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East Texas high school football: Top 20 running backs entering 2023

From Tyler, to Longview, to Texarkana, to Port Arthur, East Texas is loaded with backfield talent
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As the 2023 Texas high school football season quickly approaches, SBLive is taking a look at the top players in the Lone Star State by position and region.

With preseason practice under way, SBLive Texas is taking a look at the top returning teams and players around the state by region, starting with the toughest position in sports.

We started with quarterbacks, identifying the top 20 in each regions — North Texas, Central Texas, South Texas, East Texas, Southeast Texas and West Texas — and moved to running backs. 

We took a look at the best running backs in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and the rest of North Texas, then the top 20 in Central Texas and South Texas.

Then, we scoured East Texas and came up with the Top 20 running backs.

From Tyler, to Longview, to Texarkana, to Port Arthur, here are the top running backs in East Texas entering the 2023 season:


Larandion Dowden

Larandion Dowden

Kaegan Ash, 6-0, 195, Jr., Mount Enterprise

Starting as a sophomore last season, Ash was the bulk of the Wildcats' offense, rushing for 2,023 yards and 28 touchdowns in a one-win campaign. Ash, who also plays linebacker for Mount Enterprise, earned District 11-2A Division II Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors. He is one of 18 returning starters for Mount Enterprise.

Tradarian Ball, 5-10, 180, So., Texarkana Texas High

Ball burst onto the scene with a fantastic freshman season. With the ability to make big plays regularly, he rushed for 750 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught nine passes for 190 yards and two more scores. Ball, who was a first team All-District 8-5A Division II selection, also returned a kick for a touchdown. He has double-digit offers from FBS programs, including Oklahoma, TCU, Arizona State and Ole Miss.

Kardadrion Coulter, 6-1, 170, Sr., Pattonville Prairiland

A versatile and big-time playmaker for the Patriots, Coulter rushed for 966 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 14 passes for 263 yards and another score last year. Prairiland finished 4-6 and missed the playoffs, but the Patriots return 17 starters in 2023. Coulter earned honorable mention on the Texas Sports Writers Association Class 3A All-State Team.

Kaden Dixon, 6-2, 190, Sr., Center

Another one of the state's top returning running backs, Dixon tallied 2,250 yards and 30 touchdowns last year to help the Roughriders go 8-4 with a bi-district win over Texarkana Liberty-Eylau. Dixon earned a spot on the Texas Sports Writers Association's Class 4A All-State third team. He is one of eight returning starters on offense for the Roughriders this year. Dixon has an offer to play college football at Henderson State University in Arkansas.

Larandion Dowden, 5-11, 185, Sr., Wills Point

The only player on our list who won a state title last season, Dowden was a force of nature for Carthage. He rushed for 1,095 yards and 20 touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to a perfect 16-0 season, capped by the Class 4A Division II state title, the ninth for the Bulldogs. Dowden earned a spot on the District 8-4A Division II first team. But in the offseason, Dowden - per his Twitter page - announced his transfer to Wills Point, as one of his parents accepted a coaching job there.

Jaylen Holloway, 5-10, 193, Jr., Pittsburg

Holloway had a strong sophomore campaign, rushing for 967 yards and 15 touchdowns on 210 attempts after moving to the varsity level as a freshman. The Pirates finished 2-9, but they snagged a playoff berth. Holloway was a second team All-District 7-4A Division II selection. He has an offer from UTSA.

Canon Ingram, 5-10, 175, Sr., Cooper

Part of a three-headed monster at running back returning for the Bulldogs, Ingram racked up 1,514 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Teammates Markell Smith (1,000 yards, 21 total touchdowns) and Adryean Finney (895 yards, 13 touchdowns) are also back after a 13-1 season and a trip to the regional finals. Ingram earned honorable mention on the Texas Sports Writers Association Class 2A All-State Team and District 9-2A Division I Offensive Player of the Year honors. He also tallied 86 tackles at linebacker in 2022.

Javari Johnson, 5-8, 170, Jr., Texarkana Texas High

Johnson came up big for the Tigers last season by rushing for 1,070 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore. Texas High, which has two players in our list of Top 20 running backs, finished 8-3 and earned a playoff berth. Johnson earned the District 8-5A Division II Offensive Newcomer of the Year award. He is drawing interest from several FBS programs, including Houston, Tulsa, Texas State and Sam Houston.

Lane Johnson, 5-8, 170, Sr., Simms Bowie

Johnson, a muti-sport athlete, led the Pirates to a breakout season by rushing for 1,145 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2022. The Pirates went 9-3 and advanced to the regional semifinals with playoff victories over Hico and Deweyville. Johnson earned a spot on the Texas Sports Writers Association's Class 2A All-State third team and was the District 9-2A Division II Utility Player of the Year. Simms Bowie has a new head coach this season in Chance Blackburn.

Cason Leavitt, 5-9, 155, Jr., Maud

Starting as a sophomore last year, Leavitt racked up 1,300 yards to lead the Cardinals to a 9-3 record with a bi-district win over Dawson. Leavitt, a multi-sport athlete who also plays linebacker, earned a spot on the All-District 9-2A Division I first team.

Noah Murphy, 6-0, 190, Sr., West Rusk

A two-way starter for the Raiders, Murphy tallied 1,125 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He also made three sacks at linebacker for West Rusk, which finished 10-3 and advanced to the regional semifinals with playoff wins over Omaha Paul Pewitt and Waskom. Murphy earned a District 9-3A DII first team nod. He has an offer from Louisiana Christian University.

Omarion Rasberry, 5-10, 180, Sr., Garrison

Playing for a program with a rich history of great running backs, Rasberry held his own in 2002. As a junior, he rushed for 1,282 yards and 10 touchdowns to help the Bulldogs finish 7-4 and earn a playoff berth. Rasberry earned a first team All-District 11-2A Division I nod. He has an offer from Lamar University. A state powerlifting champion, Rasberry is one of 10 returning starters on offense for Garrison.

Benny Smith, 5-10, 205, So., Shelbyville

Smith made his varsity debut season count in a big way, rushing for 1,577 yards and 18 touchdowns to help the Dragons to a 6-5 record and a trip to the postseason. He earned a first team All-District 11-2A Division I selection. Shelbyville returns 19 starters. With a year of varsity experience under his belt, Smith could have bigger numbers in 2023.

Rickey Stewart, 6-0, 185, Jr., Tyler Chapel Hill

Stewart is one of several big-time offensive players for the Bulldogs. As a sophomore last season, he rushed for 2,262 yards (ninth-most among returnees in Texas) and 18 touchdowns to help Chapel Hill finish 12-3 with a trip to the state semifinals. Stewart earned first team Texas Sports Writers Association Class 4A All-State accolades for his big season. Chapel Hill should light up scoreboards and make a serious run at a state title this year.

Taylor Tatum, 5-11, 200, Sr., Longview

How did Tatum ascend to the top spot of running backs across the country? By rushing for 1,889 yards and 33 touchdowns last season for the Lobos. Longview finished 14-1 and made it to the state semifinals, where it fell to Aledo, 17-14. Tatum earned district MVP and Texas Sports Writers Association Class 5A All-State second team honors. Tatum will play football and baseball in the SEC at Oklahoma.

Elijah Walker, 6-1, 190, Sr., Palestine

Walker used strength, speed and power to rumble to 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior last season. The Wildcats finished 4-6 and made the playoffs, where they lost to Lumberton in bi-district. Walker had a pair of 200-yard rushing games in 2022. He also earned a first team All-District 9-4A Division I selection, and is one of seven starters returning for Palestine.

Keyshawn Walls, 6-1, 215, Sr., Hooks

A versatile, speedy weapon for the Hornets on both sides of the ball, Walls rushed for 1,901 yards and 22 touchdowns, while adding a pair of receiving touchdowns, while also playing defensive back last season. Hooks went 9-3 and grabbed a bi-district playoff victory over Troup. Walls, who is getting some looks from FBS programs, earned Texas Sports Writers Association Class 3A All-State second team honors. He was also the District 10-3A Division II Most Valuable Player.

Kamran Williams, 5-10, 180, Jr., Jefferson

A serious threat in the Bulldog backfield, Williams tallied 1,000 yards with 11 touchdowns as a sophomore last season to help Jefferson go 8-3 and earn a playoff spot. Williams, who earned a first team All-District 6-3A Division I nod, is getting looks from several FBS programs with two more years of high school remaining. 

J'Koby Williams, 5-11, 178, Sr., Beckville

He's here, he's there, he's every-freaking-where. Williams had an electrifying junior season, helping the Bearcats go 10-2 with a playoff win over Bogata Rivercrest. All he did was rush for 1,664 yards and 27 touchdowns, catch 27 passes for 718 yards and 11 touchdowns and score two more times on returns. Williams, a Texas Tech commit, earned District 10-2A Division I Most Valuable Player accolades. With 18 starters back, Williams and the Bearcats should be playing into December this season.

Kedren Young, 5-11, 220, Sr., Lufkin

Last season, the Notre Dame commit tallied 1,666 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a 6-4 record, but they failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year. Young, who earned honorable mention on the Texas Sports Writers Association's Class 5A All-State Team, looks to get the Pack back to the postseason in 2023. By the way, Longview hosts Lufkin on Sept. 15 as Tatum and Young go head-to-head in district play.