As the fall season gets underway, seniors will be spotlighted in upcoming Elite 11 and Prime 8 features before competing in their final seasons leading up to their senior nights.
But the area is blessed with an abundance of underclass talent as well, many of whom have already had a major impact on their teams and in the postseason.
Here is a look at 15 of those sophomores and juniors who could be primed for a big fall season ahead:
Katie Coleman, sophomore, Pendleton Heights soccer: The Pendleton Heights girls soccer team returns all five players who scored four goals or more last season, and Coleman leads the way. Coleman helped the Arabians to a 9-7-1 mark last year and was the team’s top scorer with 13 goals and added four assists.
Jacob Erwin, junior, Lapel tennis: The area’s player of the year as a sophomore, Erwin is back to lead the Bulldogs to a potential ninth straight county title and 10th straight regional berth. Erwin was 20-4 last year and is 36-11 overall in his two years as Lapel’s No. 1 singles player.
Crew Farrell, junior, Frankton football: Also an underclassman to watch this winter for the Eagles wrestling team, Farrell is a top playmaker for a rapidly improving Frankton football team. He accounted for over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns offensively while racking up 98 tackles and an interception on the defensive side of the ball.
Addy Gick, junior, Daleville golf: After showing promise as a freshman, Gick came into her own and finished her sophomore year strong, giving rise to increased expectations this season. Gick placed third with a round of 81 at the Muncie sectional last season, helping the Broncos advance to regional.
Luke Gilman, sophomore, Madison-Grant tennis: Among many talented underclass boys tennis players this fall is Gilman. He was 15-9 last season as the Argylls’ No. 1 singles player and has had a strong summer as he prepares to lead M-G.
Owen Hinchman, junior, Elwood tennis: Hinchman was 9-12 last season for the Panthers but has also had a good summer playing in area tournaments. He won the Little Hackers singles tournament at Ball State before teaming with fellow Elwood underclassman Beau Brandon to take the doubles title as well.
Rylie Hudson, sophomore, Lapel football: Stats aside, Hudson’s pure athleticism makes him an athlete worth watching regardless of which sport he is playing. As a freshman, Hudson hauled in 26 passes for 395 yards for the Bulldogs and pairs with junior Nick Witte (35 receptions, 660 yards, 10 TD) to form a dynamic underclass receiving combo.
Ava Jarrell, sophomore, Pendleton Heights cross country: Before she advanced to the state track and field finals in the spring, Jarrell made a freshman splash as she led the Pendleton Heights cross country team for much of the fall. The girls Madison County champion went on to place ninth at the Delta regional last October.
Holli Klettheimer, junior, Frankton volleyball: Simply put, Klettheimer has been one of the top volleyball players in the area ever since she first donned an Eagles jersey. She recorded 280 kills, 61 aces, 60 blocks and 251 digs last year, and her talent is drawing interest from NCAA Division I and II schools.
Gabe McGuire, junior, Alexandria football: Whether he is throwing, running, or catching the football, McGuire is an electrifying player to watch on the gridiron. Primarily a receiver last season, McGuire accounted for over 800 yards of offense and found the end zone eight times. He is expected to return to quarterback this year and threw 14 TD passes as a Tigers freshman.
Faith Norris, junior, Daleville cross country: Norris has already made plenty of postseason noise as a sophomore for the Broncos after breaking through with a semistate berth last fall and advancing to the track regional in the spring. Last season, Norris was fifth at sectional, 19th at sectional and 79th at semistate — the top returning area finisher for the girls.
Mikala Ross, junior, Pendleton Heights volleyball: While two-time area player of the year Avery Ross has taken her talents to Notre Dame, younger sister Mikala figures to be an imposing presence at the net for the Arabians this fall. She is the top returning PH attacker with 187 kills last season and led the Arabians with 48 blocks as a sophomore.
Isabelle Phillips, junior, Pendleton Heights soccer: Yes, the Arabians girls soccer team has a second player on this list and deservedly so. Phillips is a talented midfielder who may have the best soccer skills in the area. Blessed with quick feet and great field vision, Phillips scored three times and tied for the team lead with eight assists last year.
Cameron Smith, junior, Lapel cross country: One of the top area runners this fall, Smith advanced to semistate in 2021 as a sophomore where he placed 83rd for the Bulldogs. He was 17th at regional the week before and was the third-place finisher at the 2021 Madison County championship.
Hunter Smith, junior, Frankton cross country: Bearing the same last name and similar talents, Hunter Smith joins Cameron Smith as top juniors to watch this fall. As an Eagle sophomore, Hunter was fifth at county, 15th at sectional, 19th at regional and advanced to the New Haven semistate for the second time in as many years, where he placed 105th.