Leaders have the ability to make others around them better. They can inspire the team with an emotional pre-game speech, or earn the respect of their peers by always giving maximum effort, regardless of the score or situation.
Hoosac Valley's Jameson Coughlan is a blend of both leadership styles. He's intense and spirted when necessary, but could always be counted on to do his job on every snap. His play at middle linebacker, anchoring a dominant Hoosac defense, earned him the Coaches' defensive MVP selection.
"He can inspire the troops," Wahconah coach Gary Campbell, Jr., said. "When you have a stud in the middle that everybody knows is the best, the other kids play up and free. He covers for everybody. ... You tip your cap to a kid like that, because he makes others around him better by inspiring them with his own play. When you have a kid like that, your whole team is better."
Coughlan has started at middle linebacker since his sophomore year. Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said in addition to growing as a leader, Coughlan improved his technique every season.
"He's a lot more sound [technically]," Poirot said. "He's lining up guys and does a great job of getting everybody where they need to be. He makes sure everybody is accountable. He's physical and very talented. He made a lot of tackles in big games."
Poirot said one of his best games came against rival Wahconah in a 34-26 Hoosac win. Coughlan made a team-high 15 tackles, including late-game stops with the Warriors looking for the tying score.
Campbell said he tried do use misdirection to confuse Coughlan and get him out of position, but the defensive MVP's football IQ allowed him to quickly diagnose the deception.
"His biggest improvement was in his understanding of the game," Campbell said. "He can anticipate what was happening and react. ... He had the rare combination of supreme athleticism and anticipation."
As a unit, Hoosac allowed just 14.3 points per game in victories, including allowing single-digit points three times. Coughlan led the team in tackles, while forcing turnovers as well. He could read and react well, but he finished plays with his ability to shed blocks and strong tackling technique. He played his best within the tackle box, using a quick first step to build up a head of steam and punish ballcarriers. He also helped anchor the offensive line at right tackle.