Four-year starters aren’t a common entity in high school football.
It typically takes a player with great talent, who is shaped into a great leader via his on-field experience.
Such is the case for Horseshoe Bend senior Gavin Brazzell.
“If you just meet him, you’d think he’s really quiet,” Horseshoe Bend head coach Jeremy Phillips said. “But he likes to cut up and all the kids like him. I don’t know how to explain it, but he’s a guy that people want to gravitate to and they want to follow. He’s just a natural leader.”
Entering his fourth and final year at the top of the Generals’ running back and safety depth chart, Brazzell will look to provide Horseshoe Bend’s offense with its most dynamic weapon and help shut down opposing passing attacks en route to what he hopes is his first playoff appearance.
“He started before I even got here,” Phillips said. “That experience that he brings, being in a lot of games and going against different levels of competition is really gonna be helpful for our offense. He also has great speed, great vision running the ball.”
Brazzell is certainly a known entity at this point.
Last season he grabbed first-team All-Outlook honors at running back after showing off his shifty, explosive nature at the position.
This season he’ll play tailback in Horseshoe Bend’s wishbone offense and wingback when the Generals shift to a Wing-T, both positions that can take advantage of both his quickness getting outside and his grit pounding the ball forward in the running game.
“It’s really a big role, because we’re a power offense,” Brazzell said. “We don’t pass much, everything is just straight downhill. So being a running back you’ve gotta have that about you, just want to do it.”
He’ll be called upon to block for his fellow running backs as well, a part of his game Phillips noted has improved from last year to this one.
“In our offense, running backs, they have a pivotal role in blocking,” Phillips said. “Most of the time, if they’re not getting the ball, they’re either doing a fake or blocking for another running back. A lot of times in our offense, if a running back blocks, it ends up springing the run to be a major gain.”
Brazzell started out as a cornerback on defense, but after seeing how well he could tackle in practice, Phillips decided to swap the then-junior over to safety.
With a year at the new spot under his belt, he’ll look to contribute in even bigger ways on that side of the ball in 2021, shifting down to outside linebacker when the scheme calls for it.
“I’ve definitely improved on run recognition, reading the keys from the linemen, stuff like that,” Brazzell said.
When asked what his goal is for this season, Brazzell only mentioned one thing — making the playoffs.
He’s been putting in extra work to get there. He’ll swing by the Generals’ field house hours after team practices or weightlifting sessions have ended, putting in extra gym work or running through drills by himself.
“Just an all-around great kid, that’s what he is,” Phillips said. “Don’t have to ask him to do anything twice. Most of the time you don’t even have to ask him.”
Reaching the postseason will take more than just Brazzell for Horseshoe Bend, however. The Generals haven’t won more than two games in a season since the ball carrier has been with the team, and have a roster of just 37 players.
Brazzell is one of a mere four seniors.
He knows it will take a collective effort from the Generals to reach an 11th game.
“We’ve just gotta give it our all every time we go out on the field,” Brazzell said. “Lay it all on the line each Friday.”
Regardless, entering his last year in the program, Brazzell has left an undeniable mark on Horseshoe Bend.