Morris’ Danny Friend named Herald-News Defensive Player of Year
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org November 21, 2012 6:16PM
Morris’ defensive end Danny Friend, Saturday November, 17, 2012. (Focus is a bit off) | Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:26AM
When you hear a human being referred to as a monster, it is not necessarily a good thing.
But on the football field, that description ranks as the ultimate compliment.
“That kid is a monster” has been voiced regularly by those who have seen Morris’ 6-foot-5, 255-pound Danny Friend in combat.
Indeed, when the Redskins challenge three-time defending state champion Montini at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Class 5A state title game at the University of Illinois, Friend will be in his element.
The Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 5A All-State selection was named Defensive Player of the Year on the Herald-News Football All-Area Team. But even that does not capture all that he means to Morris.
His work at defensive end, with a smattering of time at linebacker and defensive tackle, earned Northern Illinois Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year accolades. His statistics include 30 solo tackles, 53 total, seven sacks, seven pass deflections, three interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a field goal block and a defensive touchdown.
His interception at the line of scrimmage was huge in the Redskins’ 30-20 semifinal victory over Sacred Heart-Griffin in last Saturday’s 5A semifinal.
“We have had a good year defensively. The whole team has been very consistent on defense,” Friend said, deflecting attention from his personal accomplishments.
“At defensive end, I’m responsible for outside contain, contain the run and get to the quarterback on a pass. I enjoy doing that.”
Friend being named Herald-News Defensive Player of the Year is interesting because he committed to Indiana, which recruited him as a tight end.
The offensive part of his game is not bad, either.
He enters the state championship game having made 13 receptions for 268 yards, a 20.6 average, and four touchdowns, including a key 24-yard leaping grab between two defenders against Sacred Heart-Griffin. He also blocks.
Purdue, Minnesota and Oregon were among his other suitors, and some were recruiting him as an offensive tackle.
“I would have liked to catch more passes this season,” Friend said. “But we’re more of a running team, and I really wanted to show that I can block as well as catch. I think I’ve done pretty well blocking and catching, so it’s been good.”
“Danny is one of the best players I have ever seen or coached,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “He is a leader on and off the field. I believe he is one of the best football players in the state regardless of class.”
The offensive stats naturally would have been more impressive had Morris thrown more than six or seven times per game.
“He is a great tight end,” Thorson said. “Unfortuantely for him, we are more of a running team this year. We have three outstanding backs (Reese Sobol, Jeff Perry and Collin Grogan) who are doing a great job. What Danny has done blocking on the edge at tight end is a huge part of that success.
“When we needed to throw, he has been our main guy, and he has done a great job of it. He is fast enough that he could be a wide receiver and is big enough to be an offensive tackle. Yet he is just as good if not better at defensive end.”
The resume in not complete yet. How about the fourth quarter against Sycamore, which Morris beat 13-0 and Montini barely overcame 24-22 in the playoffs? When Zach Cinnamon was injured, Friend stepped in and played quarterback the rest of the way. He has completed his only pass of the season for 19 yards.
A midseason broken thumb did not keep standout linebacker Nik Countryman on the sidelines, but it did prevent him from his long-snapping duties. You guessed it, Friend assumed that responsibility.
The Morris monster is more than Defensive Player of the Year. Call him Mr. Everything.