There haven’t been many moments of distress for J.D. Nolte and Tyler Jaynes — except when they’re catching their breath on the sideline.
It’s a good thing the Gatesville senior defensive backs and wide receivers don’t ever spend very long away from the field of play.
“You feel helpless like you can’t help your team out when you’re on the sidelines,” Nolte said.
On average, the Hornets duo sees more than 120 snaps each game, accounting for nearly 40 of a 48-minute contest for No. 12 Gatesville (12-0).
Jaynes and Nolte are just two of a handful of two-way players that play integral roles in what has been the program’s best season since the Hornets won the 3A state title in 2000.
The undefeated Hornets look to continue their red-hot run with a win in tonight’s Divison II-3A regional against Monahans (8-4) at 7:30 p.m. at Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium.
Gatesville averages about 160 snaps per game, according to head coach Kyle Cooper, with Jaynes and Nolte on the field for 75 percent of the plays — be it on offense, defense or special teams.
“It’s not always easy. You get tired — a lot — but you just have to go out there and go your hardest all the time,” said Nolte, who plays every snap on both defense and special
teams and then appears in around half the offensive snaps as a slot receiver. “You can’t let (tiredness) stop you.”
Of course, there are those lucky few who can ride out a game on nothing but adrenaline. Not that it doesn’t catch up to them once that final whistle sounds.
“Honestly, I have a lot of adrenaline going through my body during the game, so I don’t really get tired — I get winded at times — but it’s not tired, I’m ready to go the whole game,” said Jaynes, who at 6-foot-3 has become the Hornets’ big-play threat on both offense and defense, rarely leaving the field except on special teams. “I don’t usually feel the tiredness until an hour and a half after the game and I crash bad.”
Joining them as multi-faceted contributors include fellow receiver/defensive back Matthew Wallace and senior Elijah Crosby, who has probably one of the toughest two-way gigs seeing major minutes at both middle linebacker and offensive tackle, among others.
Although having two-way players, especially at 3A or below, is considered the norm, it’s rare to have so many playing so many snaps at such a high level.
“Those are the guys that are making the plays when we need them too, and when the opportunity comes their way, they’re being very opportunistic,” Cooper said.
Jaynes leads the team with 786 yards and 12 touchdowns on 37 receptions (21.2 yards per catch) to go along with his one defensive touchdown, 42 tackles, 4 interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
“Walking into the task at hand, I do have a couple of big roles on defense and offense, so you just have to know how to manage them both,” Jaynes said.
Nolte’s impact has been more pronounced on defense, where he has 83 tackles (42 solo), three caused fumbles, two recovered fumbles, two interceptions and eight pass breakups as the team’s No. 1 shutdown corner.
“He’s also our special teams general, he’s the guy that plays on a majority of all the special team situations, … he’s a guy that we know we can rely on and does a ton for us,” Cooper said. “He’s just a get-it-done guy.”
While senior quarterback Cole Edmiston has garnered much of the attentionwith 45 total touchdowns and more than 3,420 yards, it’s big plays from players like Jaynes and Nolte that have guided Gatesville through the first two weeks of the playoffs. After trailing for three quarters in an area-round playoff game last Friday, as furious Vernon trimmed the Hornets’ lead to 12 points with less than 5 minutes left.
But there was Jaynes to snatch that opportunity out of the sky, fighting the mid-day sun to intercept a pass and set up a 65-yard touchdown run by Edmiston to prolong their season.
A similar situation happened the week before when both Nolte and Jaynes contributed pivotal game-changing plays — a recovered onside kick by Nolte and an interception return for a score by Jaynes during a 13-0 fourth-quarter swing — while also contributing a pair of touchdown receptions each on offense in a 48-28 bi-district victory over Alvarado.
“It starts in practice where you have to have a good attitude and really focus and pay attention in every practice leading up to the game,” Jaynes said. “Because once you’re in the game it comes easy whenever you’ve put in all the work in practice.”
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