The Texas High School football season came to a close, and it was another stellar year for the Texas Panhandle.
Here’s a look at the 2022 Press Pass Sports Six-Man Football Team.
Coach of the Year
Stacy Perryman, Happy
It’s easy to overlook coaches for this type of honor when they consistently make deep runs in the playoffs. What can’t be overlooked, however, is the model of consistency that Stacy Perryman has built in his tenure at Happy. That’s why Perryman earns the Press Pass Sports Coach of the Year honor for the second straight year. In four seasons Perryman has accumulated a 40-12 record that includes a playoff berth each year with three state quarterfinal and two state semifinal appearances.
This year’s team was likely the best squad he has guided during that span. Happy embraced the mentality and core values that Perryman preaches.
“This team showed effort, toughness, discipline,” Perryman said. “We were competitive and played to our core values. We emphasize to the team if they live up to those core values then that’s the most important thing, not the wins and losses. Wins are nice but we want to see our players become better men from being in the program”.
Those values were on full display with this year’s Cowboys team as they were on the brink of school history. Happy began the season with a loss to the defending state champions from Westbrook, 62-16. That thumping gave the Cowboys a footprint of what needed to be done if they wanted to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“We figured out what kind of team we were going to be and how we were going to be successful,” Perryman said.”
The Cowboys began rolling after that. Five straight mercy rule games including wins over Follett, Springlake-Earth and an undefeated McLean team at the time, showed true potential. Happy followed that up with back-to-back wins against Lubbock Kingdom Prep, a state semifinalist this year in TAPPS, and an opening district win on the road against Nazareth.
The playoffs, however, is where Happy (12-2 overall) began really flexing their muscle. Back-to-back shutouts against high scoring Miami and a top 10 squad in Knox City set the Cowboys up for a rematch against Nazareth in the quarterfinals. Up 24-16 at half, the Cowboys outscored the Swifts 32-0 in the second half to advance to meet Westbrook again in the state semis. In three previous trips to this same spot, Happy teams had lost by an average scoring margin of 33 including last year’s loss by 34. This time was different as the Cowboys held a second quarter lead and were within four with under two minutes to play before a late scoring touchdown sealed the victory for the Wildcats, 40-30.
It’s that type of effort, one of the core values of this team, that showed up all year. Happy’s defense only allowed 14.7 points per game while registering four shut outs. Offensively, they put up 53 points a game ending nine of those wins via the 45-point mercy rule.
“What made this year so enjoyable was the team chemistry we had,” Perryman said. “Our senior leadership stepped up and allowed us to gel as a team. Our players didn’t worry about stats. It wasn’t about a single player; it was about the team all year long and that’s what makes it enjoyable as a coach.”
Player of the Year
Tryce Johnson, Happy, 6-0, 150-pound, Sr.
Heading into this season, Happy needed to fill both running back spots on a team that had made the Class 1A Division I state semifinals the previous season and expectations for success were high. To fill that role, head coach Stacy Perryman turned to a player who hadn’t played the position since junior high and hadn’t made an impact at the varsity level till last year. What that decision yielded was a bona fide two-way star who became this year’s Press Pass Sports Player of the Year in Tryce Johnson.
Johnson began to make his mark last year after filling in for an injured starter early in the year and finishing the season with 115 tackles and a second team All-State nod at linebacker. To become the leading ball carrier, as well as defensive leader the following year, was asking a lot but Johnson shined when called upon.
“Tryce doesn’t care about getting credit and that’s what makes him a special player,” Perryman said. “When you care about the team and don’t care who gets the credit that allows you to do the best you possibly can”.
That attitude allowed Johnson to rush for 1,568 yards and 29 touchdowns while registering 78.5 tackles, three interceptions and two defensive scores despite missing three games.
The road to player of the year didn’t start out well, though, as Happy was dominated by Westbrook at the beginning of the season.
“Westbrook wasn’t the best team to try and learn to play running back against,” Johnson said. “I knew where to go but struggled to read my blocks and let the play develop.”
It must have taught the senior something because he piled up 222 rushing yards and six scores against Follett the following week and never looked back. In an 8-game stretch starting with Follett he piled up 1,165 yards and 23 touchdowns but at a cost. Against Lubbock Kingdom Prep, he sustained a shoulder injury that wouldn’t allow him to raise his arm above his head but that didn’t stop him. Johnson didn’t back down gaining 184 yards against the Warriors then 137 more against Nazareth in a pivotal district contest the next week. Despite being in pain with every hit, Johnson also racked up 10.5 tackles against the Swifts and an interception.
After sitting out three weeks, Johnson returned to gain 163 yards against Knox City in the playoffs before facing Nazareth again. Again, the senior running back made his mark, tallying 171 yards on the ground while leading the team in tackles with nine to help Happy defeat the Swifts again. Despite the offensive load, Johnson’s defense didn’t fall off.
“I’ve always liked defense because it’s about effort,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to be the most athletic but if you give full effort, you can make the plays you are supposed to.”
Those qualities were on full display this season and helped Johnson achieve new heights on the gridiron as he was the Region 1-1A Offensive MVP, first team All-Region linebacker and first team All-State running back leading Happy to the state semifinals and a 12-2 mark.
Newcomer of the Year
David Meeks, Follett, 5-9, 160-pound, So.
On a senior laden playoff team, it can be tough for a younger player to have an impact, but Meeks did just that. Giving the run heavy Panthers a speed element at the spread back position, Meeks rushed for 501 yards and 10 scores while completing 28 passes for 456 yards and five scores. Defense is where Meeks really racked up the stats totaling 101 tackles, 85 of those solo, while picking off five passes, forcing three fumbles and registering two defensive scores. The Region 1-1A Newcomer of the Year honoree will be looked upon moving forward as a threat for Follett.
Fighting Heart Award
Luke Schulte, Nazareth, 6-3, 170-pound, Sr.
“Sports do not build character; they reveal it”. John Wooden had a player like Schulte in mind when he quipped that line years ago. In Week 7, Schulte tore the UCL in his elbow against Miami. Given the option to forego the rest of the season and ensure he was back for the second half of basketball and fully ready for baseball as an All-State catcher, Schulte chose to gut out the rest of the season. Playing with pain every time he was hit in that elbow and unable to throw, Schulte racked up 1,883 yards on the season and 30 scores while playing both ways and registering 61 tackles and three interceptions. The playoffs, though, is where he made his mark. In leading the Swifts to the state quarterfinals for the first time in the school’s Six-Man history, the spread back gained 665 yards in three playoff games while scoring eight times. That toughness earned first team All-Region running back while gaining a place on the All-State second team at safety and it’s that character that earned the talented senior our Fighting Heart award.
Camden Sperry, Happy, 5-9, 170-pound, Sr.
The top signal caller in the Amarillo-area and a two-time first team All-State choice, Sperry threw for 1,201 yards and 30 touchdowns with only four interceptions while leading the pass defense for the Cowboys with eight picks on the season.
Shayne Franks, Follett, 6-0, 185-pound, Sr.
Finishing off a stellar career as a three-time member of this team, Franks rushed for 1,409 yards and 27 touchdowns and three receiving scores to earn second team All-State Utility Back for the Panthers.
Haiden Thompson, Miami, 6-2, 180-pound, Jr.
Dual threat accurately describes this talented Warrior as Thompson passed for 1,732 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 1,234 yards and 18 scores to grab second team All-Region honors.
Sawyer Francis, Silverton, 6-2, 165-pound, Jr.
A threat to score every time he touched the ball, Francis piled up 1,644 yards on the ground and 435 yards receiving on his way to 46 scores to go along with two touchdown returns as the Owls surprised many by being ranked in the top 15 most of the season.
Blayne Shuck, Groom, 6-0, 160-pound, Sr.
One of the top receivers in the area, the first team All-Region wide receiver hauled in an eye-opening 98 receptions this year for 953 yards while gaining 148 yards on the ground and 15 total touchdowns.
Kayle Rogers, Nazareth, 6-1, 200-pound, So.
Setting the edge is pivotal to a running game in Six-Man football and that’s what Rogers did for the Swifts. Nazareth rushed for over 2,500 yards on the season and the bulldozer sophomore was a key reason for that offensive success. Rogers also nabbed second team All-State honors at nose guard.
Devin Burris, Happy, 6-1, 210-pound, Jr.
In his first year as a varsity player the first team All-Region and honorable mention All-State player anchored an offensive line that churned out over 2,600 rushing yards while averaging 53 points a game in route to the state semifinals.
Stephen Kuehler, Groom, 5-7, 150-pound, Sr.
The numbers for the cat quick senior include 1,862 yards rushing and 1,899 yards passing as the second team All-State spread back accounted for 68 total scores as a do everything player for the Tigers.
Kyton Johnson, Happy, 6-1, 200-pound, Sr.
A difference maker on both sides of the ball, Johnson amassed 66.5 tackles, made six picks with three fumble recoveries to earn the Region 1-1A Division I Defensive MVP award. Those numbers were in addition to his 17 touchdown receptions on only 29 receptions on offense that gained him first team All-State honors at tight end.
Quay Hodges, Happy, 6-0, 200-pound, Jr.
Despite missing the first part of the season, Hodges was the District 3-1A Division I Defensive MVP and first team All-State Defensive Lineman. The max effort junior amassed 49.5 tackles, a sack and three fumble recoveries with 24.5 of those tackles coming in the Cowboys playoff run.
Luke Wheeler, Miami, 5-10, 220-pound, Jr.
Wreaking havoc in the backfield, Wheeler totaled 72 tackles, 17 of those behind the line of scrimmage, four sacks and three fumble recoveries to help Miami grab a playoff spot in a competitive district and earning All-District honors.
Tucker Schlueter, Valley, 6-3, 240-pound, Jr.
Menacing opposing backfields all season long, the first team All-District lineman racked up 137 tackles while forcing nine fumbles and recovering five on the season for an injury riddled Patriot squad.
Jayden Watson, Follett, 5-11, 180-pound, Sr.
A key cog to the Panthers defense, Watson tallied 126 tackles on the season with 99 of those solo, three sacks, four fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns on his way to second team All-Region linebacker.
Sterl Welps, Nazareth, 5-11, 175-pound, Sr.
Every team needs a player like Welps who was unheralded but pivotal to the Swifts success. Finishing the season with 66.5 tackles and an interception, the first-team All-Region linebacker and honorable mention All-State player also paved holes on offense as the fullback for a ground and pound offense.
Jimmy Reyes, Happy, 6-0, 140-pound, Sr.
A second team All-State selection based on his 42.5 tackles, a sack and four interceptions, Reyes was a lockdown corner despite playing most of the season with a broken wrist on the best defense in the Texas Panhandle.
Brett Heitschmidt, Nazareth, 6-5, 190-pound, Sr.
You couldn’t miss this imposing player on the field. Although he grabbed first team All-Region defensive end honors, Heitschmidt did whatever was asked as he also played some at linebacker while racking up 75.5 tackles, three and a half sacks and an interception. A two-way star, the angular Swift also earned first team All-State tight end honors.