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Rogers County football standouts earn OCA All-State honors

Jan. 27—Editor's note: Stories delving into the seasons of each All-State selectee will be published next week.

In a testament to their noteworthy performances throughout the season, three Rogers County football players have been named among the prestigious Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State selections.

The game is scheduled at 7 p.m. July 26 at a venue to be announced.

Claremore received the maximum two selections after a historic season that saw the Zebras reach the Class 5A semifinals for the first time since 1987, set the school record for points scored in a season with 483 and tie the school record for wins in a season with 11. Meanwhile, Verdigris will be represented by star receiver Tyler Willis.

Claremore's selections were the quarterback-wide receiver duo of Braxton Etheridge and Gage Deckard. Etheridge shredded opposing defenses with his passing ability, accumulating 2,877 yards passing and 31 touchdowns while completing 200 of 310 passes with only four interceptions.

Statistically, the best game of the season for the 6-foot-0, 180-pound quarterback came on Oct. 13 against Edison when he threw for 417 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-29 passing in a 35-13 win. He threw for two or more scores in nine of 13 games in 2023, reaching a season-high five touchdowns in a 62-41 victory over Oologah on Sept. 8.

In addition to his passing prowess, Etheridge rushed for 135 yards and six touchdowns. He had one 100-yard game on the ground, rushing for 104 yards and two scores on 20 carries in a 21-14 win over Collinsville on Nov. 3. He had only 54 yards rushing in the previous nine games before that performance.

According to stats entered on MaxPreps.com, Etheridge ranked sixth in the state in passing yards and seventh in passing touchdowns. It is worth noting that not every team in the state posts stats to MaxPreps, so the rankings are unofficial.

Etheridge's favorite target was Deckard, who led the state in receiving yards (1,370) and receiving touchdowns (20).

Statistically, Deckard's best games of the season came on Sept. 8 against Oologah when he hauled seven catches for 260 yards and four touchdowns, averaging a whopping 37.1 yards per reception. In all, the 6-1, 160-pound receiver tallied seven games of 100 yards receiving or more while catching multiple touchdowns in six games.

This was Deckard's second all-state honor, for he was also named to the The Oklahoman's 111th All-State football team earlier this month. He was one of two receivers selected to the roster, which is one of the most prestigious honors in the state.

Elsewhere, Willis helped the Cardinals finish 5-6 this season and reach the Class 3A playoffs for a sixth-consecutive year.

According to stats posted on MaxPreps.com, the 5-10, 175-pounder was sixth in the state in receiving yards with 1,210 yards and 13 touchdowns on 90 receptions. His 110 yards per game surpassed even that of Deckard, who averaged 105.4 YPG.

Willis' contributions went beyond receiving, though, for he also managed 339 yards and four touchdowns on 65 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. His 1,549 total yards ranked 10th in the state, according to MaxPreps.

Statistically, Willis' best game of the season came on Oct. 12 in a heartbreaking 35-32 loss to Cascia Hall. In that game, he tallied 236 total yards with 154 yards receiving and a touchdown on 14 receptions in addition to 82 yards rushing on 10 carries.

In those individual stat categories, Willis' best receiving game came in a 44-36 loss to Beggs on Sept. 15 when he caught 16 receptions for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Although he didn't notch as much yardage, his 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns on eight carries in the season opener against Sperry on Sept. 1 was perhaps his most impressive performance, averaging 9.5 YPC.

In a season full of remarkable achievements, these Rogers County players have rightfully earned their spots among the elite, showcasing the talent and dedication that define Oklahoma high school football.

As they prepare to showcase their talents on the All-State stage, their accomplishments add another chapter to the rich football legacy of Rogers County.