By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There are many talented defensive players across our coverage area that features more than 60 teams. Below are some of the top defensive players to watch this season
NOTE: Some worthy players may appear on one of our other four football watchlists. A player can only appear on one list.
This watchlist can be found in print in the Fall O-Zone Preview Magazine available this week at all southwest Missouri Casey’s general stores.
Teagan Armentrout, Carl Junction, Senior
As a junior, Armentrout was one of the best defensive players in the COC, totaling 107 tackles and eight interceptions. He’s a big, athletic safety who has no problem stepping into the box in run support or covering in space. He’s the kind of player you have to unchain and just let make plays, which is exactly what he does.
Sam Cook, Neosho, Senior
At 6-foot-6, he’s the last thing you want to see lined up across from your offense. His length and athleticism at outside linebacker are rare to see at the high school level. He had 88 tackles, five sacks and an interception last season. There isn’t a player in the Ozarks with a higher ceiling than Cook.
Terrell Kabala, Webb City, Senior
Instincts and raw athletic ability make Kabala one of the top players in the Ozarks. The all-state defensive back tallied three defensive touchdowns as a junior with a pair of pick-6s and a blocked field goal returned for score. He could see a position change this fall, as well as a larger role offensively. Kabala has already verbally committed to play basketball at D2 Arkansas-Fort Smith.
Trenton Kluck, Pierce City, Senior
Kluck is like rain at a parade; he just messes up all your plans. The reigning Southwest Conference Defensive POY is back after notching 104 tackles and 22 TFLs. He’s a high IQ player who is responsible for PC’s defensive calls. He doubles as one of the area’s most-productive tight ends as well.
Ruben Lenker, Webb City, Senior
The Blue-Grey All-American launched a coming-out party as a junior, helping replace a loaded linebacking corps which had three guys sign NLIs. He led Webb City with 118 tackles and 16 TFLs (2 sacks). He plays fast and angry with a ton of passion. He again will be the heart and soul of the Cardinals’ defense.
Kayden Myers, Ava, Senior
Myers is pure violence on a football field. If you have the ball, he’s looking for contact. If he has the ball, he’s still looking for contact. The thing is, he’s not just a see-ball-get-ball kind of linebacker. He has a super-high IQ and can line up anywhere in the box, including with his hand in the dirt. This is a kid who had 27 tackles against Lamar in 2017. Back-to-back 100-tackle seasons and he’s a 1,000-yard rusher. He’s a 210-pound barrel of dynamite.
Darin Oplotnik, Fair Grove, Senior
He’s an absolute dog coming off the edge, against the run and the pass. He’s slightly undersized, but his ridiculously high motor helps compensate for that. He was the Mid-Lakes Defensive POY and an all-state selection as a junior, behind an eight-sack season. You have to account for where he lines up every snap.
Kale Schrader, Carthage, Senior
He’s the kind of linebacker you need if you’re going to play in a conference like the COC. The state champion wrestler finished second on the team with 97 tackles as a junior. He also added a pair of interceptions. He can stuff the run or run with receivers in space.
Others to Watch
JD Bishop, Lamar, Senior
Trevor Christian, Lebanon, Senior
Eli Eminger, Joplin, Senior
Colton Franks, Rolla, Senior
Jayce Haven, Thayer, Junior
Bo Kroenke, Lincoln, Senior
Alex Martini, Carthage, Senior
David Oplotnik, Fair Grove, Senior
Bowen Preddy, Cassville, Senior
Tresten Shipman, Mount Vernon, Senior