Brayden Willis (7) outruns Bowie Volunteers defenders on Sept. 29. Max Faulkner
Brayden Willis (7) outruns Bowie Volunteers defenders on Sept. 29. Max Faulkner

High School Football

This is why Martin is 6-1 despite losing its starting quarterback

By Mark Wright

Special to the Star-Telegram

October 20, 2017 02:23 PM

Arlington Martin receivers Brayden Willis and Sorrell Brown are big play threats with the size — both are well over six feet tall — and speed to give defenses fits. But these seniors don’t attribute their success to their imposing physical presence.

For the Warriors offense — which has scored more than 40 points in five of its first seven games, helping the team to a 6-1 start — it all begins with a mindset.

“We have good size. We have big people, small people,” said the 6-3, 193-pound Brown, who had two receiving touchdowns in a 76-0 victory against Fort Worth Paschal. “There’s a mindset you have to have here. And if you have that mindset, you can be successful.”

That mindset means being relentless on every snap. “Like a dog,” Brown said. “Go after you every play, 100 percent, no matter if you’re getting the ball or you’re not getting the ball.”

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The 6-4, 221-pound Willis, who is also contributing at running back, has scored four receiving touchdowns and has also rushed for a score. He also took direct snaps — as the so-called wildcat quarterback — in the second half against Mansfield after starting quarterback Juma Otoviano was sidelined with an injury.

“Whatever’s needed,” Willis said. “I’m a team player. I feel like whatever the team needs, that’s what I can do.”

He did what Martin needed against Sam Houston on Oct. 19, serving as the back-up quarterback and throwing for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He also got 57 rushing yards.

Not surprisingly, on a team with selfless players, the receivers take pride in their ability to block and help spring teammates for long gains. “We’re going to do our job blocking on the edge,” senior receiver Joshua Parker said. “We’re going to make plays when it matters.”

Martin coach Bob Wager considers good ball skills a given for receivers and running backs. Instead, he rates his skill players on their willingness to block and do little things that don’t show up on a stat sheet.

“I think what’s most prideful for me with these three guys … is they take as much pride when they don’t have the ball as they do when they have it,” Wager said. “And you show me a great football team, I’ll show you a bunch of guys that love every aspect of the game, not just when they have the ball in their hands.”

.@Sorrell_Brown19 with a 20-yd TD reception from @Bwillis_11 for the Warriors. Martin 31, Sam Houston 14 7:54 2Q. @martin_football #txhsfb

— Darren Lauber (@darren_lauber) October 20, 2017

Brown and Willis line up on the outside at times, at other times they line up next to the tight end or as H-backs — hybrid fullbacks and tight ends — who play a key role in opening up holes for the ball-carrier on running plays.

“We’re a versatile group,” Brown said. “It all goes back to our offensive line. They work hard day in and day out. They give us holes to run in. They make our job really easy honestly.”

The versatility of Brown, Willis and Parker includes special teams, where each player takes on multiple roles. Parker, who is 5-8, 160, was recently promoted to the front line of the kickoff return team. Parker also covers kickoffs and goes after kicks and punts.

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“He did an unbelievable job,” Wager said. “He’s the emotional leader of our kickoff cover team.”

There’s no job too big or too small for Martin’s receivers and running backs.

“It’s not just our captains stepping up,” Brown said. “It’s people on our scout team stepping up, people who haven’t even been on the depth chart. We have to step up and fill some big shoes of some people.”