All-Decade Super 25 Football Team: Linemen lead next group of honorees

JARROD ULREY
julrey@thisweeknews.com
DeSales running back Alonzo Booth was a finalist for Ohio's Mr. Football award as a senior in 2016 after rushing for 2,436 yards with 40 touchdowns, leading the Stallions to a Division III state semifinal and a 13-1 record.

With football season hopefully around the corner, ThisWeek is counting down the top 25 central Ohio players from 2010-19 in a series we're calling the "All-Decade Super 25 Team," in step with how we have honored area players since 1993.

This five-part series features players at a variety of positions who competed for schools in the ThisWeek coverage area, consisting of Franklin County and parts of Fairfield and Delaware counties.

The series began July 9 with Nos. 21-25. This week, we're taking a look at Nos. 16-20:

No. 20

Daevon Anderson

One of the seminal moments in Hilliard Bradley program history took place two months before the Jaguars made their first Division I playoff appearance in 2016.

Bradley beat sister schools Davidson and Darby in back-to-back games in the first half of that season.

Anderson, a 2018 Bradley graduate, was among those at the center of that transition for the Jaguars. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound wide receiver proved to be much more than just someone with speed as a junior.

About four months removed from competing in the Division I regional track and field meet in the 110-meter hurdles, Anderson had a 15-reception, 189-yard performance that included four touchdowns as Bradley beat the school district's standard bearer, Davidson, 31-28.

He then had five receptions for 102 yards and two scores in a 41-20 win over Darby.

Anderson helped the Jaguars go 9-2 that season, finishing with 77 receptions for 1,070 yards and 15 touchdowns while earning first-team all-state honors.

Coach Mike LoParo couldn't stop gushing about what a special talent he had on his hands in Anderson.

"Daevon is extremely athletic and gets the most from his abilities," LoParo said after the 2016 season. "He has a great ability to challenge downfield and is a good route runner. He also has great hands and is a challenge for anyone to cover."

The word "athletic" was among LoParo's compliments a year later after Anderson had 65 receptions for 1,242 yards and 13 touchdowns and was named first-team all-state as a senior in 2017.

He left as the program's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.

Last fall for Grand Valley State, Anderson had 13 receptions as a redshirt freshman.

No. 19

Emmanuel Beal

Among the many sports casualties caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was the cancelation of the XFL season after five weeks of action.

The league has filed for bankruptcy, leaving its future in jeopardy.

Beal, a 2013 Reynoldsburg graduate who was trying to continue a pro career as a linebacker with the XFL's Tampa Bay Vipers after spending time in training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 and 2019, has been involved in unsettling circumstances before.

A defensive end for Reynoldsburg, he recorded 18 sacks and 12 tackles for loss as a junior in 2011 when the Raiders went 6-4 under first-year coach Buddy White. Then as a senior in 2012, he had 14 sacks despite missing two games as the Raiders went 7-3.

It would be three more years before Reynoldsburg would snap a 14-year playoff drought, but players like Beal helped turn the program around.

Despite his play as a junior and senior, it seemed like his playing days were over after high school.

At 6-0 and about 205 pounds, his size didn't fit that of a major college recruit.

After taking a year off from the sport, Beal decided to walk on at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

He moved from the defensive line to linebacker for his sophomore year at Lackawanna and did enough to get noticed by a slew of Football Bowl Subdivision programs. He signed with Oklahoma and became a two-year starter, helping the Sooners reach the College Football Playoff in the 2017 season.

"It blows my mind every night," Beal said a few days before Oklahoma lost to Georgia 54-48 in the Rose Bowl that season.

No. 18

Alonzo Booth

All the pieces came together for Booth as a senior for DeSales in 2016.

The running back spent two seasons at Canal Winchester, which finished 0-10 in 2013 with Booth seeing limited action and went 1-9 in 2014 with Booth rushing for 551 yards and eight touchdowns.

Booth transferred to DeSales after that season and made an immediate impact.

At 6-1, 260 pounds as a junior in 2015, he rushed for 915 yards and 12 touchdowns as the Stallions went 10-2.

He shed 15 pounds before the next season and seemingly shifted into another gear as a senior, setting program records for yards rushing (2,436) and touchdowns (40) as DeSales went 13-1 and reached a Division III state semifinal, where it lost to Akron Hoban 23-14. Booth was named district Offensive Player of the Year and first-state all-state and was a finalist for Ohio Mr. Football.

The Stallions blew past nearly every opponent that season, averaging 44.1 points while winning their first 13 games.

"Everybody knows that the big running back and that team have rolled over everybody in site, literally and figuratively, this season," then-Beechcroft coach Trevor White told The Columbus Dispatch. "Obviously, we're going to need our defense to come up big."

It didn't happen, as Booth rushed for 225 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-12 second-round Region 11 playoff win over the Cougars.

He then piled up 181 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries in a 49-6 victory over Hamilton Township in the regional final.

"I feel like I'm pretty quick on my feet and that I have decent field vision, which helps me a lot," Booth said at the time.

Last fall for Eastern Kentucky, Booth earned second-team all-Ohio Valley Conference honors after rushing for 673 yards and 14 touchdowns.

No. 17

Pat Elflein

During summer 2011, Elflein's profile rose significantly when he committed to Ohio State ahead of his senior season at Pickerington North.

A story came out early that fall explaining how the 6-3, 285-pound offensive lineman had helped build his physical strength by doing concrete work with his father and that it exemplified his work ethic.

That was something, though, that those in North's program had been witnessing for years.

Elflein joined the program in 2008, five years after the Pickerington school district split into two high schools, and he was the type of building block that set up the Panthers to make their first playoff appearance in 2009.

North has made five playoff appearances in the past eight seasons, while Elflein's career has continued to hit new levels.

He started at right guard for Ohio State in 2014 when the Buckeyes won the national title and moved to center in 2016, replacing former Pickerington Central standout Jacoby Boren and winning the Rimington Trophy -- awarded to the nation's best center -- that season.

It shouldn't be surprising what Elflein, who started at center for the Minnesota Vikings for two seasons and is now the Vikings' starting left guard, has accomplished.

In addition to starting all four years on the offensive line for North and earning first-team all-state honors as a senior, he was a standout on the defensive line, recording 12 tackles for loss as a senior when the Panthers went 8-2.

Elflein also was a two-time state qualifier in wrestling as a heavyweight and qualified for the regional track meet in the shot put.

"He's a warrior," former North football coach Tom Phillips said after Elflein's senior season.

No. 16

Jacoby Boren

Determining how much of a difference having a great center can make -- let alone where to rank one in a list like this -- isn't an easy puzzle to solve.

The center must be sure-handed with the ball and also stop an opponent coming at him from any direction despite usually not being the tallest player on the offensive line.

In the case of Boren, the overall package might be the best barometer.

Although he was listed in high school at 6-3 and 285 pounds, the 2012 Pickerington Central graduate sometimes was listed as 6-1 or 6-2 while playing at Ohio State.

In either case, the youngest of three brothers who went on to play for Ohio State took it personally that he was always told he was undersized.

By his junior year at Central in 2010, Boren could bench press 375 pounds and squat 500. He was bench-pressing 415 as a senior.

Between the time he became the Tigers' starting center in 2008 until he played his final snap in a 34-13 loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the 2011 Division I state final, Central went 47-7.

The winning continued when he got to Ohio State, with Boren starting as a junior in 2014 when the Buckeyes went 14-1 and won the national championship.

He proved his versatility by working with an offense that rotated quarterbacks during his junior year at Central when the Tigers went 11-1.

Boren, who also was a standout defensive lineman for the Tigers, made first-team all-state as a senior and never went unnoticed by his coach, Jay Sharrett.

"You usually don't get a lot of fanfare playing the positions that Jacoby plays," Sharrett said in 2010. "There's nobody he can't block and nobody who can block him."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek