Texas Panhandle athletes sign to play at the college level


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River Road’s Lance Welps signed his National Letter of Intent to play football at West Texas A&M. [Kale Steed/ Press Pass Sports]

Ryan Barnett, Eastern New Mexico

School: Tascosa

Position: Quarterback

About Barnett: The senior QB carried the ball

42 times for 118 yds with a touchdown, and threw for a touchdown.

Why ENMU: “It was the first big school that really offered me and talked to me. I really liked the coaches and the atmosphere they’ve got going on there and I love that triple option offense.”

Brayden Beck, Stephen F. Austin State

High School: Randall

Position: Running back/ Linebacker

About Beck:

Why SFA: Beck spearheaded a very stout Raiders defense that led Randall to the Class 5A Division II regional semifinals for a third straight year. The hard-nosed running back went for over 600 yards rushing, and at linebacker registered 105 tackles, 16 of those for a loss.

Why SFA: I wanted to bet on myself at the Division I level, and I know I have the ability to play at that level. I love coach (Colby) Carthel and the staff. They are the best fit for me.”

Rafe Butcher, West Texas A&M

High School: Canyon

Position: Linebacker

About Butcher: Made 100 tackles, 50 of those solo, adding five sacks on defense. He also added 648 receiving yards on 48 catches with five TDs.

Why WT: “I’m just ready to do whatever it takes. It’s also close to home, I love the facilities and I can’t wait to prove myself.”

Christian Carrera, Emporia State

High School: Dumas

Position: Defensive back

About Carrera: Made 41 tackles last fall for the Demons with four interceptions and seven pass breakups.

Why ESU: “It was a good place for me to go. The coaches and players I visited with made it feel welcoming, and kept it real. I cant wait to see what my future holds.”

Gabe Cassles, Stephen F. Austin State

High School: Canyon

Position: Offensive line

About Cassles: The bruising lineman dominated opponents with a physical and nasty style of play registering 103 pancakes on the season without allowing a sack.

Why SFA: “I love what they are building. Coach (Colby) Carthel won has won a national championship, and I want to be a part of a program like that.”

Reagan Cochran, West Texas A&M

High School: Canadian

Position: Tight end/ Linebacker

About Cochran: Was a two-way star for a 15-1, Class 3A Division II state championship Wildcat team. Cochran not only made the game-winning 52-yard catch that helped Canadian beat Franklin, 35-34, for its fifth state title in program history, but he was also named the District 1-3A Defensive MVP racking up 129 tackles on the year with eight pass breakups.

Why WT: “I think the big reason was that when I went on the visit I got to see how close the team was together like here in Canadian. The coaching staff as well. I really enjoyed getting to talk to everyone, and it felt like they were genuine and would help me in any way. My goal is to play and help coaches like that win in any way possible.”

Cade Cox, West Texas A&M

High School: Dumas

Position: Linebacker

About Cox: A three-year starter for Dumas, Cox made his name best as a linebacker that could get to the ball based on his flat out speed. In 2020 the senior made 82 tackles, as he finished his amazing career with 233 tackles during the Demons historic run.

Why WT: “First off, it’s close to home. “It was and best for my family. I love the coaches and love facilities. I’m excited play at the next level and ready to go.”

Joshua Culwell, West Texas A&M

High School: Canadian

Position: Quarterback

About Culwell: The 6-foot-3 Culwell had a masterful senior season throwing for 3,656 yards with 52 touchdowns during Canadian’s historic run to a 15-1 record and the school’s fifth state championship. Culwell was named the Offensive MVP of the state title win against Franklin, was tabbed the Padilla Poll Class 3A Division II Co-Player of the Year, and the Press Pass Sports Player of the Year.

Why WT: “When it came down to a decision it was really between Angelo State and WT,” said Culwell, who threw a Texas Panhandle-best 3,656 yards with 52 touchdowns. “After the visit I knew WT was the place for me. The people and the environment felt right. Not to mention I get to stay in the Texas Panhandle.”

Creed Johnson, Sterling College

High School: River Road

Position: Defensive end

About Johnson: The senior ended his season with 82 tackles five sacks, and 15 tackles for a loss.

Why Sterling: “It’s super exciting, and I’m really looking forward to this. My visit went great, I really liked the coaches, and I think it’s a great place for me.”

Wes Jones, UT Permian Basin

High School: Panhandle

Position: Quarterback

About Jones: The District 1-2A Division I MVP had a fantastic senior season throwing for over 3,400 yards with 45 touchdown passes for a Panthers team that went 10-3, going three rounds deep in the UIL Class 2A Division I playoffs.

Why UTPB: “Head coach Justin Carrigan is a great guy, and knows exactly what he is doing as you could tell from his past of coaching at Tarleton, and winning a ring. Everyone of the coaches treated me like family when I was down there, and they are willing to do whatever is needed to help me become successful. I can’t leave out that their facilities are top notch. Growing up watching Friday Night Lights, and then seeing Ratliff stadium where UTPB plays now just hit right in the heart.”

Gunner Lamb, West Texas A&M

High School: Groom

Position: Quarterback/ Defensive back

About Lamb: The District 2-1A Division II MVP helped lead the Tigers to a 12-2 record, including a run to the Class 1A Division II state semi’s. The dual-threat QB ended his senior season throwing for 2,276 yards with 40 touchdowns, tacking on 576 rushing yards and 10 more TDs.

Why WT: “I wanted to go somewhere close to home. I also know WT is committed to playing a season even during COVID. During my visit it really showed that they care about their players and football is their number one passion.”

Davin Lemmons, Stephen F. Austin State

High School: Amarillo High

Position: Wide receiver

About Lemmons: The Sandies three-year starter played in 36 career games, snagging 149 catches in that span for over 2,100 yards with 42 total touchdowns.

Why SFA: Relationships are a big deal to me. I built great relationships down there. Playing college football has been a goal since I was really young, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

Hesston Marshall, West Texas A&M

High School: Wheeler

Position: Running back/ Linebacker

About Marshall: The Mustangs standout played all over the field rushing for 1,860 yards, throwing for 891 yards for a combined 34 TDs in 2020. Defensively, he also made 88 tackles, five sacks and added three defensive scores. Marshall wraps up one of the more special four-year careers in the Texas Panhandle rushing for a total of 6,373 yards on only 792 carries.

Why WT: “I like that it’s close to home Close and it has that small town family atmosphere. I also loved the facilities, you can’t beat how great that football stadium is. I’m thrilled to keep playing, I’ve waited for an opportunity all through high school, and I’m more pumped to go play college ball than I was for high school.”

Jaylin Marshall, Eastern New Mexico

High School: Bushland

Position: Wide receiver/ Defensive back

About Marshall: Was a two-time All-District wide receiver, who also made eight career interceptions on defense.

Why ENMU: It was the best opportunity for me to play. I liked the coaching staff. I’m excited, I really love football and I can’t wait to keep playing.”

Jett Meek, Stephen F. Austin State

High School: Canyon

Position: Defensive back

About Meek: A unanimous 3-4A Division I All-District selection, Meek was a missile from his safety spot for the state semifinalist racking up 82 tackles, 34 assisted tackles, three interceptions, 11 pass break ups and six big hits.

Why SFA: “I have a chip on my shoulder and I want to prove myself. I know some guys down there, the coaches are awesome and I’m excited.”

Zion Mercer, Southwestern Oklahoma State

High School: Panhandle

Position: Wide receiver

About Mercer: The lightning quick talented receiver and District 1-2A Division I Co-Offensive MVP racked up impressive numbers in 2020. Mercer showed off his fly-paper hands all year pulling in 79 receptions for 1,434 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season.

Why SWOSU: “My family and I went on a visit and it just felt like home. They also have great connections for me after I get done with college. I’ll miss playing on Friday’s with my brothers, but I’m so ready to continue to be a playmaker on the field.”

Eddie Moore, Fort Hays State

High School: Bushland

Position: Offensive and defensive line

About Moore: The two-way lineman named the District 2-3A Division I Defensive MVP in 2020.

Why FHS: “Their system fits me pretty well, and they have a great reputation. I’m just excited and can’t wait to get my career going.”

Carson Ozbun, Hardin-Simmons University

School: Tascosa

Position: Defensive end

About Ozbun: Made 48 tackles with three tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks for Tascosa in 11 games.

Why Hardin-Simmons: “I’ve dreamed of this moment since I was a little kid. Actually signing that paper and putting it into effect is really exciting. I chose Hardin-Simmons because it’s the best school for me. I feel like I can go in and contribute on that football team. It’s a nice Christian school and I’m blessed to be able to go there. It’s something I’ve worked hard for for a long time.”

Darius Sanders, Incarnate Word

School: Tascosa

Position: Linebacker

About Sanders: Sanders has size and speed, add to that his ability to blitz, cover the pass or play the run brought much versatility to a very talented Rebs team. In 11 games, Sanders finished the year with 45 tackles, five for a loss with four sacks.

Why Incarnate Word: “I get to get a new experience and get out of Amarillo and get a good opportunity to do my best in a new environment. I had a decision to stay in Texas. It’s not only about me, it’s about my family too. I like the coaching staff there. They’ve been with me from the beginning. It was a good chance for me to fit in. It’s been something I’ve been dreaming about for the longest. Going to Incarnate Word is just a better opportunity for me. I’m just going to do my best and play my part.”

Brody Sutterfield, West Texas A&M

High School: Bushland

Position: Wide receiver/ Linebacker

About Sutterfield: Sutterfield earned the District 2-3A Division I overall MVP thanks to an incredible senior season. Sutterfield finished the year with 135 tackles and six pass breakups.

Why WT: “I went on a visit not long ago and I loved it. The coaches are awesome, I loved the players that were there, and fun to be around. I just can’t wait to continue playing. A lot of athletes dream of getting to play at the college level, so I’m excited.”

Ollie Swope, Eastern New Mexico

School: Tascosa

Position: Offensive line

About Swope: At guard, Swope played a key role as part of the most physical Texas Panhandle o-line, keying the Rebs triple-option success. Swope graded out 92 percent, had 42 pancakes and allowed one sack.

Why ENMU: “I chose them because they were the best out of the two offers I had and I felt like I could further my career as a football player. It feels great because I have people I cannot only trust as teammates but they’re like my brothers. I’d say keep going even if you think you can’t make it. You’ll make it.”

Kaden Thurman, Eastern New Mexico

School: Tascosa

Position: Defensive back

About Thurman: Made 48 tackles in 11 games for the Rebels this season with 3.5 sacks.

Why ENMU: “When I first talked to the coach he immediately made me feel like I was going to be part of a family. That was mainly what I was looking for when I was choosing between colleges. It’s amazing. I’m just so blessed and give all the glory to God.”

Lance Welps, West Texas A&M

High School: River Road

Position: Quarterback/ Defensive back

About Welps: Welps started all four years at quarterback for The Road, then doubled up his last three as a starting safety. He was named all-district four years on offense three on defense. In 42 career games Welps’ numbers are eye opening at: 4,472 passing yards, 43 TD passes, 3,011 yards rushing, 33 rushing TDs, 283 tackles, 14 interceptions.

Why WT: “It’s a dream come true. I get to play where my dad played his college football at, it is just an honor. Then the coaching staff is phenomenal. I love the program and the facilities, and it has the degree plan I’m going for.”

Ali Yart, West Texas A&M

High School: Dumas

Position: Kicker

About Yart: Yart’s been the steady foot for Dumas the past three years, as well as one of the top kickers in the Amarillo-area. The do-it-all player had a great senior year punting the ball averaging close to 40 yards a punt with 18 inside the 20-yard line. He also had 40 touchbacks on kickoffs.

Why WT: “It was best for me. I love what they do and their work ethic. The facilities are the best in the country in all of Division II, and I’m excited to keep my academic and athletic career going.”


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