Avon's Brandon Kocmich named Daily Republic football player of the year
AVON — The end of the 2013 football season was the only thing that could stop Avon’s Brandon Kocmich.
The star running back for the Pirates consistently put up gaudy numbers, and despite splitting carries in the backfield and not playing in the second half of many one-sided games, he made defenders look as if they were allergic to tackling on many Friday nights.
“It was amazing to watch what he accomplished this year in limited touches,” Avon coach Tom Culver said. “With his big-play ability, we knew that on any play he can score.”
Culver, who finished his 15th season with the Class 9B state title, said the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder’s athletic ability is what set him apart and made him one of the best high school football players he has seen.
“To see a kid his size with the ability to do what he can do is rare,” Culver said. “I approached Brandon before the season and told him that he has more athletic ability than any player out there. But it was up to him to decide how to use it.”
Kocmich, who was named to the Class 9B all-state team on Tuesday, took that advice and led the Pirates to a state title.
“We all dreamed of this, but didn’t know it would come true,” Kocmich said of the fifth state title for Avon.
For his performance, Kocmich has unanimously been named The Daily Republic’s 2013 football player of the year.
The award is voted on by the three members of The Daily Republic sports staff and takes into account all players from the newspaper’s coverage area. The winner is determined by a point system that awards five points to the No. 1 player, according to each member of the sports staff.
Kocmich received all three first-place votes.
Other players receiving votes were Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan’s Wade Miller, Howard’s Luke Loudenburg, Winner’s Trace Meyer, Avon’s Devin Tolsma, Gregory’s Kurt Braun, Parkston’s Mitch Heisinger and Burke/South Central’s Turner Serr.
But Kocmich’s play stood out above the rest when looking at everything he was able to do for his team. He was also a dominant figure on a state champion team.
“I knew I had to step up in the offseason and become a more vocal leader and better player,” Kocmich said of his commitment heading into the season.
The senior carried the ball 148 times for 1,895 yards in 12 games, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in nine contests. He averaged 12.8 yards per carry. He scored 28 rushing touchdowns on the season and he gained 165.9 yards per game on the ground.
Kocmich’s most eye-popping game came against Canistota on Sept. 27, when he carried the ball 15 times for 378 yards and six scores.
He did a little bit of everything for the Pirates. Defensively, he was second on the team with 61 tackles from his safety position, while also intercepting six passes. He returned three of those picks for touchdowns.
As a weapon in the punt return game, he returned two punts for scores and averaged 23.7 yards per return on 15 tries.
Even though a pass play was a rarity for the Pirates this season, Kocmich did make the most of his opportunities. He caught two passes for 68 yards and a score, while completing two passes for 96 yards and another score.
In total, Kocmich accounted for 2,452 yards — 204.3 per contest — and 41 touchdowns for Avon in 2013.
If that wasn’t enough, Kocmich was also the team’s primary kicker and punter. He made 12 point-after-touchdowns and punted 22 times for 714 yards for an average of 32.5 yards. His punts pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line eight times.
Avon was well ahead of the opposition early in games this season, leaving carries on the table for Kocmich, who had six or less rushes four times. He broke for over 100 yards in each of those games.
Starting players are typically taken out when a team has a large lead, which happened to Kocmich several times in 2013.
Teams that planned to have a chance to stay with the Pirates started to plan their defense around stopping Kocmich later in the season, opening the door for Tolsma to shine. Tolsma, a junior fullback, finished the year with 115 carries for 1,315 yards and 18 scores on the ground. As a team, the Pirates accumulated an astounding 4,284 rushing yards.
“Teams were keying on Brandon so much that it would open up things for a lot of other players like Devin to make things happen,” Culver said.
The strong relationship between Kocmich and Tolsma goes back to their childhood days.
“We played football in the backyard as kids and have remained good friends on and off the field,” Kocmich said. “He would win a lot of the tackling competitions in practice, but the speed ones I usually won.”
Kocmich is quiet and unassuming on the field, leading by example, while Tolsma is simply a hard-nosed football player, according to Culver.
“Devin is not the biggest kid, but he is a devastating blocker and Brandon worked hard to open up holes in the running game the same way,” Culver said. “There was never an outspoken competition between the two, but when one would do well the other would know he had to step up.”
After high school, Kocmich hopes to continue playing football at the college level. He has been recruited by Dakota Wesleyan University, Northern State University and Morningside College. Culver also mentioned that coaches at South Dakota State University have looked at tape of Kocmich.
His superb athletic ability makes projecting his place in college tough. With a little more meat on his bones, Culver sees him as a fit for outside linebacker, while DWU coach Ross Cimpl is intrigued by his versatility at the college level.
“He is just a phenomenal talent,” Cimpl said. “Outside of being a great football player, he is just a great kid. We have a list of four or five positions that we feel he could play on both sides of the ball.”
If he has his choice, Kocmich said he would like to play on the defensive side of the ball.
Kocmich now heads into basketball season where he will play for the Pirates and has one more season of track and field prior to graduation.
“Football is definitely my favorite,” Kocmich said. “I like the adrenaline.”
Here is a look at the other players who received votes with point totals in parenthesis:
- Wade Miller (11): The running back led the Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan Seahawks to their third Class 9AA state title in four years. The senior finished with 239 carries for 1,805 yards and 30 touchdowns, while also catching 11 passes for 354 yards and three scores. On defense, he racked up 45 tackles, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
- Luke Loudenburg (10): The Class 9A all-state running back had 2,248 rushing yards on 238 carries and 37 touchdowns, while totaling 2,779 all-purpose yards for the Howard Tigers. The junior had six games where he rushed for over 200 yards, leading his team to the state semifinals. For his career so far, Loudenburg had 4,121 yards on 468 carries and 55 touchdowns.
- Trace Meyer (3): The running back led the Winner Warriors to the Class 11B state semifinals with 1,323 yards on 153 carries and 17 touchdowns. On defense, the senior contributed 42.5 tackles, including 4.5 for loss.
- Kurt Braun (2): The junior quarterback led the Gregory Gorillas to the Class 9AA state semi-finals, after replacing last year’s Daily Republic player of the year, Jaden Bartling. Braun accounted for over 2,000 yards of total offense for the Gorillas and had a combined 30 touchdowns.
- Devin Tolsma (2): The junior was a force on both sides of the ball for the Class 9B state champion Avon Pirates. From the Avon backfield, he gained 1,315 yards on 115 carries and scored 18 touchdowns. On defense, he finished with an astonishing 152.5 tackles, 102 of them solo and 19 for a loss. He was named a Class 9B all-state linebacker for his work on defense.
- Mitch Heisinger (1): He helped led a stifling Parkston defense to the Class 11B state title game. The senior finished with 120 total tackles, 73 solo, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. On offense, he ran the ball 123 times for a team-high 784 yards and seven touchdowns.
- Turner Serr (1): The Class 9B all-state selection helped Burke/South Central to a 7-3 record and a trip to the state quarterfinals. The senior captain finished with 189 carries for 1,574 yards and 25 touchdowns from his running back position, while catching 16 passes for 269 yards and a score. On defense, he had 105 tackles, one interception and three fumble recoveries.
Past players of the year
1994-Josh Ranek, Bon Homme
1995-Josh Ranek, Bon Homme
1996-Glen “Andy” Thomas, Gregory
1997-Jeff Schultz, Freeman
1998-Chris Mikkelsen, Gregory
1999-Chad Greenway, Stickney-Mount Vernon
2000-Chad Greenway, Stickney-Mount Vernon
2001-Tim Dacy, Gregory
2002-Justin Horn, Tripp-Delmont
2003-Michael Veskrna, Gregory
2004-Doug Carlson, Howard
2005-Jim Williams, Hanson
2006-Jake Steffen, Stickney-Mount Vernon
2007-Josh Endres, Emery-Ethan
2008-Earv Archambeau, Avon
2009-Jayd Knodell, Winner
2010-Jeb Olsen, Canistota
2011-Jason Greenway, Mitchell
2012-Jaden Bartling, Gregory