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Mr. Football finalists to face off on the field

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Posted at 12:11 PM, Dec 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-04 12:11:45-05

La Salle star Jeremy Larkin didn’t win Ohio’s Mr. Football. It went to Massillon Perry’s Keishaun Sims.

But Friday night Larkin and Sims get a chance at the bigger trophy: La Salle meets Perry at 8 p.m. for the Division II state title. The title would be La Salle’s second straight.

“Coming in as a team, this is kind of what we expected,” Larkin said. “We wanted to play all 15 weeks. This is what we expected. We’ve got one more game to win.”

Those expectations at La Salle were so high largely because Larkin was coming back. He ran for 2,584 yards and 38 touchdowns last year. His rushing numbers weren’t quite as gaudy this year. He goes into the finals with 1,829 yards and 28 rushing touchdowns.

But he has increased his yards-per-carry from 9.1 to 10.4. He also leads La Salle in receiving with 639 yards and eight TDs, up from 174 and three last year.

His coach, Jim Hilvert, thought Larkin did enough to deserve Mr. Football. Larkin would have been the first Cincinnati player to win since Norwood’s Marc Edwards in 1992.

“I’m biased,” Hilvert said. “But the teams we play on a week-to-week basis and the things that he’s done ... When you’re the all-time leader in the GCL for rushing and touchdowns, that says enough right there.

“Numbers don’t lie. The way he performs every day in practice and Friday say what he’s all about.”

Sims rushed for 3,108 yards and 43 touchdowns. Sims and Larkin shared the Division II offensive player of the year.

Again, the big trophy is up for grabs Friday.

Larkin will be a major focus of the La Salle offense — he has 12 TDs in the four playoff games. But he has not been a workhorse running back. The most carries he’s had in a game is 21. But his ability as a receiver has offset that.

Larkin knew he could do that.

“I didn’t even play running back until I was in the eighth grade,” he said. “I usually played receiver.”

It shows.

“It comes very natural for him,” Hilvert said. “He’s very athletic. He’s able to go out and run good routes. He has very good hands. He’s able to go out there in space and make catches.”

Once Larkin gets in space, he’s hard to corral.

“One of the plays of the year for me was when he caught the one against Elder and made about six people miss right before halftime,” Hilvert said. “He’s that type of player. You have to know where he’s at at all times on the field.”

Famous Family Ties

Larkin is related to famous Larkin family. His father, Jeff, is a second cousin to Michael, Barry, Byron and Stephen — all of whom starred at Moeller and played a Division I college sport. Barry, of course, went on to be a baseball Hall of Famer.

Jeremy said he’s only met Barry once.

Barry Larkin was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

But Jeremy’s branch of the family has made its mark. His older brother, Jeff Jr., is the leading scorer at Christian Brothers University in Memphis.

Jeremy plays basketball as well, but he’ll play football at UC. At 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, he’s a bit lean for a college running back.

“I’d like to play running back,” he said. “That was one of my main things about deciding on a college. It’s the position I love. I just want to get a chance to play running back.”

Hilvert thinks Larkin will excel somewhere.

“I think he can do a little bit of both,” Hilvert said. “I think he can play running back, slot. I think he’s a guy you can put on the field and do a lot of different things.

“If I’m an offense coordinator, it puts a smile on my face because he can do a variety of things.”

Hilvert said Larkin’s drive is what sets him apart.

“He strives to get better every single day,” Hilvert said. “He’s never satisfied - from blocking to running to making the right cut to catching the football. He never satisfied with his last performance. He’s always trying to get better.

“It’s a lot different from other people. Some people are complacent. He wants to get better every single day.”

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