Canistota's Jeb Olsen is unanimous selection as The Daily Republic's football player of the yearJeb Olsen had plenty of options to choose from when asked his fondest memory from his final season of prep football.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
Jeb Olsen had plenty of options to choose from when asked his fondest memory from his final season of prep football.
Canistota’s senior running back could have chosen his effort in his team’s victorious Class 9B state championship game. He also could have chosen either of his monster games against Gregory or Scotland, where he rushed for more than 200 yards in each.
In a season where he rushed for school records and helped Canistota win its first-ever state football championship, Olsen recalled a different game.
“Probably beating Hanson,” said Olsen, who has been named The Daily Republic’s football player of the year. “I’ll probably remember that for a long, long time.”
Referencing his team’s 20-8 win over the Beavers on Sept. 17 in Alexandria, Olsen was not swayed by his least-productive game of the season. He managed 78 yards on 16 carries. It was the only game of the season that Olsen was held without a touchdown.
“They always used to beat us,” Olsen said. “I think we just worked harder this season and finally got them.”
It was the only time Olsen and the Hawks were tested all season long. After downing the Beavers for the first time in 19 years, Canistota finished its season unbeaten.
Olsen was a unanimous first-place selection for the player of the year award, receiving 15 points in a system that awards five points for a first-place vote, four for a second, three for a third, two for a fourth and one for a fifth.
Mitchell junior Justin Greenway and Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan senior Jordon Connor tied for second with nine points, Mitchell junior Jason Greenway was fourth with seven and Hanson senior Pierce Smith finished fifth in the voting with four points.
But the season Olsen put together was plenty enough to place him at the top of the list.
“Jeb had a great season,” Canistota coach Lenny Schroeder said. “He did whatever we needed him to do. When we needed him to block, he blocked, if we needed him to go out for a pass, he did.
“And when we put the ball in his hands, good things happened.”
Olsen finished last season with school records of 1,751 yards rushing and 35 touchdowns. He averaged 11.15 yards per carry and averaged 145.6 yards rushing per contest. He added a pair of receiving scores as well.
Besides the Hanson game, another highlight of his season came against Scotland, when he had 215 yards and four touchdowns. He topped that earlier in the year against Gregory with 234 yards and six touchdowns. In the state-title game against Hitchcock-Tulare, he had 109 yards rushing, a receiving touchdown and an interception return for a score.
His high school career amassed to 3,125 rushing yards and 48 scores, also Canistota records.
But he won’t take all the credit.
“Sam (Jolley), he’s just the smartest guy I know,” Olsen said of Canistota’s quarterback. “He helped me with some of the plays and Nick Golder and Troy Hofer’s blocking helped open holes all season long. They were awesome.”
Olsen, who rarely played an entire game because the Hawks’ scores became so lopsided, also recorded 63 total tackles (5.3 per game) from his linebacker position. He intercepted three passes and recovered four fumbles.
He said he still is deciding whether he will play football collegiately and has not decided on a school.
Although many of his accolades came on the offensive side of the ball, he also stood out as a linebacker. Though, he said he prefers running the ball over tackling ball carriers.
“Defensively, he was everything you could ask for in a linebacker,” Schroeder said. “He was great in pass coverage and obviously, he could stuff the run.”
Anyone who watched Canistota play this season knows the Hawks — Olsen in particular — never steered away from contact.
But what impressed his coach most was the way Olsen, the Cornbelt Conference most valuable player, stayed level-headed through it all.
“His most valuable asset was that he was the fuse of our football team,” Schroeder said. “He played the game the way you want a kid to play the game.
“He would have played the same whether we were undefeated or 0 and 8. The spotlight did not change him.”
With the way the Hawks dominated their opponents, it would have been easy to let that happen.
Canistota outscored opponents 627-38 in 12 games this season.
And Schroeder said Olsen and his teammates took it all in stride.
“He’s quiet; very quiet and very unassuming. That’s the part that surprises a lot of people,” Schroeder said. “You’d walk by him in the hallway and you wouldn’t notice him. But you put a helmet and shoulder pads on him, everyone knows who he is.”
Here is a capsule look at the other four players who received votes:
n Justin Greenway starred as a defensive back and return specialist for the Kernels as a junior. He had 47 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble as Mitchell’s top cover-corner. He was named first-team all-state in Class 11AA at corner back. He also amassed 529 yards rushing and 229 yards receiving and scored five offensive touchdowns to go along with his three kick returns for scores.
n Jordon Connor led B-E/E to the Class 9AA state-title game, where he rushed 31 times for 295 yards — both 9AA title-game records — and four touchdowns in the win. He finished the season with 2,135 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground for the Seahawks.
n Jason Greenway became the first Mitchell running back to pass the 1,000-yard mark since 2002. He finished the season with 1,114 and 17 rushing touchdowns. He was a first-team all-Eastern South Dakota Conference selection as a running back. He also had 35 tackles defensively for the Kernels.
n Pierce Smith took Hanson to its third-straight state title with a Class 9A championship this fall. Smith rushed 33 times for 281 yards — both 9A title-game records — in the victory at the DakotaDome. He rushed for 1,829 yards and scored 32 total touchdowns in his senior season for the Beavers.
Winners of The Daily Republic’s annual football player of the year award:
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
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