A lineman to start his career, Drake Van Hyfte was an all-Lincoln Trail selection last season. This year, the senior moved to linebacker and became a force.
Van Hyfte recorded 163 tackles, 81 solo, as well as 38 for loss. He added five sacks, three interceptions, forced two fumbles, recovered one and had a defensive touchdown and a blocked kick.
He anchored a defense that held opponents below 200 yards per game and was also a key piece on the offensive line for a Titan offense that averaged 37.7 points per game. He earned all-state honors in Class 1A by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association and was a unanimous first team all-Lincoln Trail selection on both sides of the ball.
Under first-year head coach Logan Willits, the Titans rolled through the regular season, enjoying their first undefeated regular season since the co-op was formed in 2009. Included in that was a 32-25 win over Farmington, snapping the Farmers' 28-game regular-season winning streak.
They rolled through the Lincoln Trail, winning their conference games by an average of 34.6 points and posting four shutouts to win the league title.
In the playoffs, A-W beat Lewistown 52-0 and knocked off defending state champion Forreston 30-26 — a game in which Van Hyfte had 21 tackles, the second time this season he reached the 20-tackle milestone. The Titans advanced to the semifinals with a 20-13 win over Morrison before falling to Lena-Winslow 44-30 to finish their season at 12-1.
"The whole year was a highlight for me. Being my senior year with those guys, having the type of run we had in the playoffs, it was an amazing experience," Van Hyfte said. "When we came in, I knew about the group of guys we had. We worked really hard in the offseason to get better, coming in I had a lot of confidence, looking forward, not just winning conference, but looking forward to the playoffs and making a deep run."
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The move to linebacker
"When I was younger, in my junior high years, I played linebacker but when I moved to high school, I just didn't have the same caliber of speed and strength to play the position. I dedicated myself during the summer, I was really motivated to work to get back there. As you saw, the numbers don't lie, it was just an amazing season at that position and it was just a boatload of fun."
A family legacy
Van Hyfte comes from quite the athletic family. His father, Ted, played football at Wake Forest, his mother, Val, played basketball at Bradley. His three older sisters — Celina, Morgan and Jayde — were all-state selections in basketball, were captains of the Quad-City Times Western Illinois girls basketball teams and all went on to play at the Division I level.
Drake has continued that family legacy.
"Our family, we're very supportive of each other. We all strive to be great athletes and be great in anything that we do," Drake said. "All my sisters and now myself have succeeded in their sport at an exceptional level .. it's just amazing."
Van Hyfte will likely miss at least a portion of the basketball season after playing the last four games of the season with a torn labrum. However, he's hoping to continue playing football at the next level.
He has an offer to be a preferred walk-on at the University of Iowa and also has interest from Eastern Illinois, Southern Illinois as well as some D-II and D-III programs. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, he said most of the schools are looking to move him to defensive end at the next level.
"I'm still narrowing down my options at this point. I haven't made a clear-cut decision on where I want to go yet," he said. "I like to step up to any challenge that's in my way and face it. I feel like I have the essentials, the size and speed and technique that I can build on and learn to be successful."
— Bobby Metcalf