With the youngest six-man football team in District 12-1A, DII, the Iredell Dragons surprised frontrunners to earn all-district honors ahead of Bosque County rivals Cranfills Gap & Walnut Springs
Despite being picked to finish last in District 12-1A, Division II, the young and surprising Iredell Dragons surged in the second half of the season to capture a berth to the postseason behind district champion and state quarterfinalist Bluff Dale.
Drawing accolades for their accomplishments, Iredell freshmen Cole Heutzenroeder and Jordan Gutierrez were named the district’s co-Newcomers of the Year, while five Dragons – Heutzenroeder at running back and defensive utility, Gutierrez at running back and safety, senior center Chase Wilkerson, sophomore tight end and defensive lineman Deuce Paul and senior cornerback Preston Robinson were selected to the all-district first-team.
“I believe we represented well,” Iredell head coach Luis Guereca said. “All kids were well-deserving of their accomplishments. I’m really proud of our team, from top to bottom. Every single player improved throughout the year.”
By knocking off pre-season favorite Cranfills Gap, 86-50, in the regular season finale, the Dragons (2-1 in district, 5-6 overall) advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2018 with only two seniors and one junior on the roster, relying on four sophomores and six freshmen to step up to the varsity level.
Despite falling short of some lofty pre-season expectations, the senior-laden Cranfills Gap Lions (0-3 in district, 5-5 overall) placed four players on the all-district first-team – senior spread back Aiden Doty, senior tight end Case Koehler, senior wide receiver Haydn Kirby and junior linebacker Blake Allen.
“Overall, I was very pleased with the honors that our student athletes received,” Cranfills Gap first-year head coach Rodie Johnston. “To see these young men get acknowledged for the hard work they put in over the course of the football season is a proud moment and huge accomplishment for them.
“Coming into the season as the district favorites and having things play out the way that they did is tough. That is not to take away from how proud of the boys I am and how hard they worked and battled over the course of the season. We learned a lot this season about overcoming adversity. And while we will surely miss this great group of seniors next season, I know that the underclassmen are hungry and ready to put in the work this offseason and summer in order to come back next season stronger than ever.”
Although it looked as if the Walnut Springs Hornets (1-2 in district, 4-6 overall) were on the brink of returning to the postseason after staying home in 2021, untimely injuries took their toll on the efforts. Regardless, some young players stepped up to keep the Hornets in contention until the final game of the season.
Walnut Springs placed three players on the all-district first-team – junior Diego Muniz at utility back and defensive end, sophomore Jesse Lamb at fullback and linebacker, and sophomore Josue Ontiveros on special teams.
“The Hornets played through a great deal of adversity this year, losing several players to injury including senior Eddie Davalos and junior Brenden Shuemake,” Walnut Springs veteran head coach Lonnie Flippen said. “At one point early in the season, the Hornets had 16 players on the roster. We finished the season with eight players.”
Bosque County players making the all-district second-team include junior Adrian Chavez at tight end and linebacker, junior Santos Pina at spread center, and sophomore Josue Ontiveros at spread back and cornerback for Walnut Springs; senior Preston Robinson at quarterback and defensive linemen, freshman Caleb Garland at utility back and noseguard, sophomore Walker Johnson at tight end, freshman Adan Diaz-Aguilar at kicker, sophomore Weston Chandler at cornerback and senior Chase Wilkerson at safety for Iredell; junior Jonathan Rodriguez at center and defensive lineman, junior Blake Allen at running back, senior Haydn Kirby at defensive lineman, sophomore Logan Viss at linebacker and freshman Diego Rodriguez at defensive utility for Cranfills Gap.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS & WENDY OROZCO
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