Nobody knows what 2020 will bring in high school football because of the coronavirus.
That fact makes it difficult for writers at Fox Sports Texarkana Radio when picking its 2020 Preseason All-Area Football Team. Presuming the best eligible players from 2019 return, the process went as follows.
Some might think selecting a Defensive Player of the Year would be simple with Pleasant Grove senior Landon Jackson returning. The LSU commit is a top 10 prospect in Texas, and top 100 in the nation. There was hesitation with the possibility of tying him with Texas High senior linebacker Clayton Smith, a special player bound for Oklahoma University.
Jackson (6-6, 257) has played on two 4A state championship teams. On last year’s title squad he had 111 tackles, 29 for a loss, with 17 quarterback sacks. The performance and state crown were the difference in choosing the Pleasant Grove star.
Pleasant Grove senior Marcus Burris (6-5, 275), MVP of last winter’s state championship game, was lost for the season. It’s not the coronavirus, but a foot injury suffered last month.
It was no different on offense, where several players had to be considered for our Offensive Player of the Year.
Atlanta’s Hamilton needs to avoid coronavirus
Atlanta senior Caleb Hamilton (5-10, 165) was hampered by injuries in 2019 when he rushed for 803 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. If head coach Matt McClure can keep Hamilton healthy and on the field, look for him to be one of the premier backs in East Texas.
Hamilton beat out Liberty-Eylau dual threat Damian Henderson, and Arkansas High’s Torie Blair for the offensive honor.
The rest of our defensive unit is loaded with experience, size and speed.
In the line there’s Texas High senior Jaylen Green (6-3, 220); Pleasant Grove senior Cameron Weekly; Hughes Springs senior Trayvon Kennedy; and Ashdown’s Vincent Jones.
Pleasant Grove senior Nick Martin heads the selections at linebacker. He could have just as easily been one of our running backs. Texas High senior Braylon Stewart in another Martin-type, who will contributed on both sides of the ball. We’re predicting Stewart’s teammate Jackson Halter will be a surprise to many in Class 5A Division II.
Defensive backs selected includes Arkansas High’s Jamarious Johnson, Liberty-Eylau’s Keyvuntae Featherson, Texas High’s Caleb Arnold and New Boston’s Kyle Atkinson.
Tigers’ Clayton Smith is top athlete on offense
Clayton Smith is our pick as an athlete. He will contributed for the Tigers at four or five positions. The punter is Atlanta senior Cooper McClure, who averaged over 38 yards last season.
Quarterback is always a good starting place for the offensive selections. Texas High senior Rian Cellers (6-2, 165) is as good as it gets in this section of the woods. Behind him are Henderson and Blair.
The wide receivers feature a mixture of experience and size. Fouke’s Kanon Garrett (6-1, 165) was spectacular as a junior, and should be better in 2020. Ashdown sophomore Shamar Easter (6-5, 205) will be a difference-maker for the Panthers, and we’re in agreement that he’ll be one of the best players in Arkansas before graduating.
Liberty-Eylau’s Shawn White is big, strong and fast. First-year head coach Dewaski Davis is confident the Leopards will rebound from last year’s 0-10 record, and White will play a role at tight end.
Now for the big guys. Fox Sports Texarkana Radio’s offensive line would be awesome playing together. Arkansas High’s Gaylon Williams (6-1, 295) and teammate Kamron Davis (6-3, 270) head the list. Pleasant Grove’s Torie Phillips (6-7, 330) has DI’s drooling. Ashdown senior Alex Paredes (6-3, 275) should also catch the eye of college recruiters. Completing this group is James Bowie’s Whitt Rogers, a dual schoolboy star in football and baseball.
The top athletes should come as no surprise. Arkansas High senior Braylon Bishop will the the Razorbacks’ quarterback, and just might see a little action at receiver and on defense. The place-kicker is Atlanta’s Daniel Hernandez.
We know for sure that high school football fans in the Lone Star State are hoping the coronavirus is not a factor in 2020.