The progress that Luke Hammons made from his junior year to his senior football season might be exceeded only by his strides between his sophomore and junior seasons.
By the end of his career, the Columbus North signal caller had made himself into an ultimate dual-threat quarterback, equally capable of hurting opponents with his arm and his legs.
“From my sophomore year to my junior year, what I focused on a lot was my running aspect of football,” Hammons said. “From my junior year to senior year, I picked up a lot on passing. I improved a lot on throwing the ball and providing a more balanced offense for the team.”
That balance led the Bull Dogs to their second consecutive Conference Indiana championship and earned Hammons The Republic Football Player of the Year honor.
To get better, Hammons went to camps over the winter, threw with his receivers on the field, worked with quarterback coaches and went to 7-on-7 tournaments with some of his receivers from North during the offseason.
This fall, Hammons completed 65 percent of his passes, going 98 for 152 for 1,218 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also ran 101 times for 452 yards and nine scores.
“I would say each year, he progressively improved,” North coach Tim Bless said. “This year, his command of our offense, being the general out there, being the unquestioned leader of our team, once our offense got into a rhythm, and what Luke was able to do statistically in both the throwing game and the running game and the number of touchdowns he accounted for, that was probably the most striking statistic.”
Hammons did it against one of the state’s toughest schedules. Three of the Bull Dogs’ four losses came against teams that won state titles last weekend, and the other came against a No. 1-ranked team.
“I had a lot of fun playing with the team,” Hammons said. “It was exciting winning conference for the second time in a row and being undefeated in conference. The competition we played last year did not compare to the competition we played this year, so I’m pretty proud of the way that we could play a team that’s much better than us, lose and come back and play our best football.”
North did manage a victory against a highly-ranked opponent. Hammons threw for 248 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Bull Dogs to a 34-10 rout of Class 5A then-No. 3 and unbeaten Bloomington South in a game that decided the Conference Indiana title.
“That was probably my favorite game of the year,” Hammons said. “The week before, we had run the ball a lot, so they saw a lot of running on film and I think they thought that’s what we were going to do. But we came out and threw the ball quite well in the first half, and we didn’t stop in the second half. It was probably my best game of the year, homecoming and I felt like that clinched us conference.”
Hammons is planning to continue his football career in college. He has visited Olivet Nazarene, Indiana Wesleyan, DePauw and Hanover, and Centre (Kentucky) College came to North to see him last week. Most of those schools are Division III and cannot offer athletic scholarships. But with a 3.7 GPA, Hammons, who plans to study marketing, will get an academic scholarship.
The big question is, at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, will Hammons have the necessary size to play quarterback at that level, or will he move to defensive back or wide receiver, much like former Columbus East quarterback and current DePauw receiver Josh Major, the 2016 and 2017 Republic co-Football Player of the Year?
“I’ve had that conversation with Luke a lot recently,” Bless said. “He’s garnered a lot of interest, and I think most schools want to look at him as a quarterback, but what’s most intriguing about Luke is, he is valuable in that if the quarterback depth chart makes it tough, he can play other positions.”
“They asked me what I’d be open to, and I just want to go play ball somewhere,” Hammons added. “If they put me at corner or safety, receiver, quarterback, any of those I’d be fine with, and that’s what I told the coaches. I’ll just show up and do what I can.”
Hammons does plans to run track again in the spring.
“I think track is good because it keeps me fast for next season in college,” Hammons said. “I want to show up for college at my best speed, and I think track is the best way to do that.”
Looking back on his career, the three-year starter is happy with what he and his teammates were able to accomplish.
“I had a lot of fun playing at the Max (Andress Field) every Friday night,” Hammons said. “I got to play with a lot of good players my sophomore year and last year and this year. I have a lot of good memories with them.”
The Republic 2021 All-Area Football team:
Quarterback — Luke Hammons, Columbus North: The senior threw for 1,218 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 452 yards and nine touchdowns.
Running back — Dyllan Redmon, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 819 yards rushing and had seven TDs and caught 12 passes for 177 yards and two TDs.
Running back — Tryce Villarreal, Columbus East: The senior led the Olympians with 859 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing.
Wide receiver — Keegan Castetter, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 38 catches for 567 yards and seven touchdowns.
Wide receiver — Cooper Horn, Columbus North: The junior had 20 catches for 242 yards and five touchdowns and threw a TD pass.
Wide receiver — Caleb Dewey, Edinburgh: The junior led the Lancers with 56 catches for 1,079 yards and 12 TDs; also had three interceptions.
Tight end — Blake Borkhardt, Columbus East: The sophomore caught eight passes for 92 yards and one touchdown.
Offensive line — Neal Likens, Columbus North: The senior helped pave the way for 1,403 yards rushing, 1,357 yards passing and 38 total TDs.
Offensive line — Will Davis, Columbus North: The junior helped pave the way for 1,403 yards rushing, 1,357 yards passing and 38 total TDs.
Offensive line — Kokkao Yee, Columbus North: The junior helped pave the way for 1,403 yards rushing, 1,357 yards passing and 38 total TDs.
Offensive line — Josh Luedeke, Columbus East: The senior helped pave the way for 2,195 yards rushing, 529 yards passing and 27 total TDs.
Offensive line — Ashton Hartwell, Columbus East: The senior helped pave the way for 2,195 yards rushing, 529 yards passing and 27 total TDs
Defensive line — Dawson Adams, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with six sacks, 21 tackles for losses and two blocked punts.
Defensive line — Savion Miles, Columbus North: The junior had 52 tackles, including seven for losses and two sacks.
Defensive line — Bryant Trinkle, Columbus North: The senior had 5 1/2 sacks and 10 1/2 tackles for losses.
Defensive line — Jamall Starks, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with 5 1/2 sacks and 15 tackles for losses.
Linebacker — Connor Essick, Columbus North: The senior had 85 tackles, including 10 for losses.
Linebacker — Bryce Abner, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 94 tackles and had two sacks and one interception.
Linebacker — Chase Harrison, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with 74 tackles; also ran for four touchdowns.
Linebacker — Wanblee Roux, Brown County: The senior led the Eagles with 89 tackles, including 17 for losses and eight sacks; also led team with 657 yards and 11 TDs rushing and had six catches for 60 yards and two TDs.
Defensive back— Jaxson Scruggs, Columbus North: The senior tied for a team-high two interceptions; returned a blocked field goal for a TD and had 809 kickoff and punt return yards.
Defensive back — Trent Bodart, Columbus North: The senior tied for a team-high two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
Defensive back — Devon Tekulve, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with four interceptions and three blocked punts.
Defensive back — Kelby Shook, South Decatur: The senior had 51 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries; also threw for 1,256 yards and 13 TDs and ran for 538 yards and seven TDs.
Kicker — Nathaniel Hedrick, Colubmus East: The junior converted 27 of 27 extra points and 5 of 7 field goals.
Punter — Seth Lankey, Columbus East: The sophomore averaged 36.2 yards on 25 punts.
Kick returner — Tyler Blythe, Columbus North: The junior averaged 27.8 yards on four kickoff returns and 11.1 yards on seven punt returns; also had 22 catches for 203 yards and one TD.
Punt returner — Logan Christophel, Columbus East: The senior averaged 11.4 yards on 15 punt returns and 22.0 yards on 14 kickoff returns; also led the Olympians with 12 catches for 184 yards and one TD.
All-purpose — Peyton Hayden, Jennings County: The senior threw for 675 yards and five TDs, ran for 641 yards and three TDs and led the Panthers with four tackles for losses.
Brown County: Seth Oliphant, Kody Walsh. Columbus East: Ethan Duncan, Jaden Durnil, Caaden Gault. Columbus North: Carson Dibble, Osian Guest. Edinburgh: Lennon DeLoach, Riley Palmeter, Jarrett Turner. Jennings County: Cole Marksberry, Zach Reason. South Decatur: Rhett Martin, Jacob Scruggs.