You never know where Elijah Gunn is going to line up in the Harmony football defense — outside linebacker, inside linebacker, safety, maybe even as a defensive end.
The only given is this: when the play or the tackle is made, the junior is going to be somewhere near the ball, or making the play.
Gunn, who had over 100 tackles as a sophomore, turned it up a notch in 2018. He led the county with both 155 tackles and 12 sacks, and had an interception in Harmony’s Region 7A-2 playoff game — the first one at home since 2007 — against Lakeland Kathleen.
Gunn, with a season left to add to an already decorated resume, is the Osceola News-Gazette Football Defensive Player of the Year.
It could have been that Gunn and his defensive unit played with a bit of a chip on their collective shoulder; much of the talk around Harmony starting in August was about its high-powered, veteran offense.
But the defense, like Gunn, was experienced after being a largely young unit in 2017, and gave up no more than 21 points in any one game, and it was the opener against Space Coast.
“It was our second year with Coach Nick (Lippert, Harmony’s defensive coordinator), and we understood the defense and the schemes a lot better,” Gunn said. “And I got bigger and stronger.”
Lippert said Gunn’s the kind of player any coach would want to build a defense around.
“A lot of the time, your most talented kids are the ones who have to be watched the most. With Elijah it’s just not the case,” Lippert said. “He runs his reps in practice as fast as he would in the game, and it shows up on Friday nights.”
It doesn’t hurt that Gunn, on the football field and off, is versatile and multi-talented. In youth football he played every position imaginable — quarterback, offensive and defensive line and linebacker — but chose to focus on defense in high school.
“I like delivering the hits instead of taking them. I like to read and react,” Gunn rationalized.
Atoning for the team’s 13-6 playoff loss to Kathleen, the last time he stepped on a field, will serve as motivation for the next time he steps on it in the spring.
“I made a bad play that allowed one of their big plays, so yeah, there’s motivation to work hard and get back to that spot, since all season we looked forward to the chance to win the district championship,” Gunn said. “I can’t wait for spring to get here.”
“There’s nothing this kid can’t do, he’s a real self-starter and he knows what I expect,” Lippert said. “Plus he’s an outstanding student and his work ethic is amazing. He’s seeing things on the field now like I do. That might be the second or third kid I can say that about since I’ve been coaching, and none of the others were juniors.
“I can’t say enough about this young man, and I’m excited for next year. I hope some more college programs and coaches catch on to him.”
Football All-County Defense
1st Team 2nd Team
DL: Sterly St. Felix (L) Quaylen Hill (P)
Tyrece Frater (L) Boris Espinosa (O)
Mario Kendricks (O) Jonah Runnells (H)
J. Derryberry (H) Yuriel Carrero (C)
LB: Elijah Gunn (H-POY) Malachi Wilson (O)
Byron Fraley (T) R yan Martin (P)
Kiyante Harrison (O) Timon Naules (L)
Trey Hayes (H) Aryce Montalment (L)
CB/S: Kareem Dinzey (H) Tyler Ford (SC)
Nehimiah Harris (O) Giovanni Gordon (L)
Ryan Carroll (H) Hunter Knapczyk (G)
Honorable mention: Osceola: Dylan Ruiz, Danny Cooper. St. Cloud: Tyler Indio. Gateway: Angel Olmo. Harmony: Juan Gomez, Chase Henry. Liberty: Beji Auguste, Zarryont Smith, A.J. Bentley.