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SBLive Oklahoma All-State Football 2022: Kirk Francis, Erik McCarty among those receiving top honors

Stillwater's Barnard named Coach of the Year after undefeated season, state title
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Photo of Metro Christian quarterback Kirk Francis by Christian Potts 

SBLive Oklahoma is proud to announce the superlative winners of its All-State football team from the 2022 season.

The MVP award goes to Grove senior tailback Emmanuel Crawford. Here are the rest of the superlative award winners:

Offensive Player of the Year: Kirk Francis, Metro Christian

By Christian Potts

When the moment called for it, Kirk Francis always seemed to have the answer.

And he and his Metro Christian football squad put up one of the state's most prolific examples of lighting up scoreboards and opposing defenses.

It added up to a stellar four-year career that bolstered the trophy case at the south Tulsa school, and put Francis' name squarely in the record books and in stories to be told around the hallways of the school for generations to come. For those efforts, the senior quarterback is SBLive Oklahoma's Offensive Player of the Year for the 2022 high school football season.

And yet, for Francis, every time he takes the field it seems to be not for individual accomplishments, but instead the team and representing the Metro Christian program.

"Every single summer workout, all those long practices, I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to go through this with," Francis said of a team that has multiple seniors, including himself, heading on to college football opportunities in the future. "I love this team so much."

In leading Metro to a 13-1 record on the season, Francis passed for 4,384 yards, throwing 58 touchdown passes against only six interceptions.

Metro Christian's Kirk Francis 

Metro Christian's Kirk Francis 

"We have the best quarterback in the state," senior teammate Mario Darrington said of Francis. "He can make every throw, he has the perfect reads, I know I trust him every play."

Darrington joined the likes of fellow seniors Tagg Campbell, Breck Nauman, Isaac Penland and others in a stable of playmakers that helped Francis rack up the big numbers. Ironically, Metro's only loss of the season came on the night when statistically, Francis had his best night of all.

The Class 3A state championship game saw the senior put up astonishing numbers - an Oklahoma state championship game record 626 passing yards and five touchdown throws. But the most important numbers of the night were in favor of Oklahoma City Heritage Hall, a 72-56 triumph on the scoreboard.

It was a bitter ending to a terrific run - Francis and Metro's seniors won the Class 2A state championship in both 2019 and 2020, and the team won 48 games during his four years of high school.

“He is one of the best quarterbacks that I think I have ever seen,” said River Faulkner, Heritage Hall's star linebacker and part of the SBLive Oklahoma All-State team. “He is going to go places.”

For his career at Metro, Francis amassed 9,599 passing yards and threw 115 touchdown passes. He reportedly spurned offers from multiple high-profile and larger-classification high school programs in the area to come play on what was a bigger stage the last couple of years, instead showing loyalty to the Metro Christian program.

Metro Christian's Kirk Francis

Metro Christian's Kirk Francis

"I think he's proven that he feels a loyalty to his school and his team, and he's willing to work his way up," Metro coach Jared McCoy said.

Francis comes from an athletic family. His father, M.T., was a multi-sport athlete at Wagoner High School growing up and is part of the large family contingent on hand any time Francis is competing.

And many of them won't have far to go to watch the next stage of Kirk's career. That will come just a few miles down the road from the stadium where he's had so much success on Metro Christian's campus.

Francis is headed to the University of Tulsa, where a new coaching staff led by former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson took over following the 2022 season. They'll have, as part of their first squad, a young quarterback with a knack for getting the ball in the hands of a variety of targets and lighting up scoreboards.

Perhaps most of all, they'll get a proven winner.

Francis is looking forward to the challenge at the next level.

"The ability to stay home, to play for coaches like coach Wilson, he's coached guys like (Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winners) Sam Bradford and Jason White, he's been so successful at so many places," Francis said. "And Coach (Steve) Spurrier (Jr., Tulsa's new offensive coordinator), who has so much experience and knowledge of the game.

"And the ability to stay here and have a winning culture in my hometown, it's really unbeatable."

McAlester's Erik McCarty by Jimmy Jones

McAlester's Erik McCarty by Jimmy Jones

Defensive Player of the Year: Erik McCarty, McAlester

By Michael Kinney

It was tough for Erik McCarty to watch.

During the biggest game of McAlester’s season, the senior two-way player could only stand on the sideline and watch his teammates play without him.

McCarty had torn his ACL in the quarterfinal round of the 2022 Class 5A playoffs and had to sit out the rest of the postseason. That included the 5A state championship game in which the Buffaloes fell, 49-7, to Midwest City Carl Albert.

“It's probably one of the toughest things I've ever gone through,” McCarty said. “I haven't gone through a whole lot when it comes to football. I haven't gone through injuries and all that, but that's definitely the toughest thing I've ever gone through, just not being able to be out there.

"In the last three years, I hadn't really missed a game because of an injury. And then I come out here my senior year and I start battling the different things on and off the field; I mean, week in, week out. So that wasn't very fun.”

Yet, McCarty refused to let that bit of bad luck take away what he and his teammates had done this season. He knows all of the hard work that they had put in to get them to the championship game was the foundation of his prep career.

“My last four years of playing high school football at McAlester, I wouldn't change anything,” McCarty said. “It's been the best four years of my life. I've had nothing but a blast. It is truly something special.

"And I hope that everybody can feel the Friday night lights the way that I did and all that because it's just something that sometimes you got to take a step back and look at and breathe and take it all in.”

It’s hard to imagine McCarty getting a chance to just step back and take it all in on a Friday night. He contributed in every phase of the game for the Buffaloes.

As a senior, McCarty rushed for 929 yards and 16 touchdowns. During his career, he collected more than 5,800 all-purpose yards and 101 touchdowns on offense.

While he gained statewide recognition for his offense. It was his prowess on defense that got schools like Oklahoma interested in him.

McAlester's Erik McCarty, left, by Jimmy Jones 

McAlester's Erik McCarty, left, by Jimmy Jones 

McCarty finished his final season with 86 tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception and also blocked four extra-point kicks. For his career, he amassed 348 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups, eight interceptions, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles while playing linebacker and safety.

But it was in the games McCarty missed that it was evident just truly how integral he was to the Buffaloes' defense.

McCarty signed his national letter of intent during the early signing period and is now enrolled at Oklahoma. He is listed on the Sooners' spring roster as a 6-foot-2, 180-pound defensive back.

McAlester's Erik McCarty, left, by Jimmy Jones 

McAlester's Erik McCarty, left, by Jimmy Jones 

“He epitomizes everything that you look for in a football player. He is an old-school football player,” OU safeties coach Brandon Hall said. “He plays offense, he plays defense, and special teams. He’s a leader and he loves the game of football.

"He is just as impressive as a defensive back as he is as a running back. He is everything that we’re looking for in a person. He is a Sooner through and through.”

As he gets the next phase of his football career started, McCarty still looks back on his time at McAlester and knows that the collegiate level will not be the same.

“I've always heard it's just not quite the same,” McCarty said. “I guess just the environment of the football field and being out there under those Friday night lights in front of the hometown and playing with your heart, it's something special.”

Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard

Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard

Coach of the Year: Tucker Barnard, Stillwater

By Glen Brockenbush

A state championship is a monumental event for everyone involved - the players, the parents, the whole school district.

But for the coaching staff, who put in countless hours throughout the year, it’s especially rewarding. And when a coach has come close, but not sealed the deal, winning a state championship can represent a weight off his or her shoulders.

Stillwater matched up against Choctaw in the Class 6AII state championship game with plenty of momentum. But the Pioneers had talented teams that came up short before.

This year, the Pioneers made plays when it counted, beating the Yellowjackets, 26-21. Afterward, there was a sense of relief and elation for Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard.

"It's everything you dream of," Barnard said. "We've preached, keep (believing) in the process, and the results will come. And that's what happened."

That process was a long time in the making for the coach who has been at SHS since 2011.

Between 2012 and 2013, the team won a combined five games over two seasons. Rather than blame injuries or a tough schedule, Barnard and his staff chose to build from the lower levels upward.

“We just had to work to not be discouraged, find little victories,” Barnard said. “We made some little decisions back in 2012 as far as how we handled youth football, junior high football and (junior varsity) football. We started investing in the young levels and winning in the young levels.”

The plan worked, as Stillwater schools won more and more games at the junior high and junior varsity levels. Meanwhile, the coaching staff underwent very few changes.

Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard 

Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard 

Offensive coordinator Chad Cawood and special teams coach Jeremy Hughes have been with Barnard since the beginning, while the rest of the staff joined in about halfway through.

“Charlie Johnson has been here since 2016, Clarence Holly has been here since about 2015,” Barnard said. “We’ve just had a lot of consistency on staff. The offense and defense haven’t changed much.”

Before long, the results showed up on the varsity level, leading to the Pioneers making state championship game appearances in 2018 and 2019. However, each of those appearances ended in a loss to Bixby.

This season, with Bixby having moved up to Class 6AI, the door was open for other teams - like Stillwater - to claim the open 6AII throne. And the Pioneers proved to be worthy, making their way to the state championship game for the third time in five seasons.

Along the way, the Pioneers held nine opponents to single-digit points. Meanwhile, the offense scored nearly 50 points a game, led by an experienced and dominant offensive line, and the senior backfield tandem of quarterback Gage Gundy and running back Noah Roberts.

“What I thought was really special about this group was its toughness, and I mean physical toughness and mental toughness,” Barnard said. “We had so many guys who were banged up and not only would they not miss games, they wouldn’t miss practices; they were just so self-motivated and dedicated.

“The other thing was just how much fun they had, just how much they enjoyed playing. They loved playing, they loved practicing.”

Broken Arrow running back Kaydin Jones, with ball, by Michael Kinney

Broken Arrow running back Kaydin Jones, with ball, by Michael Kinney

Newcomer of the Year: Kaydin Jones, Broken Arrow

By Ty Loftis

As a freshman, the Broken Arrow running back had quite the breakout season.

On the year, Jones had 1,264 yards on the ground, averaging 7.3 yards a carry, and scoring 11 times. His coach, Josh Blankenship, says even though Jones was a freshman this year, he handled himself like an upperclassman.

“You look at him, you talk to him, you would never know that he is a freshman,” Blankenship said. “That not only says a lot about his skills on the field, but his upbringing as well.”

Jones also had 156 receiving yards and 385 kickoff return yards. Despite the game resulting in a season-ending loss, Jones had a 97-yard run against Tulsa Union in the playoffs, something Blankenship sees in practice every day.

“Any time he gets his hands on the ball, he is going to do something special with it,” Blankenship said. “If people don’t know about Kaydin yet, they will soon.”

To Blankenship’s point, Jones already has three Division I offers to play collegiately, including the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma State University and the University of Colorado.

Broken Arrow's Kaydin Jones (20) by Christian Potts

Broken Arrow's Kaydin Jones (20) by Christian Potts