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Paola defensive end Jake Karr puts pressure on the quarterback during a home game. Karr, a senior, was named the Tri-County Spotlight Football Defensive Player of the Year.

PAOLA — Defenses had to game plan for Paola end Jake Karr. They found out, even with double-teams, there was no plan for the Panther senior.

Karr was second on the team in tackles, registering 55 tackles, the most by any Panther lineman. He had 22 solo tackles and 33 assisted tackles.

Karr made six tackles for a loss of yardage and had four quarterback sacks.

He was named the Tri-County Spotlight Football Defensive Player of the Year.

“This award means a lot to me,” Karr said. “It is very rewarding to see my team and I receive this honorable recognition. Even though COVID-19 changed our season immensely, I would not trade it for anything.”

Karr has started at weak side defensive end for the Paola Panthers the last two seasons.

His motor runs at another gear, Paola coach Michael Dumpert said.

“Jake was voted most inspirational by his teammates, which exemplifies his energy and tenacity,” Dumpert said. “He was the motor that powered a defense that posted six shutouts the past two seasons.

“We believe that on any given day you have the potential for greatness, but the hallmark of greatness is consistency,” Dumpert said. “It should carry over to the classroom, the weight room and the hallways. It is how you conduct yourself when no one is watching.”

Karr is a student-athlete who leads by example. He has 3.85 grade-point average. Karr served as vice president of FBLA and is a role model, Dumpert said.

Karr even helped the Paola Panthers, playing wide receiver when the team needed him.

Karr helped the Paola Panthers win an undefeated Frontier League title this season, and the second straight league crown. Paola also marched into the playoffs, winning a regional championship.

“Going undefeated along with league champions for two years in a row is something I can say I am honored to be a part of,” Karr said. “I don’t even know where to begin on this season. After ending last year with an injury I knew I had to put in the work to get stronger and healthier than I was.”

The team, especially the seniors, knew football was not promised, but a privilege that was not going to be taken for granted, Karr said.

“As a team we knew this season was going to be the wildest one yet with all of the COVID-19 restrictions,” he said. “We had summer workouts every day with practices throughout the week. I think establishing that mentality early in the year helped push us all to be better. We all knew what we had to do if we were going to make this year special.”

It was difficult with the limit of four tickets to games.

“Usually I have the entire Karr clan supporting me up in the stands, but with COVID-19, they had to support from afar,” he said,. “Just knowing that they all couldn’t be there pushed me to play even harder.”

Sports Editor Gene Morris can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or gene.morris@miconews.com.

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