Gregory's TD machine: Bartling earns Daily Republic football player of yearGREGORY — Jaden Bartling continuously had his coach puzzled.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
GREGORY — Jaden Bartling continuously had his coach puzzled.
Gregory High School’s dual-threat quarterback was so elusive and dominant on the football field this season, fifth-year head coach Brian Allmendinger really couldn’t describe Bartling’s play.
“I don’t know how many times I just stood on the sideline and thought to myself, ‘This kid is having an unreal season,’ ” Allmendinger said. “Since I’ve been head coach, it was the best season I’ve seen. As far as individual performances, it was easily the best one I’ve been a part of.”
His numbers were almost unbelievable.
In one game, for example, he scored seven touchdowns and had 202 yards passing and 208 yards rushing.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior contributed to 136 of the Gorillas’ first downs this season. On a game-by-game basis, his stats were through the roof, averaging 166 yards rushing and 142 yards passing per game.
As a first-team all-state selection in Class 9AA, he finished with 1,825 rushing yards and 1,570 passing yards.
But the most shocking number: 48 touchdowns.
“And the crazy thing is he only played four full games,” said Allmendinger, whose team won five of its nine games by the mercy rule. “A guy plays a full season and puts up stats like that and it’s pretty impressive. But he did it in a limited amount of time.”
For his efforts, Bartling has been named the unanimous Daily Republic football player of the year.
The award, voted on by the sports staff, considers all of the players in the newspaper’s coverage area and is tallied by a point system that gives five points for a first-place vote, all three of which Bartling took.
Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan’s Anthony Huber, Canistota’s Cody Bunger, Colome’s Terrance Kinzer, Winner’s Tanner Fritz and Kimball/White Lake’s Jake Kirsch each received consideration and votes.
But Bartling’s play stood out above the rest, and what makes it interesting is his position was an open competition to start his junior year.
Bartling, a quarterback since he was a sixth-grader, had to battle teammate Andrew Taggart prior to the 2011 season to prove he was the right option to take over under center. Allmendinger said the coaching staff considered moving him to tight end or other positions on the offense.
“I always wanted to be quarterback and I wanted it more,” Bartling said, referring to the open competition that now seems like a distant memory. “I worked pretty hard for it.”
During his junior year, Gregory went 3-6 and was knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by eventual champion Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan. Bartling said he did a lot of learning his first year starting at quarterback at the varsity level. He added he even panicked at times.
To start his senior season, he didn’t panic, but there was good reason to.
On the Gorillas’ first offensive play from scrimmage, Bartling was sacked, fumbled and gave up a touchdown to South Central.
After that, he threw three touchdowns and rushed for another, leading Gregory to a 49-12 season-opening win. Seven days later, he had his best statistical game when he rushed for five touchdowns on 208 yards and threw for two touchdowns and 202 yards. That night, he was pulled in the third quarter because of a lopsided score in the Gorillas’ favor.
He had five touchdowns before halftime in a 52-0 win over Avon to help Gregory start the season 3-0. The team suffered its first and only regular-season loss on Sept. 14, the night he finally played his first full game of the season. Gregory fell 65-28 to Kimball/White Lake, but Bartling still had 186 passing yards and three combined touchdowns.
After Gregory finally felt defeat, Bartling responded with 14 touchdowns — including six TDs against Scotland — over the next four games. Both Bartling and his team improved monumentally over last year, finishing the regular season 7-1.
“I understood the defense a little more,” Bartling said. “Some was confidence, too.”
The highest point of Bartling’s season came in the first round of the playoffs. He threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to wideout Brody Boes with 50 seconds left against two-time defending champion Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan for a 36-34 win.
Dakota Wesleyan University coach Ross Cimpl hopes to recruit Bartling to join the Tigers’ roster next season. The first time Cimpl saw Bartling play was over the summer at a football camp in Gregory.
“The kid just makes plays,” Cimpl said. “He’s definitely is a dual-threat guy, and the way he controls the game makes him a tremendous football player.”
After beating Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, Gregory went on to beat Leola/Frederick in the quarterfinals, a night Bartling had a season-high 348 rushing yards.
“He had an amazing year,” Allmendinger said. “In our team, the quarterback is going to have opportunities. We don’t just turn around and hand the ball off. Opportunity is going to be there for the quarterback, whether it be running or throwing. That’s why we try and get an athlete and put him in that spot so he can perform. Jaden went above and beyond that.”
Bartling is a quiet person who doesn’t talk much about his individual success, and he said little about Gregory’s 44-37 semifinal loss against eventual state champion Deubrook Area.
“We gave it everything we had,” Bartling said of the game his team led by 15 at halftime. “I’d like to take the two interceptions back that I threw.”
Still, Bartling leaves high school with 15 offensive school records, 4,986 career all-purpose yards and an amazing season he’ll never forget.
“With as much success as he had this year, he very rarely let it get to his head,” Allmendinger said. “He had a great year. He’s a great kid and he’s going to be missed.”
Here is a look at the other players who received points in the voting with point totals in parenthesis:
n Huber (11): A first-team 9AA all-state selection, Huber dominated as a fullback and a linebacker. Huber rushed for 1,114 yards and 19 touchdowns in his senior season.
n Bunger (10): Leading Canistota to its third straight state title was Bunger, who was a first-team 9A all-state selection. He completed 58 of 92 passes for 1,260 yards and 20 touchdowns and had 107 rushes for 645 yards and 17 touchdowns.
n Kinzer (4): The junior helped Colome to a runner-up state finish in Class 9B. A first-team all-state selection, Kinzer had 118 tackles and six interceptions as a safety. He also was the team’s starting quarterback who threw for 500 yards and eight touchdowns, while rushing for 1,607 yards and 29 TDs.
n Fritz (3): The quarterback and safety of the state 11B champion Warriors, Fritz had two of the biggest plays of his team’s season. He threw a game-winning TD pass late in the fourth quarter in the semifinals and had the game-sealing interception in the title game. The 11B all-state honorable-mention selection threw for 711 yards and 11 touchdowns.
n Kirsch (2): Kimball/White Lake’s first-team 9AA all-state senior running back finished the season with 1,282 yards and 20 touchdowns.