(Ed. note: You'll be seeing increased content of multiple varieties in the coming weeks and months from Skordle's new interns. From game stories to videos to social media content, we're turning over [some of] the keys to them.)
By Steven Reese
High school football has kicked off here in Oklahoma. Not everyone played in Week 0, but pretty much every team will be in action this week.
To kick off Week 1, I would like to share my top-five running backs to watch in 2021. (Note: The team rankings came from MaxPreps.)
1. Casmen Hill, Chandler, Junior
Just about 40 minutes northeast of OKC off of I-44 is the town of Chandler, which is home to star RB Casmen Hill. He is entering his junior year coming off of an impressive season in 2020, during which he had 288 carries for 2,316 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was the second-leading rusher in the entire state. Hill helped lead the Lions to the third round of the 2020 Class 2A playoffs. Did I mention that Hill averaged 8 yards a carry for the whole season? He has a chance to be the leading rusher and have a state championship added to his resume. Hill and the Chandler squad opens up the season on the road this Friday against Stroud, a team they beat 48-0 last season.
2. Braylin Presley, Bixby, Senior
You really can’t go wrong with anyone who represents the No. 1 ranked Bixby Spartans. Not only are they the top ranked team in 6A-II, but they are also the top team in the whole state entering 2021. But there is one specific member of the stacked squad and he is No. 2 on my list of running backs. Presley enters his senior season with three state championships under his belt and is eyeing a fourth this year. He had an explosive junior season with his rushing and receiving performance. He had a total of 1,744 rushing yards and 727 receiving yards with 35 total touchdowns (25 rushing and 10 receiving). If Bixby’s defense keeps opponents off the field like it did last year, Presley will end his high school career with another great year. If my prediction is correct, Presley will have four state championships to show on his all-star resume. The Spartans opened up their season in week 0 blowing by Mansfield Timberview 69-14. It’s a good thing Presley and the rest of the starting clan got some good rest because they will be going on the road this Friday to face off against top-ranked 6A-I opponent Jenks.
3. Demarius Robinson, Edmond Santa Fe, Freshman
The name Demarius Robinson came about on the field just this last Friday. I actually had the privilege to cover the Wolves’ opening game when they hosted 6A-I’s No. 2 ranked Owasso. Despite the 45-22 loss, Robinson did not disappoint in his varsity debut for Edmond Santa Fe. He opened with 23 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown. Robinson shows a lot of promise and I wouldn’t be too worried if I were the Wolves. If Robinson keeps building off of his stellar performance, the team will feed off of that. I see a great future for this kid as well as the rest of the squad this year. You will not want to miss the next matchup as they will be hosting 6A-II No. 4 ranked Stillwater this Friday.
4. Brandon Watson, Kingston, Senior
We now go to a running back in the town of Kingston which is roughly 30 miles southeast of Ardmore. The Kingston Redskins just came off of a solid journey last season making it to the 3A quarterfinals. Even though they fell to Stigler in that matchup 49-14, Brandon Watson has a lot to be excited about for his last hurrah at Kingston. He also has quite a bit to be proud of from 2020. The Redskins went 11-1 (7-0 in 3A District 2) and won their district. This 2021 squad will be looking for Watson’s leadership again this season especially since they won’t have QB Jase Hayes in the backfield with Watson. Hayes was a senior last season. Watson ran for at least 100 yards or more in seven games last year. He had 1,444 yards for the season in just 203 carries and he finished 10th in the state for most rushing yards. He also had 17 touchdowns. Kingston will be tested early this season with some road trips. Keep an eye out for Watson though. It will be exciting to see his veteran presence. Kingston comes in #12 in the 3A preseason rankings.
5. Eric Virgil, Hilldale, Junior
The Hilldale Hornets fell short at home to Cushing in the 2020 4A Quarterfinals 34-28, but still had an impressive season. Virgil contributed to the Hornets’ 11-2 record by finishing with 1,402 yards and 16 TD’s. This doesn’t include his 140 receiving yards and three receiving TDs. He will definitely be Hilldale’s top player this season as it loses a lot of veterans who graduated last spring. The Hornets lose their QB, who contributed to the team’s rushing game, as well as their top receiver. Because of this, I could see even more carries from Virgil this year. The Hornets are considered to be a rebuilding team as they come in ranked 14th in the 4A preseason rankings. Is Virgil the guy in 4A football in 2021? Will he and the Hornets prove everyone wrong this season? It will be fun to find out.