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Explosiveness headlines CHS offense

BY COLLIN WIEDER Clinton Daily News

Year one of the return to the I-formation has loads of fun players to watch in the upcoming 2018 season, especially at the skill positions. Head coach John Higbee is looking to build his of- fense in a different mold. The offense doesn’t boast a 25-carry-per-game I-back right now. It does however have some of the most athletic backs in western Oklahoma. Starting with active leading rusher DayDay Simpkins, the running backs will be the position group to lean on this fall. It’s a multiple, dynamic and deep position group. Simpkins along with Atrel Bryson, Juan Guzman, etc., would make any de- fensive coordinator cower with fear. For Higbee, he described his offense as a great problem to have. The team has so many weap- ons on offense that it’s hard to spread the ball around at times, but he wants to find a way as the season progresses. “It’s going to take time,” he said. “The funny thing is we’ve got so many guys and skill kids. When I was at Ada we’d go half line, so we’d get lots of reps to our tailbacks, because they still have to see the cuts. Just being fast doesn’t make you a good tailback. They have to have that vision, whether it be a tailback, a receiver com- ing in motion or running routes and understanding coverages. That’s a lot of moving parts.” Obviously, some of these positions can change as the season pro- gresses. However, Higbee said these are the players he’s relying upon early in the season.


Rarely is the quarter- back one of the fastest

guys on the field, but that statement is true this year for Clinton. Gage Gaunt is

a true dual threat player

for Clinton. He’s racked up

805 total yards (574 receiv- ing, 215 rushing, 16 pass- ing) and nine total touch- downs in his career. He accomplished all that on almost 12 yards per play that he’s involved in. He hasn’t had a chance to throw the ball often, backing up Conor Wyer. But, he can spin it, as he proved in seven-on-seven and versus El Reno. He also has the knowledge to make this a smooth transi- tion. Higbee said he’s like another coach on the field. Gaunt would agree with that statement, carrying an extensive knowledge of the I-formation. “Freshman year we ran

a lot of the I (formation),” Gaunt said. “I took what

I learned from freshman

year with Coach (Mike) Blackburn and Coach (Eugene) Jefferson. We

ran the I-formation a lot. We had similar plays and packages as we do now.” Behind him Clinton has

a wealth of signal callers.

Junior Dalton Denney has been at the position for two years in high school. He started on the fresh- man team two years ago. Sophomore Zade Cisneros is back to provide depth along with freshman start- ing QB Caden Powell.


A loaded group makes up this year’s receivers for Clinton. Juniors A.T. Bryson, Ty Newcomb and Denney have all seen time in practice and in seven-on-seven. Bryson

have all seen time in practice and in seven-on-seven. Bryson CDN | John Kinsey Gage Gaunt

CDN | John Kinsey

Gage Gaunt completed 5-of-9 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown and zero interceptions in the season-opening scrimmage versus El Reno.

and Newcomb caught three combined passes for 43 yards last year. They have some produc- tion there. Denney is a backup quarterback, so he understands the plays and what a quarterback is looking for when scan- ning the field. Bryson is a burner on the outside, while New- comb and Denney provide size at the receiver spot. Both stand above 6-feet tall, making them big tar- gets to throw to. Atrel Bryson will split out as well. Senior No- lan Tisdale will be a contributor at receiver too. He’s an athletic, tall player that will see time

at the position along with sophomore Zade Cisne- ros. Cisneros is also a former quarterback that took a curl route 61 yards for a touchdown against El Reno. The team will have a lot of options to get the ball to in the pass- ing game.


Things won’t shift too much at the tight end. With the re-implementa-

tion of this position, se- nior Valek Cisneros moves back inside the numbers for his final year as a Red Tornado. He’s got some experience at tight end from his sophomore year. He moved to wide receiver last year and caught a pair of passes for 19 yards. In an interview during the summer, Cisneros said he’s eager to move back and start at tight end. He has been working on blocking technique to pre- pare for the move. Fellow senior and start- ing fullback Holden Powell will also play at tight end. Higbee said he isn’t just a tight end because of his fullback skills. Powell can run routes and, “hit oppo- nents in the mouth,” when asked to block. Junior Eddi Gonzalez is the final player here. He played slotback last year but focused mainly on de- fense as the team’s lead- ing tackler at linebacker. Higbee said he feels confi- dent about putting those three at tight end.


There might not be a

deeper running back group in District 4A-1. Clinton football carries loads of talent at running back. Simpkins, as men- tioned earlier, is the team’s active leading rusher. In parts of the last two sea- sons, he’s rushed for 724 yards and seven touch- downs while averaging more than six yards per carry. He’s a small, shifty and hard-to-tackle back for the Reds. Along with Simpkins, Atrel is a dangerous option with great periph- eral vision and speed. The sophomore didn’t get a chance to carry the ball last year, but he did take a punt 87 yards to the house against Anadarko. He’s got that “it” factor when he touches the ball. His field awareness at know- ing where a defender is, is off the charts. His brother, A.T., could also be back there when he’s not at receiver. Hig- bee said he wants to make sure and get the ball in his hands if the passing game is out of sync. There will be a lot of spillover for a few of these runners. Guzman and Austyn Brown will double as both running backs and fullbacks in this offense. They are two experienced seniors with a nice blend of power and speed.


Back from a breakout junior campaign, senior

Powell will start at full- back. His bowling ball approach to the run game, ripped off 5.8 yards per carry in 2017. He ended up rushing for 468 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a strong body that can pave the way for any of the team’s backs. He’ll lead the fullback position, while fellow seniors Brown and Guz- man give depth. Both have received carries on offense in reserve roles. Guzman will take his toughness from being the team’s nose guard to provide a hammer. Brown is a scary option to stop up the middle. If he gets past the first level, he can take it to the house, scoring two long touchdowns against Chickasha last year. Gonzalez has yet to show off his offensive talents at the varsity level. However, he was an- other offensive weapon on Clinton’s 2016 freshman football team at running back, so he could get some carries. Sophomore Zach Campbell rounds out a four-deep position group at fullback.


O-Line is an ever-chang- ing and evolving position for the Reds. Right now, Higbee said the line is still developing backups at each position, but he does have an idea of who is go- ing to start. Anchoring the two tackle spots will be

experienced seniors Reed Lindsey and Ruben Gutierrez. Lindsey will protect Gaunt’s blind- side at left tackle and Gutierrez will start at right tackle. Both started last year for Clinton and solidify key spots in the trenches. They’re also the two biggest bodies with Lindsey at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and Gutierrez at 6-foot-1, 270 pounds. Both are strong, road pavers for the offense to trust. At right guard, senior Bryce Isaac is slated to start. He’s back after tak- ing some time off for a few years. As a wrestler and another big body, he’ll line up well with Gutier- rez. Andrew Roque’s back hindered him at fall camp. Higbee said he was vying for the starting job before he got hurt. It’s possible that he could fight for that job once he’s back to full strength. Reid Butcher will start at center with Isaac back- ing him up. Butcher is a career center that started on the freshman team two years ago. Ryan Walters provides depth there. Malachi Scarlett rounds out the starters at left guard. Scarlett, the fastest of the offensive lineman by far, will work well in pulling plays. Backing him up will be Walters too. Matt Zurline gives depth to the position group and is one of the many young players Higbee said he is counting on to step up.

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