THE Columbus North football season might have included a lot of highs and lows. Shaquille Ash’s season never wavered.
From beginning to end, he was simply the most dominant defensive player on the field. Ash finished with a school-record 112 solo tackles from his middle linebacker spot.
For his outstanding play, Ash has earned The Republic’s Defensive Player of the Year designation.
“My goal was to break the record,” Ash said of the tackles mark. “I was going for that. I think I performed well.”
Ash kept his level of play high even as the team fell to 1-5 early in the season, and he continued to be a driving force as the Bull Dogs finished 6-6 and made it to the sectional championship game.
“It was an interesting season,” Ash said. “It was not what we came in hoping for. But we fought through, and we never gave up.”
Although Ash was an All-State pick by the Indiana Football Coaches Association, his college opportunities so far are dominated by smaller schools such as the University of Indianapolis, Illinois State and Marion. At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, the major college programs have been concerned about Ash’s size and the fact he played linebacker.
“I am projected as a safety type (in college),” Ash said. “But our team needed a linebacker. There were advantages to being smaller and quicker.”
North coach Tim Bless said there is so much more to Ash’s game than size.
“He is so relentless,” Bless said. “He plays at a different speed once the ball is snapped. His desire to get to the football was unparalleled. He is a multidimensional player.”
Ash was a safety his freshman and sophomore seasons at North, but Bless turned him into an outside linebacker as a junior.
“He was making every tackle on that side of the field,” Bless said. “After three or four games, he was averaging 12 tackles a game. We thought we would switch him to the middle so he could make every tackle.
“He is kind of a silent assassin. He always has been a ‘Yes sir, no sir,’ kind of a kid. He is always pushing himself. He is a leader by example.”
Although the Bull Dogs fell short of their goals, Ash said he will take many memories away from North.
“We thought it would be a pretty good year, but we also knew there were a lot of games that would be tough. Then it went downhill. We had to keep fighting … keep believing.
“I think I will remember most the East game, even though we lost. It was exciting, a fun game. My favorite game.
“Then in the sectionals we had some nail-biters. We were down 14-0 to Franklin Central and no one seemed worried. We came back and won. Senior Night was the only time in my career I had an interception.”
He had two in that game, and he returned one for a touchdown.
Now he heads for other challenges, and Bless is certain he will make some college team an awesome addition.
“I would say that I am a player with a lot of intensity,” Ash said. “A guy who has a nonstop motor who doesn’t back down.”