The Chisholm Longhorns football team may have been dethroned this season as District 2A-1 champs, but district coaches still saw fit to recognize several Chisholm players on their All-District team. Thirteen players, including six on the first-team, were selected for the district team.
It’s an honor Longhorns head coach Joey Reinart felt was certainly deserved and showed the respect the program has earned over the past several years.
“I thought all of those guys we got on there are very deserving kids from a program standpoint,” Reinart said Thursday. “Over the course of the last 3-4 years they’ve put a lot into it and deserved that. We ended up sixth in the district, but truth be told, we were we were one of the top four teams, so we should be represented to fit that.”
Longhorns first-teamers were represented on defense, offense and special teams.
Versatility was a common denominator among the Longhorns first-team selections.
Luke Balenti was named the district’s offensive utility player of the year. Balenti certainly lived up to it. He led the team with 246 yards rushing with three touchdowns, was second with 221 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He led Chisholm with 523 all-purpose yards.
“That award fits him perfectly with the role we asked him to play this year,” Reinart said. “You have to be pretty special to keep up with the ins and outs of techniques and position-wise what to do. He handled it really well. He knew he may need to block, may need to catch, may need to run or throw the ball and it was totally fine with him.”
Another key contributor on offense was Cody Wichert, who was named first-team at wide receiver. Wichert led Chisholm with 351 yards receiving and four touchdowns, but Reinart said Wichert’s stats could have been higher if not for Chisholm’s early struggles.
“His statistics were hindered by our offense not quite being on the right page early in the year and then we kind of switched to running the ball 90% of the time for a couple of games where we had to get some things squared away,” Reinart said. “Had we been clicking full on, he’s a 600-700 yard receiver. Talk about a program kid, he has invested so much in our program for four years, he deserves any kind of award.”
Rounding out Chisholm’s offensive first-team selections is guard Cody Cross, who not only saw time in the line after overcoming an ACL tear suffered in 2019, but also in the backfield and scored a touchdown.
“The thing that makes him a little bit different, when he gets to the point of attack, he’s going to hurt you,” Reinart said. “We actually moved him when we started to run the ball heavy and used him as a fullback and he even ended up catching a touchdown pass. It’s just pretty cool to see that kind of guy have success.”
The Longhorns had two players on the all-district first team defense: inside linebacker Ryan Reilly, who led the team with 96 tackles, and defensive tackle Keegan Goddard.
Reilly, a senior by classification, but is really a junior football-wise after having skipped forward a grade. “For him to step into that role as a football junior and have that kind of season is really impressive,” Reinart said. “Statistically he had a great season.” In addition to his team-leading 96 tackles, Reilly had 19 tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions.
Goddrard made the transition from being a three-year starter primarily on the offensive line to the defensive line. He had 42 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks.
“He ended up being a better defensive player than offensive player for us,” Reinart said. “He’s a big, quick kid, really long and uses leverage well. He had a really solid season. ... He didn’t play every snap of every game. He was in the rotation with the bigger guys to make sure we stayed a little bit more fresh. He very well could have had 80 tackles had we had him out there more.”
Completing Chisholm’s first-team selections was kicker John Sheppard. He averaged 32.9 yards per punt. “He has a really, really good leg,” Reinart said, noting that there were times Sheppard uncorked punts of 50 yards or better during games. “He hit some punts at practice like he should be out there on Saturdays.”
Chisholm’s second team selections were wide receiver Liam Johnston, slot receiver Heston Daniels, guard Ethan Cowdrey, tackle Baylor Ewbank, strong safety Wyatt Groves and cornerback Parker Warnock. Josh Dodson was honorable mention at running back.