Road to success started with big goals for champions, all-staters Arihood, Castner, Neligh

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INDIANAPOLIS — Rylan Arihood, Kyle Castner and Alex Neligh were all high school football standouts this season. All are state champions.

And all three are all-state football players, too.

They're part of this year's Associated Press Indiana all-state football teams, selected with input from Indiana media and coaches.

For all three players, the road to success started at the same place — with a dream and a goal to do big things in high school football.

Castner headlines the Class 6A team. The Ben Davis quarterback ran for a touchdown and threw two TD's in the Giants' state title win over Carmel last weekend.

"It's a blessing," Castner said of his high school success. "It started as a freshman when I backed up our varsity quarterback."

He saw playing time in a couple games back then, and the dream took off from there.

This year he threw for 3,410 yards. He totaled 5,192 passing yards over the last two seasons at Ben Davis.

For Arihood, the idea of playing at a high level came much earlier. The Rensselaer Central running back started thinking about it back in the days of youth football.

"It's what we've always dreamed of," Arihood said. "Ever since third grade. I remember I would have our quarterback, Dylan (Wright), over to my house and we would play and we would say, 'This is what we're going to be.'"

He didn't know at the time that he would finish his high school career as one of the top running backs in Class 2A.

At 5-foot-7, Arihood ran for 2,064 yards this season, averaging 6.8 yards a carry and 137.6 yards a game for the Bombers. He ran for 38 touchdowns and caught three touchdown passes and led the Bombers with 153 yards and a touchdown in Rensselaer Central's championship win over Evansville Mater Dei.

Neligh led his Class 4A New Palestine Dragons to the school's first football title. They scored 77 points in the win — a championship game record.

He can still remember when he started thinking about his football dreams.

"I was 10 years old, playing youth football still," Neligh said after he threw five touchdown passes in the state finals. "This has just been an awesome experience."

It was a good year for the New Palestine quarterback, with 2,469 passing yards and 28 passing touchdowns. He also ran for 19 TD's this year. And as a junior, he still has another season left in his high school career.

Neligh, along with Castner and Arihood, found a way to accomplish what they've dreamed about for a long time. There's more that goes into it, though. There's an element that Ben Davis coach Mike Kirschner says his team has had all season long.

"We preach it and we talk about it and some teams have it better than others," he said. "It really comes down to character."

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