Texas High School Football: Calallen's Earls keeps Wildcats in the running

Rey Castillo
Corpus Christi Caller Times

Jeremiah Earls is the type of player most teams dream of having.  

He can break tackles after contact and rush for more than 1,000 yards during any given season.

But it’s what he did in the face of adversity that has helped make a good Calallen team great.

The senior running back suffered an ankle injury during a non-district game against No. 1 Waco La Vega. Earls was out three weeks but continued to provide leadership from the sidelines.

It’s exactly what the Wildcats needed with the development of first-year quarterback Terik Hickmon and District 15-4A Division I play just a few weeks away.

“Jeremiah has been a great role model for me,” said Hickmon, who has rushed for 598 yards and eight touchdowns this season. “He’s shown me how to run hard and he’s helped me become more explosive. I’ve been able to pick the right holes to run through.”

After light running and taking things slow in the weight room, Earls returned to action in last week’s 52-14 district-opening win over Tuloso-Midway.

Earls ran for 69 yards — increasing his season total to 627 yards — the highest on the team.

Calallen's Jeremiah Earls runs with the ball at the game against Cornerstone, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, at Calallen High School. Earls is a running back for the team.

“It feels great knowing I can help my teammates again,” Earls said. “I was able to give them support on the sideline, but it’s a different story when I’m able to play.”

The return of Earls has opened more plays for the Wildcats’ offense. Hickmon’s ability to run the ball makes Calallen a serious threat in the backfield.

“It’s good to have him back,” said Calallen coach Phil Danaher. “He was good last year for us and the year before that. He’s a player that colleges should start looking at.”

Earls, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards his junior season, couldn’t have picked a better time to return with the Wildcats as they are set to take on Miller at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Buccaneer Stadium.

Calallen, which is ranked No. 5 in the Class 4A, Division I rankings, has never lost to the Buccaneers in the Danaher era. This will be the first meeting between the two schools since 2017. Calallen won that game 69-13.

“We’ve been staying serious on the field,” Earls said. “We have to stay focused because if we slip up, anybody can beat us at any given moment.”

The Wildcats (4-2, 1-0) don’t throw the ball much, but Hickmon can deliver when needed.

The first-year signal caller has passed for 103 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s been amazing, and he has great vision,” Danaher said. “He’s got a good arm on him, but he’s an outstanding runner.”

Miller (4-2, 2-0) is coming off a 73-42 win over Alice, which featured 229 passing yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Andrew Body.

Body, the all-south Texas MVP, has now passed for 1,862 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Behind Body, Miller has shown it can score with the explosiveness of receivers Adraean Lloyd and Lonnie Adkism, who have combined for 1,415 receiving yards.

Ethan Greenwood, who transferred from Calallen, is another threat that can rack up yards on the ground.

“It’s a big game, but we’ve had big games since the season started,” Danaher said. “We’ve had some outstanding teams we’ve had to play against, and that prepares you for this time of the season.”

The Buccaneers have averaged 56 points a game, while Calallen’s defense has allowed 15 points per contest.

No matter the numbers, records or the hype that comes along with Friday’s game, Earls said he is ready to have his best performance yet.

“I set goals at the beginning of the season, and the injury slowed them down," he said. "But now that I’m back, I’m trying to get back on track and make sure whatever I do — I do it to the fullest of my ability.”