MVP: Haven Barnes, Quinton, Running Back, Senior
Haven Barnes more than utilized his talents when Quinton switched from 11-man football to eight-man football.
“I’ve been at the same position for all my life; it was pretty simple,” Barnes said about it not taking long to adjust to the eight-man game.
The Savages had three teams cancel on them, so his stats would have looked even more impressive had Quinton played all nine scheduled games instead of just six.
Barnes carried the ball 140 times for 1,762 yards and 22 touchdowns to help the Savages to a 5-1 record. His 620 rushing yards against Immanuel Lutheran Christian Academy was a new eight-man rushing record in the state of Oklahoma and just shy of the national record.
“The thing about eight-man, it’s more about speed, and I do have a lot of that,” he said.
His record-setting game and statistical performance in just six games and helping Quinton have the record it did are the reasons for Barnes being selected as the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 McAlester News-Capital All-Area Football Team.
Barnes knew the Oct. 28 game would be his final high school game. He would have no games left with his friends, his teammates. Barnes told himself he was going to go out there and put all his heart out on the field that night.
“My goal was to have the best game of my career,” he said.
He also had nine rushing touchdowns on 29 carries that night.
“They just couldn’t tackle him,” Quinton head coach Kenny Hokit said.
Barnes was hardly a one-game wonder. He had 256 yards in Quinton’s 44-14 win against Porum Sept. 14. Barnes ran for 254 yards in a 40-10 win at Cave Springs Sept. 27. He had 173 yards in Quinton’s lone loss of the year Oct. 5 in a 58-20 game against Destiny Christian and ran for 374 yards when the Savages defeated Dewar’s Junior Varsity team, 54-42, Oct. 11.
Barnes had some long runs in the Immanuel Christian game, but many of his carries against Porum and Dewar went for shorter yardage, though he had big games anyway. Hokit said Barnes was pound-for-pound, one of, if not the strongest player on the team.
He’ll take his strength and his speed to the track this spring before getting ready for the Marines after graduation.
Barnes said football has played its part in getting him ready for the Marines.
“In any kind of military group, you do a lot of running,” he said. “Based on that, I’ll be running two miles, three miles every day when I go to basics. So, it’s definitely helped me a lot and get into shape.”
Offensive Player of the Year: A.J. Martin, McAlester, Senior
A.J. Martin playing running back for McAlester this year was more of happenstance than him being pencilled in there.
Martin was originally intended to play at wide receiver, but got some looks there after senior Leo Corrales suffered a season-ending injury.
From there on, Martin became a human highlight film at running back. Had it not been for a knee injury that he had to play through this season, he most likely would have eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards with ease. Instead, he finished up with 108 carries for 860 yards and eight touchdowns, earning recognition as the Offensive Player of the Year on the 2018 McAlester News-Capital all-area football team.
One performance of Martin’s alone does not stand out. Perhaps fans might recall his 16-carry performance against Durant Sept. 21 when he ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was on a 90-yard run.
Maybe fans remember him breaking for a 69-yard score in McAlester’s 28-27 win against Coweta Oct. 12.
Or, perhaps his finest game of the season was when he was statistically the second-best running back on the field in McAlester’s Oct. 18 loss to Tulsa Edison. Martin carried the ball 14 times on 251 yards and three touchdowns.
“Our line blocked amazing that game, I had holes bigger than the freeway,” Martin said.
However, on the other side was junior Sevion Morrison, who has attracted attention from NCAA Division I schools. Morrison carried the ball 28 times for 392 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He had crazy confidence, he was fast, he wasn’t very strong, he was just really fast, and I feel like that got into our players’ heads,” Martin said of Morrison.
The Maxpreps.com page for Tulsa Edison listed Morrison as finishing with 2,639 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns.
Despite Morrison’s performances, it was Martin, and not Morrison, who was named the District 5A-3 running back of the year, an honor Martin was surprised by.
Martin said he had hurt the side of his lateral collateral ligament or LCL, against the Eagles. He sat out the Oct. 26 game at Glenpool that the Buffs won, 24-21, and had limited action in McAlester’s 49-7 loss to Bishop Kelley Nov. 2 that eliminated the Buffs from the playoffs.
“Their defense was hungry, they had speed on offense and defense,” Martin said of the Comets. “Their d(efensive) line probably was the fastest d-line I’ve seen in (Class) 5A...They just played really physical, and it helped them a lot.”
Martin would like to play football in college and said he received an offer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. He had not talked to any other schools at the time he spoke to the News-Capital, but accepting to play for the Golden Norsemen is a possibility for him.
“I’m working out, I’m getting faster, and then once summer comes, then I’ll start doing the NEO workouts, I’ll have them send me a list if that’s where I’m going to go,” he said.
Defensive Player of the Year: Austin Dugan, McAlester, Senior
Austin Dugan made it a goal to have more tackles than the team-leading 71 he had as a junior in 2017.
In 10 games this season, Dugan racked up 100 tackles, 84 solo and five tackles for a loss. He also added on seven sacks. Those numbers he compiled propelled the linebacker to being named the Defensive Player of the Year of the 2018 McAlester News-Capital all-area football team.
“Our defensive linemen opened up a lot of holes, and I usually read the snap count throughout the game, and shoot to the gap before the offensive line,” Dugan said.
Dugan said it “felt good” to be the team’s leading tackler once again. Not only did he lead the team in tackles, his 100 tackles were 36 more than the next person, and his 84 solo were 30 more than second place. Freshman Chase Faber, a friend of Dugan’s, held both distinctions. He thinks Faber can fill the void and take on that role for the Buffs that Dugan is leaving behind.
“He’s going to be pretty good,” he said of Faber. “I hang out with him all the time. I try to show him how to do it and everything, try to show him...how I did things.”
The success on the field for one of McAlester’s captains this year was not confined to the defensive side of the ball alone. Dugan also wanted to score at least one touchdown. He ended up scoring three. His favorite one was returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown in the 28-27 win Oct. 12 against District 5A-3 rival Coweta.
“I caught the ball and I just looked up, and (sophomore) Gavin Johnson, I got a good block from him,” he said. “He took the first guy on, and he opened the hole up. All I had to do was outrun them.”
He said it took “a lot” of effort to run that back, saying he never ran a ball that far in high school before.
“‘Dang, that really happened?’” Dugan thought after scoring. “I didn’t think that was going to happen. I was pumped.”
Dugan said he did not have an offer to play football at the next level, though he said he would like to. If not, he would like to study at the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee and do something related to engineering.
He might not be in uniform for the Buffs in 2019, but Dugan plans on coming back to watch the team next season at every game. He said he wants to support all the teammates who were there for him.
“They can go as far as they want to,” he said about next year’s team. “They have the talent to. They just got to want to.”
Coach of the Year: Kelly Gravitt, Talihina
Talihina has been a bastion for success in football throughout its history, but Kelly Gravitt knew this year would be different.
This year’s Golden Tigers was not the team that won a district championship every year from 2012 through 2017. It wasn’t the team that won regional championships in 2013 or 2014. Seniors Kyler Baugh, Isaac Bryant and Tracer Chitwood were the only Golden Tigers who returned on offense this year. Those three, along with senior Garrett Dyson, were the only returning players on defense for Talihina.
Injuries, a quarterback carousel and moving players around meant challenges. The Golden Tigers had a stretch of losing three in a row at one point during the season, and another two in a row after snapping their three-game skid. Still, Talihina pulled together and took care of business to make it back to the playoffs in 2018.
Overcoming this kind of adversity and making the playoffs has led the McAlester News-Capital to name Gravitt its all-area coach of the year for 2018.
“It’s been the biggest challenge that I’ve had so far here at Talihina, but it was a good challenge,” Gravitt said. “We have coaching football here and we love to get at it.”
The Golden Tigers began their season Aug. 31 with a 30-8 win at Wilburton, but what was about to transform was a gradual and fundamental difference in personnel.
Baugh began the year in the backfield for Talihina, but after a shutout loss to Antlers Sept. 7, he was shifted to left guard. His first game in the trenches in 2018 was the 24-14 loss to Owasso’s junior varsity team Sept. 13. That was the second of three consecutive losses the Golden Tigers endured.
They started off with junior Ryker Baughman at quarterback, only for him to be replaced by his younger brother, freshman Nolan Baughman, following the 27-6 loss to Gore Sept. 21. Gravitt said Ryker Baughman did well against Owasso’s JV team, but regressed against Gore in a game in which he thought the winner could become the District A-8 Champion.
“As a coaching staff, we sat down and said, ‘Okay, with this program, what do we want to do to give the kids the best chance to be successful moving forward’, and in doing that, I made the decision to switch moving Nolan to quarterback,” he said.
Gravitt had confidence in the younger Baughman after he led the Golden Tigers to a 41-0 win Sept. 28 against Porter Consolidated, but Baughman suffered an injury to his heel in a 46-20 loss Oct. 5 to the eventual District A-8 Champion Hulbert. Nolan Baughman going down brought in the elder Baughman once again, but Gravitt made another change under center.
Playing his third position of the season was Baugh, the team’s backup quarterback. He said the switch came because of how Baugh could throw it and that he knew the offense. Talihina also dealt with senior running back Garrett Taber suffering an ankle injury, leaving him to be replaced by senior Peyton Kirkes, whom Gravitt said did an amazing job.
“Peyton had that breakaway speed, and so Peyton did a good job settling in finishing the year,” he said.
He thought Talihina played well in spite of the loss in suffering a 26-15 defeat at the hands of Central Sallisaw Oct. 12. The Golden Tigers bounced back with a 62-6 win at Savanna six days later and got more practice seven days later in a 41-0 win at home against Stigler’s junior varsity team. Talihina cruised, 46-14, at Warner, in the Nov. 2 season finale, and thus, the Golden Tigers would take on the District A-7 Champion Stroud in the first round of the playoffs.
Talihina got on the board first with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Baugh to Ryker Baughman, but Stroud wound up scoring 42 unanswered points to eliminate the Golden Tigers.
“We had them on the ropes and we showed them stuff they hadn’t seen, we disguised coverage in the back,” Gravitt said. “They were getting at each other’s throats.”
However, he said it was a horse race and Stroud brought it in the second half. According to Gravitt, Stroud head coach Chris Elerick called him the next morning to say it was the best game plan his team had faced. The Tigers pounded the ball with senior Collin Seaton to help eliminate the Golden Tigers.
What Gravitt wants to see going forward is for Talihina to play four quarters and a full football game.
“These guys got to figure out a way to get it done no matter what,” he said. “...If you do that (play four quarters), then we’re going to win football games.”
The following is the 2018 McAlester News-Capital all-area football team. Statistical performance, along with postseason honors, (e.g. all-district) influenced these selections.
QB: Carson Thompson, Canadian, Junior
RB: Micah Baker, Hartshorne, Sophomore
RB: Tanner Arnold, Wilburton, Senior
WR: Terrell Crawford, Canadian, Junior
WR: Jake Brewster, Canadian, Sophomore
OL: Josh Rentie, Hartshorne, Senior
OL: Quentin Thomas, McAlester, Sophomore
OL: Kyler Baugh, Talihina, Senior
OL: Gunner Henry, Wilburton, Senior
OL: Briar Needham, Quinton, Senior
K: Kaden Webb, McAlester, Senior
P: Javen Shaw, Hartshorne, Sophomore
RET: Jaxon Walters, McAlester, Sophomore
DL: A.J. Buckley, McAlester, Senior
DL: Cole Meaders, Wilburton, Junior
DL: Joe Benedict, Hartshorne, Junior
DL: Trett Yandell, Canadian, Junior
LB: Chase Faber, McAlester, Freshman
LB: Cameron Dehart, Wilburton, Senior
LB: Tyler King, Canadian, Junior
DB: Levi Ritter, Quinton, Sophomore
DB: Sebastian Rodriguez, Hartshorne, Senior
DB: Miguel McKinley, Wilburton, Senior
DB: Dakota Gragg, Quinton, Junior
QB: Chris Hilton, McAlester, Junior
RB: Clay Wageman, Savanna, Junior
RB: Jackson Rousey, Canadian, Junior
WR: Trent Pickens, McAlester, Senior
WR: Colby Squyres, McAlester, Junior
TE: Jason Justice, Wilburton, Freshman
OL: Morgan Richards, McAlester, Junior
OL: Ryder Soliday, Savanna, Freshman
OL: Trace McMinn, Quinton, Junior
OL: Peyton Brady, Canadian, Senior
OL: Brad Lowery, Wilburton, Senior
K: Seth Miller, Wilburton, Sophomore
P: Blaize Bray, Quinton, Sophomore
RET: Weston Montgomery: Hartshorne, Senior
DL: Isaac Bryant, Talihina, Senior
DL: Parker Singleton, McAlester, Junior
DL: Austin Bonebrake, Savanna, Senior
DL: Isaac Tanner, Canadian, Sophomore
LB: Christian Gockel, Wilburton, Sophomore
LB: Riley Burns, Canadian, Junior
LB: Donnivin Spencer, Wilburton, Freshman
DB: Lane Jarrett, McAlester, Junior
DB: Edward Forwoodson, Wilburton, Senior
DB: Chase Wood, Savanna, Junior
DB: Zach Farmer, Hartshorne, Junior