The 2020 football season brought a change of scenery for Celina, which made its debut as a Class 4A Division II program.
That meant a brand-new slate of district opponents, as the Bobcats wound up placing second overall in 4-4A Division II. Celina was only afforded three district games and had multiple conference outings fall through due to COVID-19, as it tallied a 3-4 regular season before embarking on a four-round playoff campaign.
Despite the brevity of their league schedule, the Bobcats still had plenty of representation on the 4-4A Div. II all-district team. That included one superlative, eight first-team selections and five second-team picks.
Headlining Celina’s all-district turnout was its most versatile asset as senior Jake Ubanoski came away with utility player of the year honors. Ubanoski wore plenty of hats during his final campaign as a Bobcat, deployed at linebacker, cornerback and safety, as well as running back and as a fixture on special teams.
In the offensive backfield, Ubanoski finished second on Celina in rushing touchdowns (five) to complement 51 carries for 246 yards. On defense, he chipped in 66 tackles, six tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one sack and one interception.
“When he was younger, we battled with either making him a running back or a defensive back,” said Bill Elliott, Celina head coach. “He had such great speed, but because he had injuries his freshman and sophomore years that made it tough to play him on both sides of the ball.
“That limited him at times, but we always knew that with his skill set and the way he competes that he could do a lot of things.”
Chief among the Bobcats’ strengths was a defense that surrendered just 18 points per game. Plenty of standouts on that side of the ball earned all-district recognition, including first-team nods for junior defensive linemen Wyatt Stephens and William Pace, plus junior linebackers Hunter Neely and Zach Veverka.
Stephens and Pace headlined a stifling defensive front, with the two interior linemen combining for 41 tackles for a loss of yardage on the year. Pace accrued 55 tackles (23 for a loss) and four sacks while Stephens tallied 39 tackles (18 for a loss), 2.5 sacks, two pass break-ups and one blocked kick.
“Those two were unbelievable up front. They both possess a lot of strength and quickness, plus they use their hands well,” Elliott said. “They understand their body leverage and use it well. They had a lot of tackles, tackles for loss, and they play at such a high level. Their effort was unbelievable and that made them so tough to block. We’re fortunate to have them back next year.”
Ditto for Veverka and Neely, who anchored Celina’s linebacking corps. Neely posted 95 tackles (27 for a loss), 3.5 sacks, four pass break-ups, one interception and one defensive touchdown, while Veverka chipped in 76 tackes (26 for a loss), five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, six sacks, five pass break-ups and one safety.
“Zach and Hunter both have that typical linebacker attitude. They’re hard-nosed guys who are fast, physical and strong,” Elliott said. “They do a great job on the inside together and we can do a lot of things with them — either bring them off the edge or drop them back in coverage. Getting them back really strengthens up that defense.”
Productive positional tandems were apparent on offense as well, with Celina senior DJ Dell’Anno and junior Collin Urich among the first-team selections at wide receiver. Urich led the Bobcats with 39 catches for 783 yards and nine touchdowns, while Dell’Anno tallied 38 catches for 613 yards and nine touchdowns.
“They both have very different skill sets. DJ, being 6-foot-7, can go up and get those high balls and was a great safety net for our quarterbacks,” Elliott said. “Collin has such great speed, quickness and hands, and that really helped so we could use those two in different ways. They had so many big plays throughout the year.”
Of course, no Celina all-district list would be complete without representation on the offensive line, where junior Michael Reemts earned a first-team nod at center. He posted a 97% grade with 48 pancakes, 38 downfield blocks and no sacks allowed.
“Michael is the anchor of that offensive line. He’s 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds with unbelievable strength — he was power-cleaning 320 pounds at the end of his sophomore year,” Elliott said. “He’s a big, strong kid that will get a lot of looks next year because of his size alone. When we moved him to center, he locked down any nose tackles we went against and that freed things up for our guards.”
Also helping block, in addition to myriad other roles on offense, was junior Brady Cunningham. A first-team all-district pick at fullback, Cunningham caught 10 balls for 118 yards and a touchdown on top of six carries for 57 yards. Used at tight end and H-back as well, Cunningham graded out at 94% as a blocker with 46 knockdowns.
“We moved him around as an offensive utility guy,” Elliott said. “He has great hands, quickness and is a strong, physical kid. It really hurt not having him that last week with an ankle injury.”
Second-team picks for Celina included sophomore quarterback Noah Bentley, senior guard Jay Rios, senior offensive tackle Wyatt Smith, senior defensive tackle Will Crook and senior linebacker Connor Jackson.