Luke Tarver wins the Valley Times-News Player of the Year

Published 11:43 am Saturday, November 25, 2023

Behind every great season, there is usually at least one standout player on that team. Chambers Academy had several of those players, but Luke Tarver made sure to shine amongst all those bright stars and earn the title of Valley Times-News Player of the Year. 

As a sophomore, Tarver rushed for over 1,000 yards and 20 total touchdowns. As a junior, Tarver demolished those numbers with 1,755 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. 

“I knew that I would play a big role this year as the leader on the team and as the starting running back,” Tarver said. “I knew I had a lot to carry. I tried my best in the weight room this summer to get a little faster and stronger.” 

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The statistical improvement for Tarver was remarkable, but the biggest improvement came in his leadership ability. 

“Luke was a really good player for us as a sophomore, but he was not mature enough to lead our team,” Chambers Academy coach Jason Allen said. “We challenged him at the end of the season last year to take another step from a maturity standpoint [and] a leadership standpoint. I thought that was the biggest difference for him. The kids listen to him.”

It is tough to put into words what makes Tarver so dynamic as a running back. Tarver is not the biggest, the strongest or the fastest running back in the county. 

Still, Tarver has become nearly impossible to tackle in space. It usually takes multiple defenders to bring Tarver down. 

“It’s as weird to me as it is to the people watching,” Tarver said. “I figured the sure tacklers from the other team would be able to. It doesn’t happen.” 

Despite not having the size that you would expect from a running back, Tarver makes up for every bit of it with tenacity. 

“That’s why we call him Chainsaw because he’s just wide open all the time,” Allen said. “His motor is running high all the time.” 

Tarver attacks each rushing attempt with reckless abandon, and he typically delivers the hits to the defenders. 

That reckless abandon comes from Tarver’s mentality as a running back. Tarver runs the ball with no fear. Others around Tarver see that, and the entire team feeds off his energy. 

“I’m not scared,” Tarver said. “A lot of people can see that. When we played Glenwood, they were huge. People could see that I wasn’t scared of it. It rolled off on each other.” 

Before this season, Tarver started as an inside linebacker for Chambers Academy. This season Tarver played a lot more as a defensive back.
Tarver and fellow defensive back Kyle Hand helped to captain the defense. Tarver finished the season with 35 solo tackles and 14 assists. 

“I didn’t have as many tackles, but I had to play pass most of the year,” Tarver said. “We just had a great defense this year all around.”

Tarver was half of a backfield that was the best in the AISA this season. Jacob Norgard was Tarver’s other half, finishing 1,044 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. 

Despite both being dynamic backs and both being juniors, Tarver and Norgard did not have a competitive relationship. The two instead complimented each other and helped one another succeed at a high level. 

“He had more speed than me which was great in some games,” Tarver said. “Some games they couldn’t tackle him, and some games they couldn’t tackle me. We fed off each other. There’s no competition between us, we just want to win.” 

Allen has been with Tarver and Norgard since the two began at Chambers Academy. Tarver credits Allen with helping him and Norgard become what they are today. 

“He’s been with me and Norgard the whole time,” Tarver said. “He showed us the role and what we had to do. He was really on us this year and had confidence in us.” 

Maturity and leadership were big improvements for Tarver this season, but the coaches also noticed him becoming a complete football mind. 

Tarver has worked to not only know the responsibilities of his position, he has worked to help other players in their roles. 

“He understands the blocking schemes,” Allen said. “He sees the whole thing. In practice, if a defender is unblocked, he wants to know who was supposed to block him and why he didn’t block him.” 

Tarver gives a lot of credit to his offensive line. The group stepped up this season and helped the Rebels have one of the most dynamic offenses in the AISA. 

The stats that Tarver put up this season would be a dream come true for most high school athletes. Tarver hopes that this season is just a drop in the bucket for what he becomes in the future. 

“I don’t want to peak out,” Tarver said. “I don’t want this year to be my best year. I have to fight and get better during the offseason.”

All season the Rebels spoke about leaving a legacy. The team did that by winning the state championship. Tarver hopes that he can leave his own legacy by the time he graduates from Chambers Academy. 

“We still talk about the players we had in the early 2000s,” Tarver said. “They’ll come and talk. People still look up to them. I hope that’s the case with me.”