Four Huskie gridders given honors in district

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

Four Pawhuska Huskies players received District 2A-8 football honors recently, which provided a semi-happy ending to the 2015 high school season.

PHS lineman Hayden Henley, cornerback J.R. Young and linebacker John Bighorse earned All-District awards. Caleb Bruce of the Huskies was recognized as a standout “Injured Athlete” by opposing coaches of the seven-team district.

Seniors Henley and Young concluded their local gridiron careers. Henley was a four-year mainstay of the Huskies’ defense, although he was chosen for district honors as an offensive lineman. Like several other of the team’s top athletes, Henley performed well at a position he was playing out of necessity.

“There were so many guys who were playing out-of-position for us, just because we didn’t have anybody else we could put there,” said PHS head coach Joe Sindelar.

In his first and only full football campaign, Young brought a major boost of energy to the Pawhuska squad. The diminutive transplant from the hardwoods locked up the district defensive back award by intercepting five passes and recovering two fumbles. Young also unleashed some electrifying runs and returns.

Junior three-year starters Bighorse and Bruce will be key returnees for next season’s Huskies. The outside linebacker award represented the second District honor for Bighorse, who was named an All-District team linebacker as a freshman. This one was made more impressive by the fact that Bighorse had to work his way back from a serious leg injury he sustained in the 2014 state playoffs.

Bruce, PHS’s multi-talented runner/kicker/defender, suffered a severe hip pointer in the seventh game of the season. His prolonged absence hampered the Huskies in their bid to secure a sixth straight postseason appearance.

“We had other players who were deserving of recognition, but there’s not much you can do when there are only so many spots,” Sindelar added. “That’s just the way it is and it’s unfortunate.”

The seven teams in District 2A-8 teams divided 19 offensive and defensive awards in addition to 13 spots on an All-District team. Player of the Year honors went to senior Robert Bravo Jr. of the district champion Wyandotte Bears. Bravo ran for three TDs and scored a fourth on an interception return in Pawhuska’s 48-13 loss at Wyandotte. Chris Ibarra, a freshman from Commerce, was named Newcomer of the Year for the district. In a 13-12 win over the Huskies, the 5-5 Ibarra scored both of the Tigers’ touchdowns while rushing 37 times for 231 yards.

PHS finished 2-8 for the year, but its last four losses were by a touchdown or less. Next season, the Huskies will be shifted to Class 2A’s District 1 and play a western-oriented district schedule against Chisholm, Alva, Hennessey, Newkirk, Perry and Tonkawa.

“I’m not going to say it (the district realignment) won’t be tough for us,” Sindelar said. “But the truth of it is: we’re just going to have to get better at competing.”