Top Area Receivers to Watch in 2019

By Jordan Burton (For

There are many talented receivers across our coverage area that features more than 60 teams. Below are some of the top receivers 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.


Gavin Bess, Lighthouse Christian, Senior
He’s one of the hidden gems on a loaded Lighthouse Christian roster. As a junior, he totaled 85 receptions for 1,013 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s a nightmare matchup in the slot and his quick feet allow him to create space anywhere. He had seven 100-yard games last year and five 10-catch games, including 15 receptions for 165 yards against Skyline. Both were season-highs.

Carson Bowman, Mt. Vernon, Senior
He’s likely to take on more of a feature-back role out of the backfield this year. Regardless, his ability as a pass catcher last year was part of the reason Mount Vernon made a final four run. Bowman racked up 658 yards and six touchdowns on 48 receptions. He also added another 371 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Even if he lines up in the backfield, you still have to account for him in the passing game.

Mason Foley, Strafford, Senior
Foley’s junior year numbers of 33 receptions for 618 yards and 10 touchdown are impressive. Even more so when you consider that Foley played opposite of Dillon Hester, who had one of the most-prolific careers in Strafford history. Foley has reliable hands and runs incredible routes. As of press time, he was in the mix to be Strafford’s quarterback. If he doesn’t play quarterback, he will be one of the area’s top receivers.

Cole Gilpin, Fair Grove, Senior
Two years ago, Gilpin was a basketball player who played football. Now, he’s one of the best players in the area. At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, his 48 receptions for 806 yards and 10 touchdowns aren’t surprising. But, he also is an All-Mid-Lakes linebacker. He’s great at high-pointing balls and he never loses 50-50 balls in the air, but he’s deceptively good at running short routes. He’ll have to pick between college basketball and college football.

Nate Hesse, Lincoln, Senior
The 6-foot-2 receiver is another big-play threat. Roughly every third reception he had as a junior was a touchdown (49 receptions, 922 yards, 15 touchdowns). That’s nearly 19 yards per catch. He had four 100-yard games and his presence didn’t allow opposing defenses to load the box. He added 109 tackles and five interceptions defensively.

Joel Kleeman, Miller, Junior
He was one of the most-dangerous threats from scrimmage last year, both in the run and pass game. His 607 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 67 carries is impressive, but Kleeman added 502 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on just 20 receptions. He also housed three kicks. Oh, he’s a two-way guy with six interceptions in 2018.

DJ White, Cassville, Senior
The Blue-Grey All-American earned Class 3 All-State honors for one simple fact; he’s one of the most-complete receivers in the Ozarks. He caught just 43 passes, but turned it into 849 yards and nine touchdowns. He can run short, intermediate and deep routes, but he also is great with the ball after the catch and an incredible blocker. He’s a true football player.

Zach Westmoreland, Joplin, Senior
He’s the reigning O-Zone Player of the Year because he’s the most-productive player in the Ozarks. Westmoreland holds D1 offers now, thanks to putting up 959 receiving yards and 345 rushing yards with 24 touchdowns from scrimmage. He added 58 tackles and seven interceptions defensively (three pick-6s) and he even returned a kick for a score. He’s a game-changer in all three phases.


Others to Watch
Gary Clinton, Webb City, Junior
A.J. Craft, Rogersville, Senior
Jaytin Defreese, Skyline, Sophomore
Brooks Espy, Marshfield, Senior
Tyler Harre, Willard, Senior
Jackson Kleiboeker, Pierce City, Senior
Allen Marcak, West Plains, Senior
Cale Miller, Mount Vernon, Senior
Jake Skaggs, Ozark, Senior
Daunte Stafford, Greenfield, Senior