ he said. “You have to be physical as a linebacker and if you are going to play on the line, you have to be physical as well.’’
Kunkle has even been able to take his experience as a linebacker and apply it to his new position on the offensive line.
”There are times as a guard that I have to block a linebacker,’’ he said. “My knowledge of the linebacker position had helped me with my blocking. I know the path that the linebacker is going to take to try to make the tackle, so I know as a guard, where I need to be to keep him from making that tackle.
”Basically, I’m scouting myself.’’
Senior teammate Abbott Dowers, who had 41 solo tackles a year ago, admits it took a little while to get used to seeing Kunkle on the offensive line.
”It would be even more different if I didn’t have him next to me on the defense,’’ Dowers said. “Ethan brings a lot of speed and a lot of energy to the team.’’