Prep Football

Football Player of the Year: Toughness, grit help Indians' Lapsley sprint away from competition

Clark County senior Caleb Lapsley is the 2019 Herald-Whig Football Player of the Year, the second Clark County player to earn the honor. Lapsley led the Indians to the Class 2 state semifinals and had 1,586 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns, as well as 100 total tackles. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 29, 2019 12:10 am Updated: Dec. 29, 2019 12:18 am

KAHOKA, Mo.

Caleb Lapsley possesses a sprinter's speed with a sprinter's build and a sprinter's stride.

Yet, it's a bulldozer mentality that gives him his edge.

The Clark County senior running back captured headlines and highlights with his I-dare-you-to-catch-me runs, like the 73-yard touchdown jaunt against Hallsville in the state quarterfinals and the 91-yard touchdown run against Macon in the district semifinals.

At least a dozen of his 29 rushing touchdowns went for 30 yards or more, not really anything out of the ordinary for the reigning Class 2 state champion in the 100-meter dash.

Still, those runs weren't nearly as impressive as the ones where he had to wriggle and roll and churn through a tackle to gain just a yard or two. They epitomized his identity more than a burst of speed ever could.

"He's extremely tough, especially for a guy his size in that position," Clark County coach Ethan Allen said of the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Lapsley. "A lot of what we did was run him up the middle. We got him to the edge some, but primarily, him going north and south was our best weapon. He's going to take some shots in there. For a guy who weighs 160 pounds, that's going to be tough at times.

"But his grit and his toughness made it possible."

It also enabled Lapsley to deliver as many bone-chilling hits as he took.

Named the 2019 Herald-Whig Player of the Year as well as the Clarence Cannon Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a Class 2A first-team all-stater by the Missouri Football Coaches Association, Lapsley had nearly as much impact defensively. He led the Indians with 100 tackles, 45 solo stops, four passes broken up and two tackles for loss.

Those stats aren't as gaudy as his offensive numbers -- 8.6 yards per carry, 1,586 yards rushing, 29 rushing touchdowns -- but they illustrate the story just as efficiently.

"He's going to make something happen when he's on the field," Allen said. "You knew he was going to go make a play when we needed him to. He had so many touchdown-saving tackles. And if we wanted to be physical in a game, he was a guy who was going to come downhill and hit you."

Lapsley did that even when the coaching staff didn't want him to, at least on offense.

"He also took a lot of butt-chewings for not getting down and not getting out of bounds to try to save himself a little bit," Allen said. "He was always trying to get the extra yard, and that just leads into the type of guy he is and the type of player he was going to be for the team. It did lead to him getting dinged up and banged up at times, but he always showed up."

Lapsley understood his teammates counted on him.

And he praised them for opening holes, delivering downfield blocks and doing all the things that allowed him to succeed individually. He saw individual accolades as team awards, and was admittedly in awe when he learned he'd been named the Herald-Whig Player of the Year, an honor bestowed on only one other Clark County product.

Javis Vineyard won the award in 2008, and Lapsley's effort the past three seasons has put in the same conversation as Vineyard and others when talking about Clark County's all-time greats.

"I'd put him up there amongst the top players," Allen said. "We've had a lot of great ones, and he definitely fits that toughness and grittiness we've had in guys before. I definitely see that in him."