Red Devils place 7 on 3A West All-Conference team
Second year for Roberts, Morrow; 5 first-timers honored
The 3A West All-Conference team was announced over the weekend, and a deep run through the 3A State Playoffs by Evanston High School football resulted in the largest number of Red Devils honored with postseason recognition in years.
In all, seven players from first-year head coach Steve Moore’s squad were recognized for their outstanding play on the field during the 2023 season, one that saw the Red Devils a game away from playing for a 3A State Championship, before losing to Cody in the semifinals.
Running back Brady Roberts and linebacker Cohen Morrow were named All-Conference for the second straight season, with Morrow named Co-Defensive Player of the Year, along with Cody’s Chase Hatch.
Earning All-Conference honors for the first time were senior receiver Kai Barker, senior defensive back Drew Barker, senior defensive lineman/linebacker Cole Robinette, junior offensive lineman Tarrin Haws and junior special teams specialist/receiver Jordan Mendez.
“We went to the coaches meeting up in Casper last Thursday, and I felt like our team was respected — we came out pretty much what we were thinking,” Moore said. “You always kind of wonder if a few names got left off, but — for the most part — we were happy with the kids we got in there. With teams like Star Valley, Cody and Powell in our conference, it’s tough to get kids in there. I thought we came out pretty good.”
A standout on both sides of the ball, Roberts was the workhorse in the backfield with 1133 yards and nine touchdowns on 224 attempts (5.1 yards per carry average); his 103 yards per game was tops in the state in Class 3A.
“Brady is just a very physical runner,” Moore said. “One thing about Brady that everyone found out this season is, it took more than one guy to bring him down. He was a packhorse, and he seemed to get better as the game went on, and as the season went on — he didn’t wear down at all. We’d wear down defenses, and he’d seem to be getting stronger as the game went on. Just a physical, hard-nosed kid, that loved the game of football.”
A member of one of the top linebacking crews in the state (with Morrow, Kai Barker and Cole Robinette), Roberts finished the season with 117 defensive points, racking up 62 tackles (25 solo), with 2.5 sacks and three interceptions.
“It feels good to be recognized for the work I’ve put in,” Roberts said.”
When he wasn’t leading the Red Devils’ offensive unit at quarterback, Morrow anchored the defense at linebacker — he led the team in tackles with 79, and defensive points, with 154 (14 points per game average). He finished the season with 36 solo tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss, a sack and two interceptions, including a pick-six.
On offense, Morrow completed 114 passes for 1503 yards and 14 touchdowns; he was third on the team in rushing with 165 yards and 5 touchdowns on 60 carries.
“Cohen is just an all-around great football player, on both sides of the ball,” Moore said. “He’s a smart player, who understands the game very well, as well as being very physical.”
Asked how it felt to be named All-Conference for the second year in a row, as well as Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Morrow praised his fellow teammates for their hard work.
“It feels great, and most of the joy I have for it isn’t even for me, it’s for all my teammates,” he said. “To see Drew, Cole, Kai, Tarrin and Jordan get it all for the first time makes me happy that we could all get this award. Me and Brady are two-timers, and it just feels great to have him be there with me, and for the MVP, it’s a great feeling that I can be recognized for my play, and that all the work I put in [during] the offseason is paying off.”
A senior all-purpose back, Barker was another two-way player who benefitted from coach Moore’s offensive system, leading the team in catches (42), receiving yards (548) and receiving yards per game (48). His four touchdown catches was good enough for second on the team.
“Kai is a very athletic football player,” Moore said. “You look at all the things he did for us, offensively, defensively, special teams — he was a do-it-all kid, and did it all really well. The deeper we got into conference play, you could tell teams were scheming against him, which helped us, actually — it opened up other players. Another smart football player that the other team always had to account for.”
Defensively, Barker was part of the linebacking crew — along with Morrow, Roberts and Robinette — that gave opposing coaches fits the past two seasons. He was second on the team in defensive points with 139, finishing with 74 tackles (38 solo), including 8.5 tackles for loss.
“It’s super-cool to be recognized like that, and special to be seen as one of the top athletes in our conference,” Barker said. “I’ve been waiting to get All-Conference ever since my sophomore year, so I’m super-excited to finally get it.”
A force in the defensive backfield, Barker led the team in takeaways, with five: three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He was third on the team in defensive points with 131, finishing with 53 tackles (35 solo).
“Drew was one of the tops in interceptions, just a ball hawk back there, as well as a solid tackler — he came up from that safety spot and filled really well,” Moore said. “He got beat early a little bit, but he learned from it, and ended up being a really solid safety for us. And if it was a run, he’d come up and whack ya — he had a bunch of pass breakups, a couple of forced fumbles, a couple of fumble recoveries — just a ball hawk, he was wherever the ball was at.”
Offensively, Barker became a clutch receiver, and a favorite target for Morrow when a designed play broke down, showing a knack for getting open. He was second on the team in receptions (32) and yards (408), and his six touchdown catches led the team.
“Being recognized by other coaches in the conference means a lot,” Barker said. “It reminds me that things don’t go unnoticed, and that other people saw our team as a good team, and respected it.”
The hard-hitting linebacker/edge rusher was nightmare fuel for opposing quarterbacks, and 3A coaches took notice, putting Robinette on the All-Conference team in his final season.
“We would walk Cole up in what we called our ‘tough’ package, where he would walk up on the D-line, and just give quarterbacks fits,” Moore said. “He was one of the tops in the state in sacks, and just put pressure on the QBs, which helped our secondary tremendously. When you can make the QB throw the ball sooner than he’d like, Cole did a great job with that part of it.”
Robinette’s 5.5 sacks was second in the state in 3A, and he finished with 112 defensive points (60 tackles, 32 solo, 9.5 tackles for loss).
Used primarily as a blocking fullback on offense, the senior did score the first touchdown of his high school career this season against Green River, and finished with 19 yards on four carries.
“It means a lot,” Robinette said of being named All-Conference. “It shows that my work has paid off. It’s also great seeing so many teammates go All-Conference; we haven’t had so many in a long time. Hopefully, it means things are changing for Evanston football.”
Behind Haws and the rest of the offensive line, the Red Devils averaged 153 rushing yards per game, seventh in the state in Class 3A. The junior also made his presence felt on the defensive line, finishing the season with 33 tackles, including 1.5 sacks.
“Tarrin plays physical, with a high motor,” Moore said. “He plays hard every play — never takes a play off. And he’s a junior, which is a great thing. I’m really excited for our linemen — not only Tarrin, but the rest, as well. Most of them are coming back, and they grew leaps and bounds over the course of the season. To get Tarrin on this list was a good thing, he did a lot of great things for us.”
A junior known more for his prowess on the hardwood and the soccer pitch, Mendez went out for football for the first time this season, and made an immediate impact on special teams, both on kickoffs and as a placekicker.
Mendez converted five field goals out of six attempts this season, his longest traveling 40 yards; he also made 23 extra points. A natural athlete, Mendez also saw time at receiver — catching four passes for 47 yards — as well as defensive back, where he tallied 11 defensive points (6 tackles, 5 solo).
“We have high hopes for Jordan to do more than just kick for us moving forward,” Moore said. “But what a great asset to have on our team this year — we got down in the red zone, and we could pretty much chalk three points up for us. We haven’t had that for a while, and that’s a comforting thing to have as a coach. I think he had two of the five longest field goals in the state this season, and that’s what caught the other coaches’ attention. He did a great job for us.”
For his part, Mendez said no one was more shocked than he was that his first year of high school football went as well as it did.
“Honestly, I was very surprised to be recognized,” Mendez said. “To be playing my first year of football and being honored is pretty cool, and I’m glad that I ended up playing. It was a great journey with all of the guys, and I am excited to play again next year.”