Tyrel Stokes could barely contain his excitement and it almost got him kicked out of class.
Having finished his pre-calculus final, the Harker Heights senior safety was just waiting for the bell to sound when his phone buzzed with a text from position coach Jared Cruddas.
Stokes was named to the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors Class 5A All-State list released Thursday.
“I got up and started screaming, ... I almost got kicked out of class,” Stokes said. “It was amazing — it felt unreal.”
His pre-calculus teacher, Brian Davidson, didn’t mind a little show of excitement, but when several teammates started joining in, the newly-minted Class 5A second-team defensive back almost earned himself a trip to the principal’s office.
Stokes was one of eight area players earning 5A all-state honors, joining fellow second-teamer Temple junior linebacker Dominick Thompson and Heights senior linebacker Naashon Hughes, who was one of six area players named as honorable mentions.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s an honor. All the great players have been all-state wherever they came from,” Stokes said.
Along with Stokes, Hughes helped captain the senior-laden Harker Heights defense that helped carry the injury-plagued Knights to the program’s first playoff appearance since 2006, finishing with 74 tackles (36 solo), 19 for loss, two fumble recoveries and a single-season school record 7 sacks.
Stokes, a 6-foot, 175-pound prospect, already has offers from Incarnate Word, Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist — which will join the Southland Confernce for football in 2014 — and later Thursday received an offer from Stephen F. Austin.
Stokes’ tenacity to fly to the ball helped the second-year player rack up 140 tackles (falling just four shy of the single-season school record), including leading the team with 87 solo tackles, 21 for loss, 28 assists (11 more than the next closest teammate), four sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Stokes also broke the Knights’ career tackles record with 252 tackles and twice finished with a school-record 20 tackles in a game this past season.
“It was just my motor, I guess, trying to make every play,” he said.
Joining Hughes on the honorable mention list were Copperas Cove senior center Justin Greene, Killeen junior tailback Daniel McCants, Shoemaker senior tailback Johnny Jefferson, Temple senior offensive tackle Freddie Johnson, and Syracuse-committed Temple quarterback Zach Allen.
Despite earning honorable mention consideration on the All-District 8-5A list, Thompson’s production more than warranted a second look on the all-state list after totaling 123.5 tackles (95 solo), 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles to lead the Wildcats (6-4, 4-3 8-5A).
“Just because we didn’t put up the numbers defensively, he’s a guy that I thought really got overlooked (at the district meeting),” Temple head coach Mike Spradlin said.
Led by Allen, who threw for 2,175 yards and ran for 941 yards, and the 6-2, 298-pound Johnson, who’s committed to SMU, Temple averaged 531 yards and 36.8 points per game. Allen had 18 passing touchdowns, nine rushing touchdowns and threw just four interceptions.
“We’re not setting the world on fire yet, but we are talking about a kid (Allen) when he was a sophomore that won one football game — one district game,” Spradlin said. “He’s won nine district games since then and 12 games (total) since then. He was a big part of why we were able to get started to get where we’re going.”
McCants was 8-5A’s leading rusher in his first season as the Roos’ feature back. The junior came into his own this season, setting Killeen’s single-season rushing record with 1,796 yards and 18 touchdowns during the regular season, averaging 8.68 yards per carry and almost 180 yards a game.
“It’s great, I never would’ve thought I would’ve done something like this,” McCants said. “I thought I got better as the year went on. I felt like I got bigger and faster, smarter, learning more.”
Jefferson, a three-year starter for the Grey Wolves, finally earned his first all-state recognition. Such a vital cog in Shoemaker’s offense, the Baylor-commit was often overlooked because the Grey Wolves were just 3-27 in his three seasons as their starting running back.
“It was very exciting because you go through three years of nothing but losing and you think everyone overlooks you because people really only care about stats, they don’t see how the whole thing equals out,” Jefferson said. “You’re just happy to see people are starting to see the potential that I have and continue to build on.”
After running for 739 yards and nine touchdowns in Shoemaker’s three nondistrict games, Jefferson finished his prep career with 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior season.
Greene anchored Copperas Cove’s offensive line and helped pave the way for the Bulldawgs to run for nearly 3,000 yards this season and average 447 yards of offense per game.
“It is just great because it shows that all the hard work is finally paying off,” Greene said.