By: Seth McKinzie
A few days ago LL posed the question of the best football player to come out of Gravette High School during each decade the sport has been played at GHS. There are seven decades from which to choose and that is a lot of time and players.
The tendency people have is to choose the players they either grew up watching or those with who they played. It is easy for LL to point out the guys who were playing in high school in the early 1990s but those players did not play on teams that were very good. Does that mean those guys were not as good on the gridiron as players who were fortunate enough to be on teams that had a lot of success? Not necessarily. Still, there really will likely never been enough people to agree on one player as “the best” to EVER come through GHS. It is just human nature to already have favorites and that is fine.
Think about trying to compare quarterbacks in today’s style of offensive play with the guys who handed the ball off to running backs 95% of the time back in the 1950s, 1960s, and so on. That is tough to do and not something LL even wants to try and tackle (pun intended).
LL can only go back as far as the 1991 season. If someone said “you must pick the best players from that decade” the list would be something like this:
Jessie Sheppard – Mike Queen – Anthony Jones (All-State) – Wes Hendren (All-State) – Adam Vore – Sean Jones – Brandon Smith – Corey Mosher – JR Morgan – Jake Holt – Joe Gruver
Is that by any means a complete list? No, but those guys were all very good in their own right. The issue LL runs into then is which of those guys were really good players for more than one season. This is where it gets hard.
Anthony Jones moved to Gravette from Magnolia and only played one season for the Lions on the offensive line. The dude was really good, but can he be counted since he only had one season? Brandon Smith really had a great senior year. LL can’t really remember much of what he did during his junior season but that does not mean he was not effective. Memories DO fade, you know.
Mosher, as most folks know, never got to realize his full potential. As LL wrote a few years back maybe the glow of his career is polished mostly because he left us far too soon and never got to play his senior season. Even if that is the case, LL does not care. Mosher was a good player and was poised to have a really good final season at quarterback and LL still thinks with Mosher under center, Queen at tight end, and others, Gravette would have been real close to making the playoffs in 1994.
Vore, Morgan, Sean Jones all come with a bit of bias because they were LL’s teammates in the backfield. Vore and Jones rank among the best backfield duos GHS has had in the last 30 years. LL will fight you on that opinion. Vore and Morgan also played linebacker where Morgan was likely his best and most natural. However, LL still likes to believe in today’s “modern” offenses Morgan would be an outstanding H-Back as he could block, run, and had great hands.
Holt played mostly defense his sophomore year then was one of LL’s main targets at tight end/wide receiver in 1997. His senior year he had to move around and play a lot of different spots but he was tough, productive, and deserves to be mentioned among the best players from the decade.
Hendren was an all-state player and made his mark with toughness and smarts. Gruver had an absolutely monster senior season as a five-foot-nine one hundred and eighty-five pound animal at nose guard.
LL hopes readers get the point here. There are about a half dozen names LL could toss out into the 1990s argument.
The 2000s may be even harder but have to start with the two players who made all-state multiple times: Jeff Finnell and Ethan McKinzie. But even that leaves out guys like Grant McGarrah, Frankie Walburn, Levi WhiteEagle, and about a dozen others. This can be quite the exercise in futility. Just when one name seems to stand out above the rest the memory of someone else comes leaping into the mind.
With the current decade, Austin O’Brien had an absolutely monster senior year. Arguably the best season a GHS running back has ever had. He ended up having a productive freshman season at Hendrix this past Fall. But, to just throw him on the top of the list is difficult because there is a certain all-time leading rusher named Darrick Strzelecki who was a two-time 4A All-State selection and one of the best players LL has ever seen at this level of high school ball. Missing anyone? Jackson Soulé, Cedric Duarte, Cody Bullock, Kahlief Steele, Kelton McDougal, Bailey Soulé are on Line 1. Sigh.
This is tough. Will Gravette fans ever be able to agree on the best ever football players from each decade? Likely not, but it should make everyone happy there have been so many fantastic players to watch over the years.
The best part is there are still many chapters left to write and the current football team is working hard to get a few of the players into this conversation. Who will step up into this rarified air is yet to be seen but mark LL’s words…someone will.
Now, to just figure out who the best all time Lady Lions are…