Missouri’s top high school football players: Meet the state’s best wide receivers

By Jon Walker

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Missouri high school football. This list focuses on the wide receivers. (Quarterbacks | Running backs)

There are hundreds of standout football players in Missouri, and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive. Let us know about any other wide receivers worthy of fans’ attention in 2021.

Lincoln Sprouse photo courtesy of Summit Christian Academy

Arhmad Branch, 6-0, 160, Jr., Festus

Festus hasn’t had the season it’s wanted so far, heading into the final week of the regular season 4-4, but the lack of success isn’t due to Branch. The junior wideout, who holds the program’s record for most receiving yards in a single season, is averaging 102.5 yards per game this season. The wideout had 28 catches for 820 yards and seven touchdowns, including a breakout performance of seven catches for 211 yards and two scores during a 34-29 win against Hillsboro Sept. 24. He’s also a star on the hardwood, coming off of a winter in which he was named an All-State point guard. 

PJ Behan, 6-2, 180, Sr., MICDS

Behan has been one of the offense’s driving forces behind MICDS’s 8-0 start to the season. The senior is averaging 21.2 yard per catch this season en route to a statline that includes 805 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns on 38 catches. During a 59-52 win against Park Hills Central Sept. 3, he had a career-best performance when he reeled in 12 catches for 280 yards and five touchdowns. The senior is committed to Brown University to pursue lacrosse. Also, Behan holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest 20-meter backwards crab walk. 

“I think it’s the way he competes each play with a great sense of intensity and urgency that makes him special,” MICDS coach Fred Bouchard said. “The amount of yards he gains after first contact is extraordinary which is what I think sets him apart from many receivers in state.”

Gavin Marsh, 6-0, 170, Jr., Marquette

En route to Marquette being 7-1 heading into the final week of the regular season, Marsh has caught 28 passes for 778 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. One of the most explosive receivers in the state, averaging 27.8 yards per reception, the junior is good for 97.3 yards per contest. His most notable game of the season was during Marquette’s 35-6 win against Parkway North Sept. 10, when he had a season-best 170 yards receiving and two scores on just four receptions.

Kevin Coleman, 5-11, 170, Sr., St. Mary’s (St. Louis)

The St. Mary’s senior — who has 35 Division I offers from schools such as Florida State, USC, Alabama, Arizona State, Oregon, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn and Iowa — has reeled in 17 catches for 357 yards receiving and three scores. That hasn’t been the only position he’s played this fall, though, as he’s carried the ball 29 times for 241 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He’s also played a little bit of quarterback, going 4-of-13 for 86 yards and two touchdown passes. He, of course, is still effective as a receiver, having seven catches for 134 yards and three scores during a 42-0 win against Cardinal Ritter Oct. 9.

Devin Blayney, 5-10, 160, Sr., Lee’s Summit North

Blayney has been the No. 1 target of Tre Baker, one of the best quarterbacks in the Kansas City area. That’s resulted in the senior putting together a farewell campaign that included 32 catches, 521 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. His most notable performance of this fall came when the Broncos took down powerhouse Raymore-Peculiar with a 41-14 triumph Sept. 17, a game that featured Blayney having 61 yards receiving and three scores on seven catches. “Devin is an outstanding receiver. He has amazing hands, and his ball skills are second to no one. Devin has solid speed that allows him to separate from defenders, and he’s deceptively strong, which makes him hard to tackle after the catch,” Broncos coach Jamar Mozee said. “He is definitely someone we depend on to make plays every Friday night for us.”

Jackson Smith, 5-9, 180, Sr., Holt (Wentzville)

The No. 1 target of Cooper Brown, one of Missouri’s best quarterbacks, Smith has terrorized opposing defenses this fall. The senior has caught more passes this season than most other wideouts in the state, reeling in 54 of them for 583 yards and 10 touchdowns. The two-time all-state receiver currently holds offers from Southwest Baptist University, Morningside University, Culver-Stockton and Benedictine University. His standout performance in 2021 came during Holt’s 28-24 win against Troy Buchanan Sept. 8, when he had 165 yards and two scores on 15 catches. He’s also a threat in special teams, as he has two returns for touchdowns. 

Jobe Bryant, 6-0, 160, So., Park Hills Central

Park Hills Central is heading into its regular-season finale with a record of 7-1, with the lone blemish being courtesy of undefeated MICDS, and the success has been in part due to the sophomore wideout. Bryant, a basketball star who already has an offer from Division I school Texas State, has caught 34 passes for 768 yards and 10 touchdowns this fall, good enough for 96 yards per contest. During a 69-26 win against University City Oct. 15, Bryant had six catches for 95 yards and three scores. “Jobe Bryant is an amazing talent,” coach Kory Schweiss said. “He is only a sophomore but plays like a senior. He makes plays every time he touches the ball.” 

Derek Brandt, 6-2, 185, Sr., Owensville

Brandt has made the most of his receptions this season, scoring on over 25% of his touches. The wideout has reeled in 40 catches for 11 touchdowns and 694 yards en route to Owensville’s 6-2 start to this fall. He’s an effective rusher as well, carrying the ball 14 times for 221 yards rushing and two scores. In his breakout performance of the season, Brandt caught five passes for 120 yards receiving and three touchdowns during a 60-11 win against St. James Sept. 17. 

Kameron Gillespie, 6-0, 180, Sr., McClure

McCluer has rolled to a 7-1 record heading into the final week of the regular season, and Gillespie scoring on more than 50% of his catches has been a key part in that. The senior has scored 12 times on just 22 receptions for 582 yards. He’s one of the most explosive wideouts in the state, averaging 26.5 yards per reception. He has maximized his opportunities this season, and that was evident during McCluer’s 80-38 win against University City Sept. 18, when he had three catches for 143 yards receiving and three touchdowns. He’s also been notable in the ground game, carrying the ball 12 times for 215 yards (17.9 yards/carry) and three scores. 

Tyler Macon,  5-11, 175, Jr., Kirkwood

Macon, despite playing in an offense with one of the best running backs in the state, has found his niche. The junior has been a go-to target when Kirkwood’s offense elects to pass, and he’s shown that with his 33 catches for 537 yards and nine touchdowns. Despite a 48-29 loss to Hazelwood Central Sept. 28, Macon had a season-best performance with 10 catches for 113 yards receiving and two scores.

Kevon Jacobs, 5-9, 170, Sr., Lutheran North

The senior entered this fall on the heels of a junior campaign that warranted an honor of second-team All-State. That momentum has carried over into his final year of high school, as Jacobs had tallied 630 yards receiving and six touchdowns on 37 receptions, averaging 17.4 yards per catch. Despite Lutheran North’s 53-39 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas in Week 3, the senior had a career-best performance that included 10 catches, 222 yards receiving and two scores. “Kevon Jacobs is an explosive slot WR that runs with great power and speed,” Lutheran North coach Kyle Wagner said. “He can beat you vertical or catch it short and go the distance.”

Armand Russell, 6-2, 170, Jr., Center (Kansas City)

Russell, one of the best receivers in the Kansas City metro area, has helped lead the Yellowjackets to 5-2 record this fall. He’s averaged 119 yards per game, catching 38 passes for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns. In one of Center’s two losses, a 42-41 defeat courtesy of Odessa Oct. 8, the junior had nine catches for 201 yards receiving and three scores. 

Joshua Manning, 6-3, 190, Jr., Lee’s Summit

The Tigers haven’t had the season they hoped for before the year began, but the success they have found is in part because of Manning. They’ll enter Week 9 with a 3-5 record, but the wideout has reeled in 54 catches for 759 yards and eight scores. His breakout performance on his junior campaign happened during a 56-14 win against Central (St. Joseph) Sept. 8, when Manning had eight catches for 193 yards receiving and three touchdowns. 

Lincoln Sprouse, 6-4, 165, Sr., Summit Christian Academy

Sprouse has played a key part in the Eagles heading into Week 9 with a 7-1 record, with the lone blemish this fall being a 35-21 loss to Lafayette County Sept. 17. The wideout has had a well-put-together swan song for his final high school season, catching 35 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns. During a 21-20 win against Warrensburg in Week 8, Sprouse had 158 yards and a score on nine catches. 

“Lincoln is a very talented receiver with outstanding ball skills. This year he has seemed to come up with the “big” catch in crucial situations to help us win,” Summit coach Todd Berck said. “A deceptive route runner and great hands make him tough to defend.”

Mudia Reuben, 6-3, 190, Sr., Park Hill South

The senior has been the featured wideout on one of the best programs that Missouri’s Class 6 has to offer. He is the owner of 22 Division I offers, including notable programs like Stanford, Missouri, Iowa State, Notre Dame, Kansas State and Vanderbilt. This season, he’s racked up 658 yards and eight touchdowns on just 30 catches. During a 22-7 win against Staley Oct. 1, he was the difference in the matchup, reeling in four catches for 104 yards and two scores.

Bubba Bogart, 6-2, 170, Sr., Oak Park

The senior has been part of a program that hasn’t found too much success, heading into Week 9 with a 3-5 record this fall. Despite all of that, Bogart has been able to find his groove, scoring on roughly 30% of his receptions, as he’s compiled a statline of 24 catches, 518 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. During a 48-21 win against Central (St. Joseph) Oct. 1, Bogart had three catches for 172 yards and two scores. 

Chase Porter, 6-1, 170, Jr., North Kansas City

The Hornets have been able to hang with some powerhouse programs this season despite their 3-5 record, including only a 7-0 loss to Park Hill South in Week 7. Porter has been a massive part in that, reeling in 35 catches for 527 yards receiving and six scores. His five catches for 192 yards receiving and three touchdowns was a massive part en route to North Kansas City handing Fort Osage a 29-13 loss Sept. 10 — Osage’s only loss of the season thus far. 

Kannen Turley, 6-0, 190, Sr., Jackson

One half of perhaps the most dynamic receiving duo in Missouri, Turley has brought in 34 catches for 680 yards and eight touchdowns en route to Jackson’s 8-0 record, an undefeated streak that’s carried over from last season’s state-title-winning team. During a 50-32 win against Poplar Bluff Sept. 10, Turley had a season-best performance with seven catches 192 yards receiving and three touchdowns. “He’s a physical blocker and does a great job high-pointing the ball as a receiver,” Jackson coach Brent Eckley said. “He continues to work on his craft of running clean routes.”

Isaiah Davis, 5-11, 170, Jr., Jackson

Davis is the other half of Jackson’s wideout tandem, and the coverage Kannen Turley draws has allowed him to be the beneficiary of a lot of touchdowns, including more than anybody on this list. The junior has scored 13 times on 28 catches for 439 yards receiving. He’s had multi-touchdown performances in 5-of-8 games so far, including a four-catch, 116-yard, two-score breakout during Jackson’s 50-7 win against Sikeston Sept. 24. He runs screens well and has continually improved at blocking,” Jackson coach Brent Eckley said. “He’s made several great catches this season.”

Keltin Nitsche, 6-2, 170, Sr., Smithville

Nitsche has played a key part in an 8-0 start for the Warriors, who are the frontrunners to win Missouri’s Class 4. The senior wideout has reeled in 36 catches for 513 yards receiving and six scores. During a 42-3 win against Grain Valley in Week 1, Nitsche had nine catches for 173 yards and two scores, effectively setting the tone for the season he’s in the middle of. 

Caden Dennis, 6-2, 170, Sr., Liberty

En route to Liberty carrying a 5-3 record while trudging through the grueling Suburban Red Conference, Dennis has caught 29 passes for 521 yards and five touchdowns. He hasn’t slowed down at any point, either, showing his effectiveness with a four-catch, 164-yard, two-score outing during the Blue Jays’ 59-30 win against Rock Bridge Oct. 1.

Michael Lane, 6-2, 160, So., Winnetonka

Lane has been able to do it all for the Griffins, who will carry a 5-3 record into their Week 9 matchup with undefeated Smithville. Just a sophomore, the wideout has compiled 570 yards receiving and six touchdowns on 28 catches. He also has two interceptions while playing defensive back this year. His breakout performance of the fall came during a 47-21 win against Capital City Oct. 15, when he had six catches for 180 yards receiving and two scores. “Mike is a very talented receiver. He has a natural gift that he has been working to improve on,” Griffins coach Benny Palmer said. “Mike is a competitor, and it shows every time he lines up.”

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