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Annawan-Wethersfield senior linebacker Drake VanHyfte is this week's Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline Area Pacesetter. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder is the top tackler for the 6-0 Titans, who are ranked fourth in Class 1A and now lead the Lincoln Trail Conference at 4-0.

ANNAWAN — When it comes to athletics, the family of Ted and Val VanHyfte have set extremely high standards.

An especially noteworthy family tradition is that both parents and their three daughters have all carved out Division I college careers, four of them on the basketball court.

The youngest of the clan and the VanHyftes' only son, Drake, is putting together a senior football season that could very well have him carry on that family tradition.

Switching from defensive tackle to inside linebacker this fall, the Annawan-Wethersfield Titans' juggernaut has thrived in his new position. Through six games, he has compiled 66 tackles, including 37 solos and 14 tackles for loss, and has been the linchpin of a physically dominating unit.

In last Friday's 44-0 win over Ridgewood that gave the undefeated Titans sole possession of the Lincoln Trail Conference lead, this week's Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline Area Pacesetter recorded 10 stops, including four TFLs among his six solo tackles, and had his first interception of the year.

"When they decided to move me over to linebacker, I thought it was a better fit, giving me a chance to make more plays. If doing that wins us more games, I'm all for it," said the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder, a first-team All-LTC selection at both defensive and offensive tackle last fall. "I felt like moving to linebacker gave me more freedom to roam around and make more plays. Coach (Joe) Schmitt is always on me week in and week out as far as knowing the formations, getting the calls in, and getting me to do my best to try and lead our team."

VanHyfte feels that Schmitt, an Annawan graduate who rejoined the A-W coaching staff after a two-year stint as Bureau Valley's head coach, has been the key figure behind the Titans' defensive domination.

"He's been amazing," VanHyfte said. "Bringing him in, he's kept our defense similar, but has added so many aspects that have made us one of the most physical teams in the area. What he brings to the table is amazing from a defensive standpoint."

In rolling to a 4-0 conference record with three games remaining, Class 1A's fourth-ranked Titans (6-0) have scored two league shutouts in the last four weeks and allowed just seven points in the other two wins. They have allowed only 61 points all season.

On offense, VanHyfte's presence at left tackle has been beneficial for a unit that is averaging nearly 38 points per game behind the leadership of standout junior quarterback Coltin Quagliano.

"He's been a phenomenal left tackle for two years now," said A-W coach Logan Willits. "We inserted Drake there, on the quarterback's blind side, to do some different stuff with the position, and he's been the man for the job. He's done everything we've asked of him, and more."

VanHyfte's efforts both last season and this year have been attracting the attention of colleges ranging from Augustana to Big Ten members Illinois and Iowa, with schools such as Central Missouri, Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois also showing interest.

"I've been fortunate to have many teams and coaches reaching out to me, and I'm looking forward to playing college football," said VanHyfte. "Right now, I'm still narrowing down my options."

If he gets the chance to play Division I football, he would follow in the footsteps of his father Ted, who went from Annawan to Wake Forest University. If he heads to SIU, he would follow older sister Celina, who played basketball for the Salukis.

Mother Val, a former Atkinson prep star, played college hoops at Bradley, with sisters Morgan and Jayde taking their basketball skills to Illinois State and Arizona State, respectively.

"My parents and sisters have always been so supportive of me," Drake stated. "Obviously, with great athletes like that all having great success, sometimes you feel like you're sitting in the back a bit. Now, I'm trying to prove myself week in and week out as one of the elite players in the area."

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