2021 All-Press Pass Sports Football Superlative Awards

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[Graphic by Brent Seals. Photos by Ben Jenkins, Tom Carver, Lace Taylor]

Player of the Year

Cody Rinne, Stratford, QB-DB, 6-0, 180 pound, Sr.

By Kale Steed

Stratford’s Cody Rinne did more than just make play after play on both side of the ball during the Elks magical run to a Class 2A Division II state championship.

Rinne was the heart and soul of the Elks by not only using his tremendous abilities, but being the ultimate leader of the team on and off the field.

All of those attributes and amazing performances have garnered Rinne as the 2021 Press Pass Sports Player of the Year.

As humble as the young man is, Rinne is more thankful for the honor, but knows he wouldn’t be where he is without his best friends and teammates.

“I was able to be successful because of who was around me,” Rinne said. “We had so many weapons. That made it easier for me to get loose. We had a great offensive line and great skill players. This is an honor but all the credit goes to my team, and my coaches.”

The dual-threat quarterback and uber talented defensive back came up clutch anytime his number was called upon starting in a season-opening win over Spearman, 29-22.

With just seconds remaining, Rinne called his own number running in a 3-yard game-winning touchdown. That’s when Stratford head coach Matt Lovorn knew this team, and Rinne had something special.

“Cody is a guy that loves having the pressure on him,” Lovorn said. “We saw it with Spearman and knew right then. Anytime a play needed to be made Cody did it as well as anyone. Cody is a young man of great character and maturity. He’s been around varsity since his freshman year, and he’s our leader. To see the faith he has is really tremendous.”

Rinne ended his MVP season for a Stratford team that was 15-1 overall with 1,986 yards rushing, racking up 36 touchdowns. The senior threw for another 2,373 yards with 21 TDs, and was just as stellar on defense tying the team for the most tackles with 183, adding six interceptions.

Rinne stepped up his game during the postseason, and was even named Offensive MVP during Stratford’s 39-27 state championship win against Falls City at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. As impressive as he was, Rinne says he’ll always cherish this year, but not for what he accomplished, but the

legacy the team left behind.

“I loved this year because everyone on the team was so close,” Rinne said. “The players, the coaches, we just had fun with it. We didn’t want it to be over. Even after the state game we were still ready to go. We all loved each other and it was a true family.”

Offensive Player of the Year

Major Everhart, Tascosa, RB, 5-10, 170 pound, Sr.

By Lance Lahnert

Long before the sweet, electrifying, smooth runs of Major Everhart found their way to Dick Bivins Stadium, Everhart already had been a touchdown scoring machine.

“I’ve had this passion for sports since I was a little kid,” Everhart said. “I started track when I was 3 or 4-years old. In my living room watching football games I would see a play and then run it. I never lost. I always scored a touchdown.”

While running back/quarterback Everhart and the Tascosa Rebels did lose a three times in 2021, no doubt Everhart’s incredible ability to run and defend the football impacted the 2021 Texas high school football season like few did.

The highly-recruited senior Everhart – he signed with Texas Christian University on NCAA national signing day in December – destroyed defenses all season rushing for 1,357 yards, averaging 11 yards per carry, led Tascosa in receiving with 326 yards, scored a team-high 23 touchdowns, then as a safety on defense made 52 tackles, three interceptions and one pick six.

Those impressive numbers, Everhart’s speed and ability to make tacklers miss, along with the class act and dedicated student he is, earns him the 2021 Press Pass Sports Offensive Player of the Year.

“I’m thankful for this honor,” said Everhart, the second leading rusher in Tascosa history with 2,715 yards. “This means a lot to me and I couldn’t have done any of this without my teammates and coaches.”

What Everhart does on a field is impact games with his blazing speed – his goal for the upcoming high school track season is to run a 10.1 “or below” – and owning a mindset all great running backs seem to share.

When asked if making the first tackler miss was something he liked to do, he quickly reminded any running back worth their salt never lets the first guy make the tackle.

“I get a pitch, I’m always looking to make a play or move to get going,” said Everhart, whose 23 TDs scored this season ranks third on Tascosa career list for TDs in a single season. “A spin move. A hurdle move. Whatever I can do.”

What Everhart has done for the Tascosa program since joining the varsity as a sophomore is establish himself as one of the greatest Tascosa players to put on the uniform, says his coach, Ken Plunk.

“What Major meant to us this year you have to look at in a lot of different ways,” said Plunk of his 10-3, third-round playoff team. “Obviously, from a production standpoint he is an extremely explosive player with the ball. Defensively, he was a great defensive player. His on the field presence was huge for us.

“To me what’s sums up Major the best he’s that good at running back and safety, but when we needed to put him in at quarterback, for a kid who really never played quarterback, he was unselfish enough to step in and do that role. That showed to me he just wanted his team to win. Because he didn’t have anything to prove.”

Everhart’s final three games of his Rebs career were behind center at quarterback in Tascosa’s run-oriented Flexbone offense. Tascosa tragically lost starting senior QB B.T. Daniel to an injury during the final regular season game against Lubbock Coronado.

“I knew I had to help my teammates the best I could so it wasn’t a hard decision,” Everhart said of the move to quarterback where he went 2-1 in the playoffs as the Tascosa starter. “There was a big difference from running out of there than from the slot. When I’m outside I had room to run and make a move. Inside running is a lot different with no room and you just dive forward sometimes.”

Everhart said the Tascosa season was good but with the goal of winning state he was bit disappointed.

“We accomplished a lot, but we wanted more,” Everhart said.

Everhart will definitely have more of football as he reports to TCU on June 1.

“I can’t wait,” Everhart said. “Five months to hit the gym and then go.”

Plunk said TCU is getting a rare breed in Everhart.

“What makes Major great is his explosiveness,” Plunk said. “Just how quickly he can get to full speed. And his full speed is really fast. We have had some really, really good ball carriers here recently and they all have been good. King Doerue (current running back at Purdue) was and still is. Joseph (Plunk, all-time leading rusher in Tascosa history) was what Joseph was in terms of eeking yards out and making people miss. But probably nobody we have had could accelerate and get to speed that quickly like Major.”

Everhart knows college football is a business. So, he already cherishes his senior high school football season.

“I mean going to the next level, it’s a business,” Everhart said. “What I will always remember about my team in high school was the fun. I’ll miss being with my friends, I’ll miss the bus rides, I’ll miss a lot.”

No doubt, anybody who has ever watched Major Everhart’s thrilling runs with the football – in Dick Bivins, or the Everhart living room – knows Tascosa will miss him in 2022.

Defensive Player of the Year

Carter Johnson, Amarillo High, 5-11, 205 pound, Sr.

By Lance Lahnert

Like many fast and quick grade-school aged kids, Carter Johnson was a running back and loved avoiding linebackers.

Little did he know at the time he was scoring those flag football touchdowns, preventing running backs from doing their thing as a linebacker would earn him the right to sign his signature in the Amarillo High history books.

“My passion for football probably started in middle school,” Johnson said. “I used to run the ball a lot and my dad saw my speed. I started picking up some mass and he’s was like, ‘well, why don’t you try linebacker? I was like OK, I’ll try.’

At linebacker, Johnson found home, sweet, home.

“I know running backs score all the touchdowns but I was OK with it,” Johnson said. “My middle school coach put me at linebacker and I was flying around laying hits. So they left me there.”

By 2021 Johnson was a well-oiled, aggressive machine at linebacker with the 5-11, 205 pounder seemingly everywhere on the AHS defensive side using his tremendous closing speed to the football in recording 206 tackles.

Never, not once, in the storied history of AHS football which began in the 1910s, had a Sandie player ever reached the 200-tackle mark.

For his outstanding senior season for 9-3 and two-round playoff deep AHS, Johnson is named the Press Pass Sports Defensive Player of the Year.

Johnson said this PPS Defensive Player of the Year Award is one he will cherish.

“This award means a lot to me and I’m very thankful,” Johnson said. “I have to thank Coach (Chad) Dunnam for getting me there.”

AHS head football coach Dunnam lights up like a Christmas tree when the subject turns to Johnson.

“Carter’s desire to get to the football is second to none,” Dunnam said. “He always had a good feel for the game plan and understood his keys real well so he read offensive schemes. But most importantly was his closing speed to the football. I mean he is as fast of a kid as I’ve ever seen on the field from his stance to the football. … he’s always had a nose for the football and loves football. He’s a kid who has given us everything he’s got.”

Dunnam said Johnson loves football is so deep he’s not full speed only when the Friday Night Lights shine for everybody to see.

“You have to credit Carter’s practice habits as well,” Dunnam said. “He’s as good of a practice kid as I’ve ever seen. He would get beat up and bunged up on Friday nights and worked his tail off on Saturday and Sunday to get better so he could be ready for Monday. And, he never missed a practice. The tackle record is huge around here. Carter is so deserving of this award.”

Johnson finished 2021 playing 12 games with 165 assisted tackles, 41 solo tackles, six quarterback hurries, 5.5 quarterback sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one tackle for a loss.

Johnson opened eyes state wide playing against Lubbock Monterey when he recorded 32 tackles in that game.

Johnson said Coach Dunnam’s motivation in the weight room made him better and it was there amongst those weights he first was motivated to set the Sandie tackle record.

“The first record I broke at Amarillo High was on squat in the weight room,” Johnson said of the herculean 635-pound lift. “My coach was like, ‘why don’t you just try and go for another record?’ And I asked what was another record? He said, ‘tackles for a season.’ And then I shot for it.”

The previous record was set by former Sandie great defensive lineman Clay Stapp, who made 193 tackles in 14 games during the AHS 1992 state semifinal season.

Johnson said he has “always had an eye for the ball. By halftime of games I sorta knew what they were going to do on offense. Once they snapped the ball I just flew there.

“The game is just fun for me,” Johnson said. “I love it.”

Anybody watching Carter Johnson play the game football knows the love he talks about is the real deal.

Fighting Heart Award

Elliot Brown, River Road, RB, 5-10, 165 pound, Sr.

Brown carried a huge load for the Wildcats offensively this season, leading their option attack by running for 2,125 yards and 25 touchdowns on 270 carries as a big-play threat. He was a huge reason River Road scored its first playoff victory in 12 seasons with a Class 3A Division I bidistrict victory over Denver City. Off the field, Brown excelled in the classroom with a 3.75 GPA and a 28 on the ACT.

“What’s special is his work ethic, the way he took every game day and practice,” River Road coach Bryan Welps said. “He wanted to be a leader and carry the ball in big situations. I felt like he was prepared for it. I felt as a junior he had a great year, but he missed three games.

“He knew he was going to make a lot of carries. He had to play a big role and he was ready. He did everything he could to get better. You know he’s a kid who’s not going to be in trouble. He’s one of those talents you just enjoy coaching.”

— Lee Passmore

Newcomer of the Year

Bryce Braden, Stratford, LB, 6-3, 200 pound, Fr.

What a fantastic freshman year for the 14-year old first year starter. Braden had no issue making the adjustment from middle school to the varsity game playing in all 16 games for the state champion Stratford Elks. Standing at 6-foot-3, 200-pounds, Braden, showed how physical he could be all season tying for the team lead in tackles with 183, 78 of which were solo. Braden also had two sacks to his resume and four recovered fumbles.

“Bryce played with so much maturity for a freshman,” Stratford head coach Matt Lovorn said. “In the summer, and even very early in the season we weren’t sure Bryce would be on varsity. But he proved he was ready. He fit in with the team and they accepted him quickly as on of their own. He had a phenomenal year, and he has such a good knack for the ball. He’s coachable, and just kept learning and improving.”

— Kale Steed

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