If he keeps up the pace, North Decatur junior Jason Kirchhoff will be on his way to breaking several school rushing records next fall.
Kirchhoff, who eclipsed his first two seasons' rushing yardage and scoring totals this season alone, was the sparkplug for the Charger offense.
North rushed for 2,456 yards, averaging 5.79 yards in its 424 attempts. The team scored 30 touchdowns on the ground. Kirchhoff accounted for 1,762 yards on 259 carries, averaging 6.71 per touch. He added 15 scores. He also caught six passes for 77 yards and a receiving touchdown. Kirchhoff also had two touchdown returns called back by penalty.
Head coach Jim Louder paid the highest of compliments to Kirchhoff after the season.
"In my 40-plus years in football, Jason is the best running back I've ever coached," said Louder, who has also coached large-school teams in Cincinnati. "He has great vision, runs with authority, and is never satisfied with his performance. He plays with intensity on both sides of the football and believes he can always do better."
Kirchhoff played his position as a defensive back as well as any defender could, recording 58 tackles and six interceptions with 49 return yards.
Kirchhoff, all of 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, played fearlessly against defenders with superior size.
"He plays banged up and doesn't say a word," said Louder.
While he does possess a heart the size of an elephant, as Louder has said, Kirchhoff relies on his offensive line each night to pave the way for his production.
"The offensive line played a big role in my success," he said of his linemen, Nick Gehrich, Jeremy Meyer, Bobby Beeler, Thomas Shobe and Daniel Combs.
Kirchhoff noted that his own work ethic and determination make the Friday night experience worthwhile.
"The effort I put in and the practice pays off," he said, "and in the weight room every morning."
Kirchhoff credited the North coaches for putting the Chargers in positions to succeed, if not win. He pointed out team assistant and chaplain Dave Gehrich, who leads team prayers.
"They've all made a major impact on the team and players, how they pushed us during practice, they were an inspiration," he said of the coaches. "I think what Dave Gehrich does is awesome, how he goes about it. That impacts me a lot, too." Kirchhoff added that the team also draws inspiration from the Charger Creed.
His family, he continued, also has played a big part in his success.
"I'd like to thank my whole family, and my older brother, John," he said. "He's always helping out with college offers I'm getting. He does a lot."
Louder said Kirchhoff, who has a 3.9 G.P.A. and takes advanced placement classes, might see himself seizing big chances after he graduates.
"After next season, Jason will have opportunities to play at the next level," said Louder. "I think he can play at the Division I level."
Kirchhoff, meanwhile, will not look past his senior year and the potential the team carries.
"Next year is going to be a big year for the team, with this year's juniors and the leadership," he said.
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.