PLANO— Six Texas high school football players have been recognized for their performances in week three of the 2017 Built Ford Tough Texas High School Football Player of the Week program — including Waxahachie's Byse Salik.
In its 12th consecutive year, Ford Motor Company’s Player of the Week program honors six outstanding student-athletes each week of the regular season, recognizing one player in each of the state’s six athletic classifications. The winners are chosen for athletic achievements on the field, as well as for outstanding scholarship and community involvement. These players are the embodiment of Ford’s Go Further commitment.
This week’s winning athletes join a long list of exceptional players recognized for their extraordinary efforts.
Week 3 Winners
Class 6A: Tyler Vitt, Sr., Quarterback, San Antonio MacArthur
When San Antonio MacArthur dropped its first two games, Head Coach Ben Cook knew he needed to do something to spruce up the Brahmas’ no-huddle spread offense. His answer: add a read-option wrinkle and more Tyler Vitt. It was the right answer. The 6-2, 205-pound senior led MacArthur to a 49-27 win over previously unbeaten San Antonio Warren last Saturday.
Here’s the proof: Vitt rushed for 237 yards and four touchdowns while hitting on 21 of 26 pass attempts for another 158 yards and a 31-yard TD to Ethan Gottschalk in the third quarter.
“Tyler certainly made me look good,” said Cook. "When you complete 80 percent of your passes and pick up 23 yards per carry on the ground, you’re doing something right."
The victory eases the pressure on the Brahmas who take on San Antonio Brennan on Friday night in their final non-district game.
Tyler is an ambitious student-athlete who’s looking to play on Saturday and, eventually, Sunday. So far, Davidson and Dartmouth have made offers the National Honor Society member. He’s an A-plus student in honors classes and ranks among the top 10 in his class. Despite a heavy academic load, he still finds time to play baseball and run track (200-meters and relays). He’s also involved in FCA, the Peers leadership program, his local church, and volunteers at an area food bank.
“When your best player is as good as Tyler,” continued Cook, “your life as a coach gets a lot easier. Tyler, one of our captains, is entirely selfless, always deflecting credit to his teammates. And as serious as he is about football, he probably takes his studies even more seriously.”
Class 5A: Bryse Salik, Sr., Quarterback, Waxahachie
After a pair of 6-4 seasons, Waxahachie is focused on bigger and better with senior quarterback Bryse Salik at the controls. His coach, Jon Kitna, said, “Bryse is everything we hoped he’d be as a senior.”
After a 17-year NFL career, Kitna should know.
Salik has the Indians off to a 2-1 start, marred only by a tight 32-21 loss to defending 5A, Division I champs Highland Park. In last week’s 42-28 win over Ennis, the 5-11, 190-pound signal-caller completed 25-of-his-35 passes for 409 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 24 yards.
The Lions kept it close into the fourth quarter when Salik hit Demani Richardson on a 47-yard touchdown that clinched the win. Bryse’s other scores came from 33, 49, and 14 yards.
Salik is starting his second full season at the helm of the Indians' offense, and his experience is starting to show. The Ennis game brought his season passing totals to 60 completions on 82 attempts for 736 yards and eight scores. He has also rushed for 100 yards.
A solid B student, Bryse also runs track. He’s a youth leader at The Oaks Fellowship church, performing weekly service at the church all year and becoming heavily involved in its summer camp.
“Bryse has a big arm,” said Coach Kitna, who has seen plenty of big arms along the way. “He ran track last year to improve his mobility—and it paid off. That’s now an asset for him. His work ethic is amazing. Bryse is a true student of the game and he refuses to be outworked by anyone, on the field, in the weight room, or in the film room. He’s just a good guy; he feeds teammates regularly and even houses them when it’s necessary. We coach him hard and he handles it great."
Class 4A: Hunter Oncken, Sr., Running Back, Liberty Hill
Just northwest of Austin in Liberty Hill, the schedule called for a football game last Friday night. Turns out, they got a track meet. When Liberty Hill and Brownwood crossed the finish line, the Panthers had a scoreboard-busting 70-49 victory in a game that featured total 17 TDs and 736 rushing yards just by Liberty Hill! Operating from the Panthers’ Slot T offense, the 5-10, 180-pound Oncken looked totally dominant and in control, rushing 25 times for an amazing career-high 376 yards (that’s 15 yards a pop) and touchdowns of 36, 35, and 33 yards.
Liberty Hill took a 14-point lead into halftime. And when Hunter ran 33 yards for his final score in the second half, it was, as Dandy Don Meredith used to croon, time to “turn out the lights; the party’s over!” The win raises the Panthers’ season mark to 2-0 after losing its opener to Hurricane Harvey. They’ll visit Port Lavaca Calhoun Friday night.
Hunter’s just as good off the field as he is on it. Owner of a sparkling 94 academic average, he’s on the school honor roll. He’d like to play somewhere on the college level. He’s a member of the Williamson County Cowboy Church in Liberty Hill and helps his brother coach a youth football team.
“Hunter is as good as they come,” said his head coach Jeff Walker. “He’s one of those guys who makes all of those around him better. It seems that, on the field or off it, Hunter does everything right.”
Class 3A: Kaden Cordell, Sr., Quarterback/Free Safety, Sonora
Kaden Cordell does just about everything for Sonora except play in the band at halftime. He could probably do that too. In last week’s 61-20 blowout of Junction, quarterback Cordell completed 20 of 27 passes for 309 yards and five touchdowns. Of his seven incompletions, four were receiver drops and two would have gone for 40+ yard scores. He also dominated from his spot at free safety, wisely dropping a sure interception on fourth down, which saved the Broncos 20 yards when they took possession. And all this occurred before the third quarter clock wound down to 8:00, at which point Kaden took the rest of the night off.
With Sonora off to a rousing 3-0 start, the 6-0, 175-pound two-way back is likewise off to a spectacular start, hitting on 42 of 75 passes for 790 yards and nine scores, rushing 21 times for 96 yards and two more TDs, and even returning a pick-six in the Broncos’ opener. All of which greatly pleases Sonora Head Coach Jeff Cordell who happens to be the dad to his star player.
Kaden is a superstar in the classroom as well; he has never had a grade lower than A. He ranks second in the senior class and was recently elected class president. A three-year starter in basketball, he ran on the state-qualifying 4 x 200-meter relay team last spring and qualified for districts and regionals in both the high jump and triple jump. He participates in the statewide math, computer science, and NumberSense programs, teaching the latter to middle-schoolers so they will be able to continue Sonora’s success.
“As both his coach and his father, I’m extraordinarily proud,” said Cordell. “He is the epitome of a leader and is totally aware of what it takes to be successful. He never misses a day in the summer and, as a result, makes the people around him successful too. It’s never about him, always about the team. And I think his humility makes me proud too.”
Class 2A: Kyle O’Bannon, Sr., Running Back/Linebacker/Punter, Iraan
It’s a little like that game, Where’s Waldo? Whenever Iraan takes the field, the game becomes Where’s Kyle O’Bannon?
“Kyle wears many hats for us,” said head coach Mark Kirchhoff, who led Iraan to the 2016 2-A Division II final. Last week, in a 51-28 crushing of McCamey, Kyle did most of his damage on offense, scoring all seven touchdowns for the Braves, six on runs and another on a pass. He also contributed several key tackles on defense from his linebacker position.
For the game, he carried 15 times for 269 yards, nearly 18 yards per carry. He scored from 2, 41, 19, 1 40, and 1 yards out. His scoring pass reception came from 36 yards. It came on the game’s opening series and set the tone for the night. That boosted Iraan’s record to 3-0, earning the Braves the #4 ranking in Dave Campbell’s Texas Footballs Class 2-A, Division II list. This week’s opponent, Mason, is the #3 team in the 2-A Division I roster.
O’Bannon’s then-teammate, Daryel Lozoya, was the Built Ford Tough Player of the Week in Week 10 last year.
Kyle, who holds a solid B average in the classroom, is seeking to play football or pole vaulting in college. At last year’s 2-A state track meet in Austin, O’Bannon claimed fourth place in the vault at 15-3. He’s a member of FCA and Agricultural Mechanics (he loves tinkering under truck hoods), stays involved at church and volunteers in various service projects. He also worked part-time in the oil fields last summer.
“Kyle is a four-year starter who plays wherever he can best help his team,” said Kirchhoff. “He has been our wide receiver, our slot back, and now he’s our featured running back. And he’s a tough linebacker as well. He has also become our team leader. His work ethic is tremendous and he leaves nothing on the field.”
Private Schools: Grant Gunnell, Jr., Quarterback, Houston St. Pius X
At 6-6 and 215 pounds, Houston St. Pius X’s junior quarterback Grant Gunnell already has classic pro size. Apparently, he’s well on the way to developing all the other skills a quarterback needs. Last week’s match-up with UIL 5-A College Station, a state semifinalist a year ago, provides a perfect example.
Grant completed an astounding 41 of 61 passes for 494 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 54 yards and a seventh TD. When a couple of Panther miscues allowed College Station to pull within nine in the second half, Gunnell hit on a 54-yard score to help St. Pius X pull away for a 58-41 victory.
Though Grant’s 61 passes were unusual, even for him, he generally throws the ball around 40 times a game. Gunnell became the Panthers’ starter as a freshman when the first-stringer went down with the ACL tear. As a sophomore, he threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 69 TDs. Now, as a junior, he’s rated as the nation’s No. 2 pro-style Class of 2019 quarterback by 247 Sports.
No slouch in the classroom either, Grant owns a 3.8 GPA. Though he would be the target of virtually every college in the country, he has verbally committed to Texas A&M.
“What fun it has been to watch Grant grow,” said St. Pius X Head Coach Stephen Hill, “both physically and on the field. He’s really an extension of his coaches when we have the ball. He has full authority to check off on any play. He couldn’t do that a year ago, which is a testament to his hard work and film study all summer. Grant wants to be great and he works every day toward that goal. He’s exactly what you want in a quarterback.”
Nominations are open
Students recognized by Ford Motor Company, Texas Ford dealers and the Built Ford Tough media advisory board as Players of the Week excel in three categories:
Individual performance on the field, including significant game statistics
Contribution to the team’s success through individual leadership abilities
Performance off the field, including academic success and good community citizenship
Fans, coaches and media can nominate athletes at PlayeroftheWeek.com, as well as catch up with winners, view video clips of players in action and get the latest program details.
Additionally, fans can catch all the action on Fox Sports Southwest. The network is again teaming with Ford and Texas Ford dealers to keep up with award winners through its weekly television show. Each week, television crews will travel to communities across Texas, spotlighting these players who excel on the field, in the classroom and in their communities. The half-hour Built Ford Tough Texas High School Football Player of the Week program airs Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. for 12 weeks.
About the Ford F-Series
Ford is the undisputed truck leader in Texas. Ford F-Series sets the standard for full-size pickups with leading payload, towing, interior roominess, strength and reliability. Ford is proud to recognize the Built Ford Tough Texas High School Football Players of the Week.