We'll explain that in a moment.
First, consider this Friday night snap-shot moment at South's Bob Clements Field. The 6-3, 215-pound Etling, a senior committed to Purdue, hobbled along the South sidelines, a few minutes removed from a crunching second-quarter hit that re-injured an already gimpy right ankle. At times, he could barely put weight on it. It certainly affected one sideline throw that was intercepted, but he shrugged it off a few minutes later to throw a 13-yard touchdown
That, South coach Mark Raetz said, was nothing new.
“Danny is a tough kid. He's a top-notch kid. A great kid. He's going to give us whatever he's got. This is his third week playing on that ankle. He hurt it at Carmel in the first quarter and he played the rest of the game. Last week against Center Grove it was bothering him and he threw for almost 300 yards. It's what you expect from him.”
Ben Davis's Antonio Allen had far less stress Friday night. His free safety position involved little punishment. He helped on passes when balls came his way, ran up for run support when it was needed.
As far as the showdown between two of Indiana's best high school football players, well, there was one pass Allen had an outside chance of intercepting. Most of Etling's throws went where Allen wasn't, although that wasn't by design, Raetz said.
“We didn't' game plan away from him because he plays in the middle and it's hard to throw away from him,” he said.
Etling is Purdue's highest-rated committed player for the Class of 2013. Allen is Indiana's highest-rated committed player in the same class. The potential is there for college confrontations, but that's for later. For now, here's a little background.
Etling, a three-year starter, is ranked as the nation's No. 9 quarterback by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service. He's the No. 4 player in the state of Indiana and the No. 185 player overall. He's good enough to have participated in the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp in California last summer. He's also a forward on the South basketball team.
Etling came in to Friday night's game with solid numbers against a strong schedule that included Carmel and Center Grove. He was 63-for-114 (55.3 percent) for 955 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Among his big plays were touchdown passes of 72 and 71 yards.
“His physical tools are outstanding,” Raetz said. “He's a big, strong kid. You see how thick his legs are. He can make all the throws you want. On top of that, he's a high-character kid. You never have any issues with him. He's close to a 4.0 student. He's an Eagle Scout. You know he'll do the right things and put the team first in whatever he does.”
Raetz first saw Etling's potential as an eighth grade football and basketball standout.
“He was a big kid then and could make a lot of throws. You knew he was special. What's helped him is his work ethic. Everything he's done he's worked for.”
There's a possibility Etling could graduate early and enroll at Purdue in January for the spring semester. That would enable him to participate in spring practice and get a jump on next season. Purdue will lose quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve, with Rob Henry returning.
“He and his dad are working toward that,” Raetz said, “but we're on a trimester system so it's a little different. I don't know that anything has been finalized.”
Etling was hammered early and often Friday night. He was sacked twice in the first 15 minutes, hit several more times and hurried often. One early second-quarter shot left him lying on the field with a re-injured ankle. He was helped to the sidelines where team trainer Scott Kidder taped him up.
A lesser player might have spent the rest of the night watching the game. Etling wasn't about to do that.
He returned and wound up with completions of 18, 42 and 13 yards. The 13-yard TD pass to Tyler Seibert late in the second quarter made it a 10-6 game. By the time the delay hit, and then the postponement called, Etling was 6-for-13 for 75 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
As far as Ben Davis' Allen, he's the nation's No. 20 safety, the No. 5 player in Indiana and No. 220 overall.
He's a key member of a stingy defense that is hitting its stride. Before Friday night the Giants (5-0) had allowed just 37 points all season, just 16 in the last four games. That included a 6-3 win over Warren Central. Allen's center fielder role consists of roaming the secondary to defend passes and coming up fast against the run.
“He plays free,” Raetz said. “I've been calling him the human eraser. He covers up for other guys' mistakes. He's an outstanding player. I've watched him for two to three years and it's the same stuff. He's as hard a hitter and as physical a safety as you'll see.”
IU is also looking at South junior defensive lineman Junior Berry, who is listed at 6-2 and 300 pounds. He is, Raetz said, of Samoan descent. Berry attended last Saturday's IU-Ball State game.
“It's early, but he'll show up (on the recruiting radar) soon,” Raetz said.