Choctaw hopes to convert record roster to high scores
After producing never before seen numbers in recent years, Choctaw’s offense is once again stacked.
With over 100 players out in grades 10 through 12, and nearly 50 more on the freshman roster Choctaw High School will boast the largest roster in school history.
Choctaw coaches are hoping those high roster numbers will translate into high scoreboard numbers as the Yellowjackets now have the depth required to properly compete with Class 6A Division II powers.
“This is the most we’ve had out, and the kids have great attitudes. They’ve been out working out throughout the summer, and now it’s time to get to the nitty gritty. We’re focusing on the game and execution, and we’ll just see how they perform,” said head coach Todd Dilbeck.
Anchored with a run game featuring the quick and powerful Tyrel Bell, a third-year starter standing 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds, Choctaw looks to put up serious numbers.
Bell led the Yellowjackets rushing last year with 829 yards and 10 touchdowns. Combined with his sophomore year of 974 yards he’s approaching the 2,000 mark and has goals to add at least 1,000 this season.
Other than Bell, CHS has several experienced running backs with the speed needed to gain yards.
“We have Tyrel Bell back, we still have DJ Carpenter and Giavoni McLain, and we also have JD Kolb who moved in from Las Vegas. Kolb, a sophomore, is real impressive and shifty. So we have four real strong running backs,” said Dilbeck.
nning backs will anchor the Choctaw offense, but coaches say there is speed and depth everywhere as the Jackets change the look of their attack this season.
“Offense will look different this year. We’re going to be moving quicker. Last year we finished getting about 25 snaps in 15 minutes, and right now we’re at about 28 in 10. The quarterbacks are doing a great job getting the receivers and running backs set up. Our goal is just to get quicker and get more plays in. I think we’ll be a lot more productive with the pass and running game,” said coach Matt Edmonds.
“We’re looking better than last year. We’re improving on reads and going through the progression a lot better. We have five quarterbacks getting reps, and we have a couple people in the race for the top spot. All of these guys are capable in the offense.”
Once again Choctaw will have some depth with five potential quarterbacks stacked on the roster.
Senior Dylan Weaver, senior Luke Wood, junior Hudson Woods, junior Braxton Hall and sophomore Ryan McCauley could all have an opportunity to start in the QB spot for the Jackets.
Last season Weaver, in the No. 2 spot, had 531 yards and three TDs, connecting on 42 of 95 passes for 44.2 percent, Hall went 56.3 percent passing when he completed nine of 16 and Woods got some play time for the varsity.
However, a lot can change in a year and all potential QBs have been working for their opportunity to lead the Jackets to victory.
“Skill positions in competition each day will drive the team to perform its best each and every Friday night,” says Dilbeck. “Weaver, Woods and Hall are probably our top three, but as we move along we’ll see who’s going to be the man.”
Choctaw has plenty of talent and depth to use in the receiver spots.
Ethan Crews, Jaryn Curry, Drew Myrick, Zjon’tavien Gibbs and Collin Armstrong are all returning. Other players to watch for include Curtis Nealy and Blake Green.
“We’re running eight to 12 receivers deep right now. The first four are looking sharp, and the ones behind them are right there with them. A lot of these guys are defensive players too so it gives us flexibility to rotate more and keep them rested. Almost all of our kids in these skill positions are offense and defense,” said Edmonds.
“Crews, Myrick, Armstrong, Curry and Gibbs are all returning. Dakota Armstrong, a 6’8” junior, looks real good. He’s a big target and has grown a lot over the summer. Raymond Navarro has progressed a lot and got in some varsity games last year. Also Blake Green is running good routes.”
Liam Jones, who recently committed to Kansas, is ranked in the nation’s top 10 high school kickers, and Choctaw expects him to be a serious offensive weapon this season.
As a matter of fact, last season Jones put up the same number of points (60) as offensive powerhouse Tyrel Bell.
CHS coaches expect the senior leader to set some records and give the Jacket offense something few teams have.
“The University of Kansas came down, and they loved him. I’ve had some great kickers in my career, but this is by far the hardest working kicker I’ve ever had. There’s no doubt in my mind he will kick not only at the next level, but also in the NFL. He has that kind of leg, and that’s a great thing to have on your team,” said Dilbeck.
“He’s special. He is going to be a good weapon for us. He’s kicking out of the end zone by three or four yards, and I have no doubt he’ll set a new field goal record for Choctaw. He’s also a great punter, and has really developed that leg to do whatever we need.”
Choctaw High School 2014 graduate Jacob McMullen set a new field goal record his senior season with a 57-yarder, and Jones has plans on beating that.
During the annual Blue & Gold scrimmage Jones kicked a 57-yarder of his own, and he’s ready for a live game to claim the official honors.
“I’m just excited for the season right now. My main focus is just making sure we get to state like planned. Even though I’m a kicker I feel like I can still be a leader out on the field,” said Jones. “I’m always working my hardest, because I want to lead by example. I’ve worked all summer on being consistent, and I just hope to be the money man they can count on.”
Choctaw High School football graduated 18 seniors last year so it’s safe to assume some young Yellowjackets will get some play time this season.
Choctaw will have some key players returning to help guide the up-and-coming talent.
However, with a mostly younger defensive squad Choctaw’s coaches have adopted a game plan focused on utilizing the strength and speed of athletes.
“We’ve switched scheme wise. We’re now doing a three lineman, three linebacker and five defensive back look. We’ve put more athletes down on defense, and our goal is to utilize that athleticism. We’re stronger and faster. I think we’re probably the fastest team Choctaw has ever had,” said co-defensive coordinator Joe Ginn. “We have some guys that returned like Christina Smay, Jaryn Curry, Talon Unruh, Zjon’tavien Gibbs and Tyrel Bell to help lead some of our younger guys. We think Giavani McClain moving from linebacker to defensive end is going to create some havoc for offenses with his speed.”
Grappling with Greatness
Hopeful eyes will be on two wrestling state champions this season as coaches expect the duo to provide big stops for the Choctaw defense.Jaryn Curry led the team last season with 169 tackles, and coaches hope Zane Coleman can produce similar results when he suits up this fall.
“These wrestlers are great kids, because they have great balance, a low center of balance and excellent cardio,” said Dilbeck. “They’re just great athletes.”
After playing on special teams as a freshman, Curry stepped up as a sophomore to be a playmaker for the Jackets. His top-level wrestling and pure athleticism allowed him to drag down challengers with ease racking up a total of 169 tackles (117 solo) last season to lead Class 6A-II.
Now Curry hopes to lead the entire state in tackles, while helping the Jackets roll to the playoffs.
“ We have some young guys on defense, but we’re looking pretty good. Hopefully we can have our young guys situated and everything executing well before its time for the playoffs,” said Curry. “I’m looking to have over 200 tackles this year, and truly lead the state. I was up there last year, but kind of fell behind. I led in 6A-II, but I want to lead the entire state. I think we’ll step up. We might not be the biggest or fastest, but we have some guys with heart that work hard.”
Choctaw’s coaches believe the athleticism of Choctaw’s young defense will be able overcome any challenge on the 2016 schedule.
“The first goal is you want to win. It’s all about making three-and-outs for the offense and forcing turnovers,” said Ginn. “When you prevent first downs and get the takeaways you can beat anybody.”
Bigger & Stronger
Since bringing weight lifting back to the district a few years ago the size and power of athletes has been improving and that was made clear last year when Choctaw claimed the OFBCA Large School Powerlifting State Championship. Now Choctaw plans to put that muscle to use on the offensive and defensive line.
Dilbeck says Choctaw’s offensive line will bring some serious size and power this year.
“Daegan Manley, who stands 6’5” and 320 pounds, we moved from tackle to guard. He has had an unbelievable summer, and has really matured and grown. Chaden Mielke is our other guard, and he looks like he’s about 6’4” and 245 or 250. We’ve got senior Tarin Clark returning at center, Jaden Brown, a sophomore, at left tackle and Cade Kelly, 6’4” and 230, on the other side,” said Dilbeck.
“On the defensive side we have Talon Unruh who has gotten real big this summer, Tyrel bell, who is about 238 now, as defensive end and some other guys with speed there. We had move in from Louisiana that’s 6’5” and 320 at nose guard. For linebacker we have Christian Smay, Jaryn Curry and Zane Coleman. On the secondary we have Chase Harper and Zane Harper, brothers, moved in from Arkansas, and they’re good kids.”