Blake Corn

Tahlequah senior defensive end Blake Corn pressures quarterback Tyler Joice as defensive coordinator Keith Wilson looks on during a spring practice in May at Tahlequah High School.

Blake Corn’s presence on a football field provides a lot of things for Tahlequah and head coach Brad Gilbert.

On the offensive side, he’s the focal point of the offensive line.

Defensively, he wrecks havoc by putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and making plays in the backfield.

He’s a top-shelf leader that teammates follow.

When it comes to his play as a defensive end, Gilbert didn’t hesitate to give his catalyst proper glory.

“When it comes to being blocked one on one, I just don’t know if there’s too many people that can do that [against Blake],” Gilbert said. “He puts an immense amount of pressure on an offense with just his ability to get to the quarterback. He’s made a lot of big plays for us, not just as a junior but also as a sophomore.”

Last year as a junior, Corn logged 53 tackles, 11 tackles for losses, six quarterback sacks, five hurries and had a fumble recovery.

“At crucial moments in big games he was always making big plays,” Gilbert said. “The Coweta game in his sophomore year comes to mind. He came up with two big sacks late in that game. It’s his ability, but it’s also his drive and his intensity that he plays with that allows him to perform at a high level.”

Corn is the only full-time returning starter for the Tigers on the defensive line going into 2019.

The biggest loss is Isaac Strain, who lined up opposite of Corn last year. Also gone is defensive tackle Brandon Davis, who offered a lot of size in the middle.

Strain was the other half of a perfect duo of ends in 2018. He led the team in sacks with eight and registered a pair of forced fumbles. Davis had 17 tackles, two of those for losses, and one hurry.

Hayden Napier is expected to become the regular at nose tackle after seeing time there as a junior where he recorded four tackles.

“Hayden is another guy that returns,” Gilbert said. “He played a lot at the nose position toward the end of the season. I think you’ll see his production increase.”

Juniors Justin Hitchcock and Brandon Jackson, and senior Montana Wood were the next three guys that Gilbert mentioned.

Hitchcock can play at any spot on the line, Jackson is a defensive end and Wood is a tackle.

“We’ve got some other guys that have come a long ways,” Gilbert said. “These are guys that are going to play and play a lot. We expect a lot of production from those guys. All of them are really interchangeable.”

Providing more depth, seniors Travis Davis and Joshua Swift will also see time along the line. Davis and Swift don’t have the size as the others but add more quickness.

“They’re lighter guys, smaller guys but they’re quick and very strong,” Gilbert said. “They are compact and very, very explosive players. It’s been a pleasant surprise with them. We like where they’re at and we think they’re ceiling is pretty high for their abilities.”