By SCOTT TYLER

H-P Sports Editor



Elkhart’s Clay Yonts, Chris Yonts and Austin Evans were a three-headed monster for the Elks’ offense in 2005.

The three players combined for 3,662 yards this season as they head the 2005 Dogwood Circle First-Team Offense.

Senior Clay Yonts, a three-year starter for Elkhart, earned the honor of first-team quarterback.

“Clay has been invaluable for us over the last three years,” Elkhart head coach Doug Black said. “Anytime you have a young man who starts for you for three years, it is a big plus.”

Clay Yonts, who was a District 21-2A first-team selection, was 83-of-164 passing and had a pass completion percentage of 51 percent. He threw for 1,371 yards and eight touchdowns. He also rushed for 105 yards and three scores.

His best game of the season came against Frankston when the Elkhart signal caller threw for 199 yards and three touchdowns.

He is no stranger to the Dogwood Circle team. As a sophomore, Clay Yonts was named Newcomer of the Year, and as a junior was named to the first team.

“Clay is a skillful quarterback who has done a lot of great things at Elkhart,” Black said. “Over three years he has been a great leader and we were fortunate to have him here.”

After a 2,000-plus rushing season as a sophomore, there were some high expectations for running back Chris Yonts this year.

Chris Yonts, however, never was healthy from the beginning of the season until the end, but he still finished with a Dogwood Circle-best 1,268 yards.

“Everybody looks at Chris’ performance and calls it average because of what he did last year, but for a lot of guys it would have been a great season,” Black said. “He never was 100 percent healthy but still went out there and played as hard as he could.”

Chris Yonts, who was a District 21-2A first-team selection, carried the ball 220 times, averaged 5.8 yards a carry and scored 18 touchdowns. He also caught eight passes for 89 yards.

He was the Dogwood Circle Offensive Player of the Year last year; and had six games with over 100 rushing yards this season, including a 252-yard, four-touchdown performance against Grapeland.

“Chris is a great athlete and a division one college prospect,” Black said. “He just has to regain his form and speed for next year and he still has a chance to gain over 4,000 yards in his high school career.”

When Elkhart looked to pass the ball, Evans was the Elks’ go-to player as the junior wide receiver caught 36 passes for 829 yards, averaging 23 yards a catch.

“Austin’s greatest attributes is his drive to compete and love for the game,” Black said. “He flat out gave you 100 percent for every play.”

Evans, a first-team District 21-2A selection and Elkhart’s team MVP, caught eight touchdown passes. He had five games with over 100 receiving yards including a 154-yard, three-touchdown game against Frankston.

Evans’ season-high in catches and yards came against Arp when he had seven receptions for 181 yards.

Like Evans, Leon Mickens was a go-to receiver for Palestine and earned a first-team selection.

“Leon is a special person and a special player,” Palestine head coach Glen Tunstall said. “To me, he was the best receiver in the state of Texas.”

Mickens, a District 21-3A first-team selection, caught a Dogwood Circle-high 48 catches for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“Leon was our playmaker,” Palestine offensive coordinator Tommy Allison said. “You knew if you threw it up to him, he most likely was going to come down with it.”

Mickens, who has been named to the first team for the second straight year, had four 100-plus yard games, including a season-high 164 yards against Rusk. He also had five multi-touchdown games.

Leon also showed off his arm with a 35-yard pass against Westwood and was a dangerous kick and punt returner, accumulating 396 return yards including a 48-yard kickoff return on an attempted on-side kick in Palestine’s first playoff game against Silsbee.

“Leon has a great future in football,” Tunstall said. “I will always be a big Leon Mickens fans.”

Westwood junior Tyler Coates rounds out the first-team receiving corps.

Coates, a District 21-3A first-team selection, had 39 catches for 574 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 14.7 yards a catch.

“Tyler was our go-to guy,” Westwood head coach Shane Jones said. “He always found a way to get open, which is attributed to him running good routes.”

In a win over Kemp, Coates had four catches for 120 yards. Against Palestine, the junior receiver had five catches for 82 yards including a diving 28-yard touchdown catch.

“Tyler is a strong, physical kid and was also a good blocker,” Jones said. “Today, you have to have receivers who are good blockers.”



Paul Kennedy has been named a first-team running back after one year in a Palestine uniform.

The senior running back rushed for 930 yards and 16 touchdowns. He carried the ball 136 times for Palestine, averaging 6.84 yards a carry.



“Paul was a huge surprise all year for us,” Tunstall said. “He was a true power runner and by far one of the best backs in the area.”

Kennedy, a second-team District 21-3A pick, started the season slowly due to a thigh injury but by the time district started he got on a roll.



In Palestine’s win over Rusk, Kennedy became the Wildcats’ first running back on the season with over 100 yards, as he rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown. The next week, he rushed for 123 yards, on only five carries, and scored twice in a win over Diboll.



Kennedy, who transferred from Westwood, went back to his old stomping grounds and ran over the Panthers for 205 yards and three touchdowns.

“Paul gave us the ability to get a yard when we needed it,” Allison said. “It took multiple people to get him down and he was a big part of our running game.”

In his first playoff game, Kennedy ran wild over Silsbee, rushing for 137 yards and four touchdowns. He added a 25-yard touchdown catch as he finished the game with five touchdowns.

Creating running room on the left side of the line for Kennedy and the rest of the Wildcat running backs were offensive linemen Philip George and Allen Williams, who both are named to the first-team offensive line.

The duo helped Palestine rush for 225 yards a game and gain over 376 total yards of offense a game.

“Philip and Allen were a big reason why we had so much success on offense,” Allison said. “They worked so well together and were totally dominant on their side of the line of scrimmage.”

George, a senior and the Wildcats’ left tackle, was named to the District 21-3A first-team.

“Philip had tremendous strength and he had a desire to be good,” Tunstall said.

Williams, a senior and the Wildcats’ left guard, was named to the District 21-3A second team.

“Allen made such great improvements this year and he became a dominant lineman,” Allison said.

Westwood center Spencer Hassell earned the honor of first-team offensive lineman after helping his team rush for 165.5 yards a game and gain 342.8 total yards of offense per game.

“After moving to the shotgun offense, we had to have a center and Spencer stepped up as a senior and took the load off the younger kids,” Jones said. “Spencer is a player we are going to miss because he has the heart of a giant.”

The senior linemen, who was named as an honorable mention on the District 21-3A team, played the entire season with an ACL injury.

“Spencer had to make a sacrifice because by playing offensive linemen he had to give up playing defense,” Jones said. “He was our best defensive end, but he made the sacrifice for the team.”

Elkhart’s Jerry Verner earned the honor of first-team offensive lineman as he helped his team pile up over 303 yards of offense a game.

“Jerry is a dependable, hard working, tough guy,” Black said. “He did a really good job for us on the offensive line.”

Verner, a senior, was a three-year starter for Elkhart and was named to the District 21-2A first team.

Fairfield’s Jacob Pratt rounds out the first-team offensive line.

“Jacob is just a workhorse who started both ways for us,” Fairfield head coach David Armstrong said. “He came off the ball harder than anybody and was our most consistent offensive lineman.”

Pratt, a senior, was named to the District 18-3A first team.

He is joined on the first team by a pair of teammates who played special teams position.

Ian Burns is the first-team kicker after the junior was a perfect 12-of-12 in point-after kicks and was 3-of-4 in field goals. He was named to the District 18-3A first team.

“Ian got better and better as the season went on,” Armstrong said. “We had a lot of confidence in him with field goals and he was a weapon for us.”

Fairfield sophomore Eric Palmer is the first-team kick and punt returner. Palmer, the District 18-3A Special Teams Player of the Year, had 421 return yards.

“Eric was explosive and he saw the field well and could change direction quickly,” Armstrong said. “Since he is only a sophomore he is just going to get better and better.”

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Scott Tyler may be contacted via e-mail at styler@palestineherald.com

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