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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Bobcats fill up All-State team

Thursday, December 18, 2008

There's a couple of ways to determine what kind of a football season your team has just completed.

The first, and most obvious, is by the number of wins you rack up and just how deep you play into the state playoffs.

The second, is by how many players you have recognized on a statewide level.

So, with those being two dependable barometers to gauge the just-finished 2008 football campaign, it's safe to say the Thayer Bobcats' season was off-the-charts good.

The Cats racked up 12 wins and made it to the Class 1 Show-Me Bowl for the second straight year.

And now Thayer has had eight players named to the Missouri Football Coaches Association Class 1 All-State team.

Not only did those eight players take up nine spots on the All-State team, but Thayer's senior quarterback Jacob Eckman was tabbed as the Class 1 Offensive Player of the Year.

Joining Eckman on the first team All-State offense are junior lineman Eli Martin and senior tight end Luke Martin.

Defensive lineman Stefan Cotham (junior) and defensive back Lance Schneider (senior) were also selected as first team members.

Junior Ethan Leisenring took up two spots on the All-State second team; as a punter on offense and as a defensive back on defense.

Sophomore Cameron Carey also made second team defense as a linebacker.

Junior linebacker Tommy Martin was picked as a member of the All-State third team at linebacker.

"Finishing the way we did, it's just a tribute to our guys to have so many named All-State," said Thayer Head Coach Billy Webber. "And even with as many as we had, you still feel like there's guys on our team that are deserving that didn't get recognized. But we're sure proud of everyone and are proud our guys are getting some recognition."

One player that was next to impossible to ignore this year was Eckman.

After finishing up his junior year on such a high note, helping lead his team to the state championship game, it was hard to imagine Eckman improving on that during his senior season.

But improve on that he did, turning into an unstoppable force at field general this year. Eckman was 74-of-121 passing, with 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns. On the ground, Eckman carried the pigskin 207 times for 1,349 yards and 20 TDs. Impressive numbers, for sure.

But not just offense -- Eckman also got the job done on defense, finishing with 88 tackles, two sacks and four picks.

"He was just our go-to guy, plain and simple. If we needed something to get accomplished, he found a way to get everyone on the same page and get that achieved," Webber said. "He was just a great team leader and team player."

Another one of the undisputed leaders on this Bobcat squad was Luke Martin. Whether firing his teammates up during practice or before the game, or just by leading by example during those Friday night battles, Martin was ready to give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. Martin caught 35 balls for 633 yards and eight touchdowns.

A potent run-stopper of defense, Martin recorded 68 tackles and two sacks, along with three interceptions, in 2008.

"He's just a fantastic young man and did a terrific job at tight end, next to those offensive linemen," said Webber. "He really did a super job run blocking, but he also has incredible hands and really has a knack for finding the soft spot in the defensive secondary and does a good job adjusting and breaking on the football."

Another Bobcat who really stepped up his game in 2008 was Schneider.

Not only did he nail down the defensive secondary was his speed and ability to break on the football, he also solidified into one heck of a threat catching the football, as evidenced by his two TD passes, including the 62-yarder as time expired in regulation, in the Show-Me Bowl against Orrick.

Schneider recorded 40 tackles and seven interceptions on defense, while on offense, he caught 19 passes for 277 yards and six TDs.

"He just did a super job, particularly in the secondary. Early in the season, he came up close to the line of scrimmage and made some big tackles when people broke free," said Webber. "And then into the middle of the season and into the playoffs, he just did a terrific job back there at D back, running and breaking up passes."

As old as the saying is, it's still true. Football games are won and lost on the line of scrimmage and the Thayer Bobcats dominated both sides of the line again in 2008, even though there was some new blood mixed in and some veterans switched spots.

"We had a lot of guys really step up to the plate on the line this year. Eli was a returner, but he returned to a different position, so really, we had five guys that had to learn positions on the offensive line," Webber said. "And they just did a super job throughout the year, making the right calls and staying with blocks. And defensively, Stefan played at nose guard and anchored our defensive line for the majority of the year, and he did a terrific job doing that."

Cotham finished with 53 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

And just as was the case on the offensive and defensive lines, the linebacking core did not suffer one bit because of new faces in new spots for the Bobcats this time around.

"Again, those guys (Carey and Tommy Martin) are new at the position, but they really stepped up and made up some big ground throughout the season," said Webber. "They just did a terrific job in making plays between the tackles. Those two guys at the outside backers really turned a lot of plays into Jacob and Luke. They played aggressive and physical and did a nice job."

Tommy Martin, always around the ball, logged 88 tackles and two sacks for the Cats this year.

Carey racked up 56 tackles and six sacks on defense. On offense, he carried the football 85 times for 418 yards and eight TDs.

Had the All-State team included a spot for special teamers, it's a safe bet that Carey, though just a sophomore, would probably be a two-time member of that club, based on his ability to get downfield and deliver punishing hits on kickoff coverage.

"If there was a spot for coverage guys, he'd be at the top of the list, I promise you," Webber said.

Another spot that the Cats had no worries about this year was punter. Just as he did last year, Leisenring came up huge for Thayer in the battle of flipping the field when needed.

"His punting really helped us with field position, as far as turning the field into our favor every Friday night," Webber said. "And as far as hang time, he gave us time to set up our coverage. But also, his kickoffs did a nice job of keeping guys pinned to the sideline and deep in their territory."

Lesienring was also a multi-purpose threat in 2008.

He averaged 40.29 yards per punt and also picked up 68 tackles and one interception on defense. On the offensive side of the ball, Leisenring finished with 521 yards and six touchdowns on 44 totes.

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