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High School Football: Bryce Norman and Cael Welker earn top honors in Class 5 for Jackson

It didn’t take long for the Jackson football team to start racking up honors after the team recorded its best season in program history by winning the Class 5 State Championship and finishing with a perfect record of 14-0.

The Indians had a total of 10 players named Class 5 All-State as two of them even garnered the top honors in the class. These players were senior quarterback Cael Welker and senior inside linebacker Bryce Norman, who were named the Class 5 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively.

On top of being named the classes top player offensively, Welker received first team all-state honors for the third and final time in his career at Jackson. Welker did so in a year where he recorded 3,060 total yards (12.9 yards per play) and accounted for 53 touchdowns (38 passing; 15 rushing). Welker also went the entire 2020 season without throwing an interception to become the first Jackson starting quarterback to ever accomplish this feat.

As for Norman, he was named first team all-state for the second year in a row while managing to lead the Indians defense in tackles for the second-straight year with 173 stops. Norman also recorded team highs in tackles for a loss (27), quarterback rushes (12) and finished third in sacks (seven).

Norman came up with one interception this season as he took it back to the house for a 75-yard, pick-six against Class 6 Fox on Oct. 2 at The Pit. Norman also forced three fumbles and recovered one while blocking one kick and deflecting two passes.

Norman signed his national letter of intent with the reigning Ohio Valley Conference Champions Southeast Missouri State today after the Redhawks offered him last Wednesday.

Welker has yet to sign or verbally commit to a school as he currently fields offers from Missouri Baptist and Southwest Baptist, which is where former Jackson quarterback Cooper Callis plays.

The third and final all-state individual honor was given to Jackson’s head coach Brent Eckley as he was named the Class 5 Coach of the Year for helping the team win its first-ever state title. This was Eckley’s ninth season at the helm, and he has compiled a coaching record of 84-22 (79.2% winning percentage) in that span.

Another Indian who signed their NLI today and earned first team all-state honors for the second-straight time this season is senior left tackle Connor Tollison. Tollison inked with the University of Missouri after verbally committing to the Tigers back in March. Tollison — a four-year starter for Jackson — had also received offers from national powerhouses like Alabama and Oklahoma before he committed to Mizzou.

The other seven Indians to earn all-state honors were senior running back Daniel Dickerson, junior wide receiver Kannen Turley, senior tight end Rhet Liley, junior right tackle Ashton Flinn, senior inside linebacker Randol McDowell, junior safety Flint Guilliams and junior kicker Logan Bruns.

Turley led Jackson in receiving for the second year in a row by hauling in 63 catches for 1,273 yards and 19 touchdowns to be named first team all-state (first time in career). Turley’s first cousin Liley earned second team all-state by finishing as the Indians second-leading receiver with 32 grabs, 527 yards and nine scores.

Liley also ran the ball eight times for 51 yards and one touchdown while blocking alongside Jackson’s offensive line to pave the way in the running game.

Dickerson became a two-time all-state honoree by being named to the first team after leading the Indians on the ground with 1,228 yards and 21 touchdowns on 137 attempts. He finished his high school career with a 188-yard, two-score performance in the state title game.

One of the other reasons why Dickerson was able to have success in the running game was the play of Flinn, who earned first team all-state honors in his second year as a starter. Flinn was named second team all-state last season as he is currently being recruited by Division-I programs like Kansas State, Miami (Ohio) and Rice.

As for Jackson’s two other all-state players on defense, McDowell and Guilliams were both named to the first team with Norman after finishing second and fourth in tackles, respectively.

McDowell paced Norman with 153 stops of his own, 26 tackles in the backfield and 11 quarterback rushes, while he led the defensive unit in fumble recoveries (four). McDowell also finished second in sacks with seven and third in interceptions at three.

Guilliams recorded the second-most interceptions for Jackson with four while coming up with 58 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one blocked kick. Guilliams was also the Indians top punt returner with 416 yards and two touchdowns.

Bruns happened to finish as one of the top kickers in America with 6,426 yards on kickoff (first in nation) and 86 extra points (third). On top of that, Bruns recorded touchbacks on 52% of his kickoffs for a total of 114.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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