The most dominant defenders and explosive offensive playmakers throughout Texas high school football are hitting their strides as teams across the state look to lock up postseason berths in the coming weeks.
The brightest stars from every corner of the Lone Star State have begun making their cases on the field for the 2021 Texas High School Football Player of the Year award, presented annually to the most outstanding player in the state.
Here are 50 players throughout the state who have separated themselves from the pack during the first seven weeks of the season as SBLive’s leading candidates for the annual award:
Players listed in alphabetical order.
SBLIVE’S LEADING CANDIDATES FOR TEXAS FOOTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Junior WR Lonnie Adkism, Corpus Christi Miller (4A DI)
Adkism has hauled in 48 receptions for 738 yards and a pair of touchdown catches in six games so far this fall for the Buccaneers.
Senior RB/WR/DB DJ Allen, Gladewater (3A DI)
Allen has run 51 times for 490 yards and five touchdowns and snagged nine receptions for 158 yards so far this season. He also threw for 401 yards and a touchdown on 30-of-64 passing and tallied 12 tackles, three pass deflections, a fumble recovery and a sack in the Bears’ first six games.
Senior DB/WR Dillon Bell, Houston Kinkaid (SPC)
Senior RB/CB Robert Briggs, Bellville (4A DI)
Briggs has rushed 40 times for 610 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught nine passes for 271 yards and five TDs in six victories for the unbeaten Brahmas this season offensively. He has nine tackles, a pass deflection and an interception so far defensively too.
Senior DL/RB Doug Brooks, Shiner (2A DI)
Senior DE/OLB Derrick Brown, Texarkana Texas High (5A DII)
Senior QB Michael Cisneros, Mercedes (5A DI)
Cisneros has thrown for 21 touchdown passes and 1,723 yards on 111-of-147 passing in the Tigers’ first seven games this year. He has also run for 413 yards and six TDs on 64 carries.
Senior RB Ernest Davila, Poteet (3A DI)
Davila has rushed 138 times this fall for 1,473 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground in seven games for the Aggies. He has also caught eight passes for 172 yards and a receiving score, logged six pancakes as a blocker and 267 yards and a special teams touchdown on 11 combined kick and punt returns.
Junior RB Seth Davis, Katy (6A)
Davis ran 120 times for 1,157 yards and 11 rushing TDs in the unbeaten Tigers’ first seven games of the season.
Senior WR/DB Cameron De La Pena, Corpus Christi Veterans (5A DI)
De La Pena leads the Coastal Bend with 34 receptions so far this season for 421 yards and seven touchdowns and has also been one of the Corpus Christi area’s special teams standouts with 259 yards and a touchdown return on a combined 10 kick and punt returns in seven games for the Eagles. He has chipped in defensively too with 19 tackles, five interceptions, three pass deflections and a pick-six TD this fall.
Senior QB Drew Dickey, Austin Regents (TAPPS DII)
Sophomore QB Alexander Franklin, Lucas Lovejoy (5A DII)
Franklin has thrown for 1,580 yards and 27 passing TDs on 95-of-144 passing six games into his tenure as the Leopards’ starting quarterback this fall.
Senior QB Rene Galvan, Sinton (4A DII)
Galvan has thrown for 768 yards and nine touchdowns on 51-of-99 passes and rushed 94 times for 789 yards and 13 rushing TDs in six games for the Pirates.
Senior RB DeAnthony Gatson, Newton (3A DII)
Gatson has rushed for 914 yards and seven TDs on the ground off 118 carries and scored eight times on successful two-point conversion attempts through five games this season for the Eagles.
Senior WR Matthew Golden, Klein Cain (6A)
Golden has snagged 47 passes for 893 yards and nine touchdowns through the air and run for 30 yards on four carries for the Hurricanes in seven games this fall.
Senior RB/QB Ollie Gordon, Euless Trinity (6A)
Gordon has rushed 113 times for 1,131 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Trojans in six contests this year. He has thrown 293 yards and three TDs on 14-of-28 passing too in limited action at quarterback.
Senior DB Jaylon Guilbeau, Port Arthur Memorial (5A DI)
Senior DB Denver Harris, Galena Park North Shore (6A)
Junior LB/RB Anthony Hill Jr, Denton Ryan (5A DI)
Hill has tallied 58 tackles, 13 TFLs, six sacks, three fumble recoveries, two defensive TDs, an interception and a pass deflection seven games into the Raiders’ regular-season schedule. He has also run for 79 yards and three rushing scores on 21 carries offensively.
Senior DT Anthony “AJ” Holmes Jr, Spring Westfield (6A)
Holmes leads the Houston area with 11 sacks, 55 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a 5-yard interception return for a defensive touchdown in six games for the Mustangs this year. (Holmes pictured in featured photo above by Andrew McCulloch)
Senior QB Josh Hoover, Rockwall Heath (6A)
Hoover has tossed 21 touchdown passes and racked up 1,797 yards through the air on 101-of-148 passing for the Hawks. He also ran for a touchdown and 8 yards on two carries in Heath’s first six games.
Senior WR Jordan Hudson, Garland (6A)
Hudson has secured 38 receptions for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air six games into the Owl’s 2021 campaign.
Sophomore QB Brad Jackson, Cypress Creek (6A)
Jackson has been one of the top gunslingers in 6A this season for the Cougars, racking up 2,100 yards and 26 TDs through the air and nearly 200 yards on the ground as well as a rushing touchdown through seven games.
Senior RB/WR Ashton Jeanty, Frisco Lone Star (5A DI)
Jeanty has rushed for 896 yards and 19 touchdowns on 102 carries and caught 24 passes for 470 receiving yards and nine TDs through six games for the Rangers.
Senior WR/DB Jordan Kelley, Refugio (2A DI)
Senior LB Ben Klar, San Antonio Marshall (6A)
Klarr has been the San Antonio area’s most prolific tackler with 128 tackles through the Rams’ first seven contests. He has also recorded four fumble recoveries, two TFLs, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections and an interception this season.
Senior QB Cade Klubnik, Austin Westlake (6A)
Klubnik has completed 95 of 134 passes for 1,476 yards and 20 touchdowns in six games for the unbeaten Chaparrals. He has also added 196 yards and six rushing touchdowns on 33 carries.
Junior QB Ryder Lambert, Stephenville (4A DI)
Lambert has thrown for 1,760 and 22 TDs on 105-of-159 passing through six games for the unbeaten Yellow Jackets. He has also run for 434 yards and five touchdowns on 50 carries.
Senior QB Chris Lee, Azle (5A DI)
In six games for the Hornets this fall, Lee has thrown for 1,508 yards and 22 touchdowns on 84-of-137 passing and rushed for 106 yards on 26 carries.
Senior QB Braedyn Locke, Rockwall (6A)
Locke has rushed for two scores and completed 126 of 196 pass attempts for 2,031 yards and 18 touchdown throws to lead the DFW in passing yardage through the Yellowjackets’ first seven games this year.
Senior RB Ismail Mahdi, Plano East (6A)
Mahdi has racked up 1,254 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground off 151 carries so far this fall for the Panthers.
Senior WR Chris Marshall, Fort Bend Marshall (5A DII)
Marshall has caught 10 passes for eight receiving TDs and 299 yards in four appearances for the undefeated Buffaloes in 2021.
Senior RB Damien Martinez, Lewisville (6A)
Martinez has run for 844 yards and 12 rushing TDs on 83 carries and caught two passes for 75 yards in five appearances for the Farmers so far this season.
Senior QB Owen McCown, Rusk (4A DII)
McCown has picked up 16 passing touchdowns and 1,646 yards through the air while completing 125 of 185 passes through six games for the Eagles this year. He has rushed 46 times for 232 yards and five scores too.
Junior QB Jesse Medina, Buda Johnson (5A DI)
Medina has thrown for 1,489 yards and 18 touchdowns on 76-of-115 passing and added 378 rushing yards and five TDs on 65 carries for the Jaguars so far through six games this year.
Senior RB/WR Dareion Murphy, Floresville (5A DII)
Murphy has tallied 753 yards and 12 TDs on the ground off 85 carries and 161 yards and a score through the air on six receptions for the Tigers in their first six games.
Junior QB Austin Novosad, Dripping Springs (5A DI)
Novosad leads Class 5A Division quarterbacks in passing yards (1,874) and passing touchdowns (28) while completing 109 of 166 throws six games into this season for the Tigers.
Senior QB Alex Orji, Sachse (6A)
Orji has rushed for more yards than any other quarterback in the DFW after running for 809 yards and 17 touchdowns on 92 carries in the Mustangs’ first seven games. He has also picked up 1,638 yards and 17 TDs through the air on 92-of-171 passing so far this year.
Junior RB/DB Rueben Owens, El Campo (4A DI)
Owens has run for 1,324 yards and 21 touchdowns on 105 carries in six games for the Ricebird. He has also thrown for 50 yards and two TD passes on 2-of-5 passing and caught six passes for 97 yards this year.
Senior RB/WR/DB Jeremy Patton, Tenaha (2A DII)
Patton has recorded 541 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground off 33 carries in addition to 135 yards and a touchdown throw on 2-of-2 passing and four catches for 69 yards and a receiving score. He has also tallied 56 tackles, a pair of TFLs and a sack defensively in six games this fall for the Tigers.
Junior FS/RB Dawson Pendergrass, Mineola (3A DI)
Pendergrass has rushed for 1,066 yards and 12 touchdowns on 90 carries and excelled as a defender in five appearances for the Yellowjackets with 28 tackles, five interceptions, four pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a field goal block. He has also caught five passes for 160 yards and a receiving touchdown, and thrown for 61 yards and a score on 6-of-16 passing.
Senior LB/RB Harold Perkins, Cypress Park (6A)
Perkins has run for 762 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns and caught three passes for 64 yards and a pair of receiving TDs in six contests for the undefeated Tigers so far this season. He has also been responsible for eight tackles, three TFLs, two sacks and a forced fumble defensively this year.
Junior QB Mason Shorb, Leander Rouse (5A DII)
Shorb has racked up 2,244 yards and 31 passing TDs, both of which lead all QBs in Class 5A Division II, on 121-of-170 passing for the Raiders seven games into the season. He has also rushed for 4 yards and three scores on the ground.
Junior QB Jake Strong, Justin Northwest (5A DI)
Strong has thrown for 1,301 yards and 18 touchdowns on 105-of-166 passing and run for an additional 496 yards and five rushing TDs on 66 carries for the Texans in the first six games of their 2021 campaign.
Senior QB Brandon Tennison, Gilmer (4A DII)
Tennison has completed 92 of 139 passes for 1,421 yards and 14 touchdowns and run 36 times for 201 yards and a rushing score in six games for the Buckeyes.
Senior QB Conner Weigman, Cypress Bridgeland (6A)
Weigman has thrown for 1,652 yards and 15 touchdowns on 110-of-171 passing in five games for the Bears. He has also run for 436 yards and five rushing TDs on 62 carries and caught three passes for 62 yards and two receiving scores.
Senior RB Noelle Whitehead, Lake Highlands (6A)
Whitehead has rushed 109 times this year for 1,134 yards and 13 touchdowns and snagged eight catches for 116 yards and a receiving score.
Junior WR Louis Williams, Conroe (6A)
Williams caught 36 passes for 746 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns in the Tigers’ first six games of the season.
Senior RB/DB Xavier Wishert, Tuscola Jim Ned (3A DI)
Wishert rushed for 1,152 yards and 14 touchdowns on 113 carries in six games this year for the undefeated Indians. He has also caught three passes for 50 yards and a receiving TD and tacked on 37 tackles, five TFLs, two pass deflections, an interception, sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery defensively.
Senior RB Makhilyn Young, Midland Legacy (6A)
Young has tallied 1,167 yards and 21 rushing TDs on 171 carries for the Rebels through six games this fall. He has also caught 13 passes for 118 receiving yards and returned five kickoffs for 183 yards.