GUNTER — After helping the Tigers to one of the best seasons in school history, senior quarterback Ethan Everson signed his letter of intent to play for Northwestern Oklahoma State on Wednesday morning.
He picked the Division II program over Southeastern Oklahoma State and Missouri Valley.
“They had everything I needed to be successful with life in general,” Everson said. “I was looking to go play quarterback full-time. That’s what I wanted and that’s what teams saw me as.”
Everson took over the starting quarterback role from Daylan Bowler as a senior and helped the Tigers reach the Class 3A Division II state semifinals for the third straight season. Gunter finished 14-1 with a loss against Canadian to keep the Tigers from reaching the state title game for the third year in a row.
“Even when Daylan left, I had to compete. Just because I was the senior quarterback, that doesn’t mean anything,” Everson said.
He completed 90-of-161 passes for 1,457 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions, ran 91 times for 536 yards and seven touchdowns and also caught a 17-yard TD pass. Everson was the Co-Offensive Player of the Year in District 5-3A (II) as the Tigers earned their third straight district crown. He also contributed on defense in the secondary.
Northwestern Oklahoma State went 4-7, both overall and in the Great American Conference, this past fall. On the roster were Gunter’s Jesse Harris, Denison’s Qua’Shawn Gray, Pottsboro’s Myles Mitchusson and Gainesville’s Calion Baker.
“They told me I had an option to compete right away,” Everson said. “That kinda caught my eye. They said they could see me being a starter.”
Grier picks William Jewell
TOM BEAN — Throughout his four-year varsity career, Tom Bean’s Bryce Grier made an impact on both sides of the ball. While he was a mainstay in the Tomcats secondary there was a little less certainty to where he would line up on offense but he produced whether it was at quarterback or wide receiver.
There were years where he bounced back and forth at both spots, including his senior season. The versatility helped lead him to signing with William Jewell College on Wednesday, picking the Division II program in Missouri over Southern Nazarene.
“It felt like home and I like the city,” Grier said. “A lot of schools were recruiting me because I was a good athlete. Even the defensive coaches were trying to get me to be a DB for them.”
Grier caught 32 passes for 535 yards for nine touchdowns, ran 64 times for 207 yards and eight touchdowns and completed 55-of-96 passes for 724 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also had three more TDs via special teams and defense as the Tomcats returned to the playoffs and finished 5-6.
“Whatever was best for the team,” Grier said.
Grier was a first-team all-district selection at receiver and defensive back, the third-straight year he was first-team all-district at both positions. He also was looking at potentially playing basketball in college but went with football. He is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last month.
“When I got hurt I told the coaches recruiting me that I tore my ACL. They all said they still wanted me,” Grier said. “I can take a red-shirt year and be ready to go. They were talking about starting me as a true freshman before I got hurt.”
William Jewell went 1-9 overall and 1-6 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference this past season.
Bells duo signs
BELLS — A pair of Panther standouts signed their letters of intent to play at the next level after being part of the most successful run in program history.
Senior quarterback Bryan Ponder was a record-setting quarterback for Bells while Cire Luster made his mark on defense the past two seasons for the Panthers.
Bells went 4-7 as it moved up to Class 3A Division II in the latest realignment. The Panthers were fourth in the District 9-3A (II) standings and lost in the bi-district round to Big Sandy Harmony and made the playoffs each of the past five seasons, which is a school record.
“It’s an honor to realize you’ve raised the bar and the standards,” Ponder said.
Ponder completed 217-of-384 passes for 2,824 yards and 33 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and also ran for four scores as the District 9-3A (II) Offensive Player of the Year.
Ponder finished his career with 839 completions in 1,278 attempts, both sixth all-time in Texas high school history, 10,575 yards, which is 12th all-time, and 114 touchdown passes, which is just outside the top 15.
“It’s hard to really grasp, with all the kids that have played to be in the top 10,” Ponder said. “I have had really great teammates and coaches to be able to do that.”
He was named the Associated Press Class 2A Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, when he also set the single-game touchdown passing record with 11, and was 308-of-425 passing for 4,093 yards and 50 touchdowns with 14 interceptions and also ran for three TDs. Stamford’s Peyton Bevel broke the mark with 12 this past season.
As a sophomore he completed 314-of-467 passes for 3,659 yards for 31 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with five rushing touchdowns.
Luster transferred from Grapevine and as a junior was fourth on the team with 49 tackles to go with two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries at defensive back. As a senior he was seventh on the team with 55 tackles and recovered a pair of fumbles as an honorable mention all-district selection for the second consecutive season. He also chipped in on offense with 28 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns and five catches for 80 yards.
His future will be on the offensive side of the ball as a wide receiver.
Ponder signed with Navarro College while Luster signed with Texas Wesleyan on Wednesday. Ponder chose the junior college program over Concordia while Luster picked the NAIA school over Concordia and Hardin-Simmons.
“Most of the schools I talked to were outside Texas,” Luster said. “I wanted to stay close to family, because family is important to me. College isn’t just for playing football. I want to go for business administration and they have a really good program.”
Navarro College went 6-5 this past season, reaching the Southwest Junior College Football Conference semifinals before losing against Hutchinson (Kan.) in the Salt City Bowl. It was the first loss in six bowl appearances for the program.
The Bulldogs have had a winning season every year since 2005, including a national title in 2010, and were ranked 17th in the National Junior College Athletic Conference poll in 2017 and were ninth in the country the season prior.
“They take football real serious down there. I thought it would be real awesome to be a part of that,” Ponder said. “I see myself red-shirting the first year. They have some really good quarterbacks right now.”
Texas Wesleyan went 2-8 this past fall and 2-6 in the Sooner Athletic Conference. Whitesboro’s Bradley Klingler was on the roster last season.
Howe trio signs
HOWE — Three standout Howe athletes signed their letters of intent to continue their athletic careers on Wednesday afternoon.
Mason Riggs is headed to Bethany College (Kan.) for both football and baseball while Bryce Krantz chose Southeastern Oklahoma State for baseball and Calley Vick selected the University of Texas-Permian Basin for soccer.
Riggs has played both running back and defensive back for the Bulldogs and was an honorable mention all-district selection as a junior.
In baseball, he was the district’s Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore and was a second-team all-district pick as an outfielder last spring.
He chose the NAIA program over football interest from Austin College, Texas A&M-Commerce and Texas Lutheran. Bethany was the first to show interest in him for baseball.
“Their pitching coach called me and he asked what he needed to do to get me to visit,” Riggs said. “I went down and I loved it. Pulled the trigger right there.”
Once he was in the fold for baseball, the idea of also playing football was on the table.
“My big dream was to not have to choose,” Riggs said. “They’re on board with me playing both. That was a big factor. The work that comes with getting ready for each sport, I think that’s what I do best.”
Bethany went 2-9 overall and 2-8 in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference action in football this past fall and was 12-10 on the baseball diamond last spring
Krantz was a second-team all-district selection as an infielder last season.
He chose the Storm, a Division II program, over Grayson College, Hendrix, Schreiner University and New Orleans.
“It really just felt like home when I stepped on campus,” Krantz said. “I wanted to be close to my family too.”
Southeastern Oklahoma State went 22-23 last season with a 17-15 record in the Great American Conference.
“I had a couple of pitching-only offers but I wanted to hit and play the field as well,” Krantz said.
While Howe does not have a soccer team, Vick has showcased her ability with her club team, North Texas Celtic, which is based out of Sherman, for the past seven years.
Vick has predominantly been a defender but her future will be in the midfield.
She chose UTPB, a Division II program, over Tabor College, Incarnate Word, Central Baptist and Angelo State.
“When I met the team was a big, big factor. I wanted that right team environment,” Vick said. “They have girls that want to work hard.”
In her high school career she became the first female member of the football team, serving as the kicker the past two seasons, as well as playing basketball, running track and as a member of the state qualifying golf team.
“Playing the other sports definitely helped my soccer career,” Vick said. “This was all helping be better for my main focus with soccer.”
UT-Permian Basin went 2-15 this past season and 1-11 in the Lone Star Conference.