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Jordan McLune voted 2016 Thorp Award winner

Jordan McLune of Farmingdale accepts the Thorp award

Jordan McLune of Farmingdale accepts the Thorp award during the Nassau football awards dinner at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. Credit: Steven Ryan

For the past two seasons, Farmingdale redefined the meaning of the term red zone. The Dalers weren’t merely a threat when they moved inside an opponents’ 20-yard-line. They had a green light into the end zone whenever and wherever Jordan McLune had the ball.

“I feel like I can score from anywhere on the field,” McLune, a 5-9, 185-pound senior running back, said.

And so he did, striking end zone gold frequently from points near and far. This season, nine of his 35 touchdowns came on runs [or returns] of 34 or more yards. In 2015, 10 of his 35 TDs came from 33 or more yards out. “He’s an end-zone guy,” Farmingdale coach Buddy Krumenacker said.

And now he is a trophy guy. McLune was announced Wednesday night as the 2016 Thorp Award winner as Nassau County’s most outstanding player at the county awards dinner in Woodbury. The other finalists were Jonathan DeBique of Baldwin and Rashad Tucker of Freeport.

“It’s an honor I never thought I’d get,” McLune said. “I think of this as a team award. Any time I broke off a big run, 10 other guys helped me get there.”

Krumenacker, who just finished his 24th season at the school, called McLune, “The best back, the most prolific back in the history of the program, and there have been a lot of good ones. The amount of touchdowns he got was bizarre and his stats were crazy.”

This season, McLune rushed for 1,568 yards and averaged eight yards per carry. In 2015, he rushed for 1,985 yards with a nine-yard average. Farmingdale went 21-2 in that span. He saw spot duty as a sophomore on varsity, foreshadowing what was ahead.

“To be quite honest, we were not surprised with what he did as a junior. We really thought he was capable of being who he turned out to be — an all-Long Island guy,” Krumenacker said. “He’s got great vision, great balance. He’ll make you miss and he’ll put his pads on you. He brings everything to the table that a running back needs to have. He’s a give-me-the-ball guy.”

Krumenacker was glad to give McLune the ball all year, but especially in a signature performance against Massapequa in this season’s Nassau I semifinal. The Dalers had squeaked past the Chiefs, 45-42, in the regular season, but McLune made sure the playoff result would not be close. He tied a county record with seven rushing touchdowns and totaled 388 yards on 18 carries. Among his scoring plays were runs of 48, 76 and 96 yards.

McLune also had a big game in a regular-season victory over eventual Long Island Class I champion Freeport, rushing for 238 yards on 30 carries with four touchdowns. He had modest totals in several other games because Farmingdale had big leads and because Krumenacker had the enviable task of finding carries for several other good running backs.

Other runners on Long Island outgained McLune, and some had more speed. But what separated him from the pack was an uncanny ability to find an opening when his path appeared blocked and to avoid tacklers with cutback, stutter-step or shake-and-bake moves that turned defenders’ ankles and spectators’ heads.

“He’s an escapee. He’s gotten out of a lot of bad spots,” Krumenacker said. “He makes the O-line look great. When there’s nowhere to go, he’ll slam his head in there and all of a sudden, he’s out.”

McLune doesn’t have blazing speed, but has what his coach called, “football game speed.” He also doesn’t have the size that major colleges are seeking, but his recruitment has picked up since the football season ended. “LIU Post is interested. Maine and Wagner came in last week. It’s nice to know I’ll have options to play in college,” McLune said. LIU Post is a Division II school that just completed its best-ever season. Maine and Wagner compete in Division I (FCS).

Krumenacker said Division I (FBS) schools like Syracuse and Boston College visited Farmingdale last summer and were impressed, but with a huge caveat. “The Syracuse guy told me Jordan isn’t big enough. If he was 5-10 and 215 pounds, they would have offered him [a scholarship],” Krumenacker recounted. “Boston College said the same thing. At his size, he has to be crazy fast, and he isn’t.”

What McLune does have is that undeniable wow factor. When it comes to making something out of nothing, Jordan rules. You do not want to be at the concession stand when McLune takes a handoff, even on what seems like a harmless inside run. You just might miss one of his ‘Did you see that!’ double-take moves.

Even a veteran observer like Krumenacker, who has been a head coach for 35 years, admitted with a grin, “I had fun watching him.”

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