Colton Wright was forced to the sidelines during his junior season of high school football. The Tahlequah linebacker could only spectate while a bulky knee brace occupied most of his left leg.
Luckily for the Tigers, Wright shed the brace for his senior season and had quite an impact on both sides of the ball. Wright rushed for 546 yards and two touchdowns, and he also racked up 124 tackles on defense to snag All-District 5A-4 honors.
“He produced on both sides of the ball,” Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert said of Wright, who named to the 5A-4 honor roll for his linebacking efforts. “He could do anything and he was willing to do anything. He even played defensive tackle at times.”
Not bad for a player whose left knee was shredded not long after his sophomore season on the gridiron.
“He came back from an injury that you wouldn’t see many come back from,” Gilbert said of Wright, who tore his lateral meniscus, anterior cruciate ligament and calf muscle while also suffering a bone fracture below the knee at the Cushing wrestling tournament in 2012.
Wright wasn’t the only Tahlequah player on the All-District 5A-4 team. He was joined by five teammates, quarterback David Dick, wide receiver Kourt McMillan, offensive lineman Charles Lamons, defensive lineman Wesley Rivas and cornerback Brandon Conrad.
Engineering Tahlequah’s efforts on the offensive line, Lamons was an integral part of the Tigers posting an average of 23.5 points per game.
“He had to play the whole year with two broken hands,” Gilbert said of Lamons, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound offensive lineman. “As a lineman, that’s extremely difficult, but he was very productive as the guard position. I wish we all could have seen him as a healthy football player.”
Lamons made things easy for both Dick and Conrad on offense.
At the quarterback spot, Dick completed 54.3 percent (94-of-173) of his passes for 1,134 yards and nine touchdowns. He canceled out his 11 interceptions by rushing for 905 yards and 13 touchdowns on 168 carries.
“David was probably the most improved player on our football team,” Gilbert said. “He played well at the quarterback position, and he created a lot of big plays with his speed.”
When Dick or Wright weren’t running the ball, Conrad usually was. The senior tailback posted 662 yards and six touchdowns on 85 carries. On defense he registered 32 tackles and two interceptions.
“He was a dynamic football player for us on both sides of the ball,” Gilbert said. “He didn’t see as much production as a defensive back, and that’s because teams went away from him. He had a great year on both sides of the ball and on special teams.”
Conrad caught only 13 passes on offense, and that’s because most of Dick’s passes were going to McMillan, who finished the year with a team-high 35 catches for 613 yards and seven touchdowns.
“This was only his second year back in football since sixth grade,” Gilbert said. “He was able to take the top off of defenses, and he was our go-to receiver. He created a big play that we needed, and it was a luxury to have him over the top.”
Rivas picked up All-District accolades despite batting a nagging foot injury during his senior season. He managed to finish with 41 tackles in limited playing time.
“He’s the most dominant defensive lineman we’ve had since I’ve been at Tahlequah,” Gilbert said. “It’s a shame for him to get hurt. He was out from the last half of the Coweta game (on Oct. 11) until the Collinsville game (Nov. 8). He was able to come back but not at full strength.”
The Tigers wrapped up the 2013 campaign with a 1-9 record overall and a 1-6 mark in District 5A-4. Collinsville picked up the 5A-4 crown and reaped most of the prominent postseason honors.
Kevin Jones was named the district’s Coach of the Year after leading the Cardinals to a 10-3 season and a berth in the 5A semifinals, where they lost to the eventual state champion, Guthrie. Collinsville quarterback Zane McElroy, despite missing the first six games of the season, was named the district’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Other prominent honors handed out in 5A-4 were: Player of the Yeah (Central quarterback/cornerback D’Angelo Brewer), Defensive Player of the Year (Pryor’s Alex McCammon) and Special Teams Player of the Year (Claremore’s Caleb Webster).
As for Tahlequah’s players, if football is in their futures it’ll have to be at the collegiate level. Rivas has received an offer to play at William Penn (Iowa), while others are drawing interest from Division II institutions. Southeastern Oklahoma State, Central Oklahoma and Harding have checked in on Wright and Lamons, while Dick is drawing interest from William Penn and Southern Nazarene University.
“I hope they get an opportunity at the next level,” Gilbert said.