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Decatur Heritage quarterback Brayden Kyle is the Class 1A-4A Player of the Year while Decatur Heritage head coach Steve Meek is Coach of the Year. [JOHN GODBEY/DECATUR DAILY]

Decatur Heritage quarterback Brayden Kyle claims he’s never been about the numbers.

“I just want to compete and do whatever I can to help my team win,” Kyle said.

The best way to do that on the football field is to roll up some big numbers, and Kyle is good at that.

Kyle is a repeat selection as The Daily’s Class 1A-4A Player of the Year. He was responsible for 70 touchdowns and 4,405 yards of offense this season.

Decatur Heritage head coach Steve Meek is The Daily’s 1A-4A Coach of the Year. The Eagles’ 10-3 record and third consecutive region championship was a great sendoff for Meek, who is heading into retirement after 11 years at Decatur Heritage.

“We tried to build on what Joe Dupper and Lew Sample started, and I think we did a pretty good job,” Meek said. “I’m excited to see where Nikita Stover (Decatur Heritage’s new head coach) takes it next. I know it’s going to be exciting.”

One key to Decatur Heritage’s success has been having good players and then being able to replace them with other good players when they graduate.

Attempting to replace Kyle could be a tall task. He completed 144 of 241 passes for 39 touchdowns and 2,855 yards. He rushed 105 times for 1,550 yards and 31 touchdowns. Not surprisingly, Kyle was also named the Class 1A first-team All-State quarterback for a second straight time.

“There’s never been a time where I walked out on the football field thinking about what kind of numbers I needed to post,” Kyle said.

No one could have imagined what Kyle would do on Nov. 11 in the second round of the playoffs at Ragland. He rushed for eight touchdowns and 358 yards. He threw for three touchdowns on 11 of 21 attempts for 271 yards.

The 629 total yards and 11 touchdowns accounted for are both state records. His total yards ranked ninth best all-time nationally.

Decatur Heritage needed every yard and point Kyle produced that night in order to escape Ragland with a 76-60 victory. 

“That night after the game when our coaches told me what I had done, it didn’t seem real,” Kyle said. “Now that some time has passed since that game, I still can’t believe it really happened.”

The Eagles’ season would end the next week in the quarterfinals at the hands of Pickens County, 60-46.

The loss to Pickens County marked the end of Meek’s football coaching career and the end of the line for a talented Decatur Heritage senior class. Receiver Alex Malone and lineman Saxon Sample both joined Kyle as first-team All-State selections this season. Teammates Tyler Founds and Nash Rippen were both second-team All-State selections.

“There’s been talk for several years among the players about how long Coach Meek would go,” Kyle said. “I would always joke that he was going to coach through our senior year because we’re going to be special.

“I’m glad it turned out the way it did. Playing football at Decatur Heritage is special. Getting to play for Coach Meek has made it even more special.”

Kyle is the third football player to take The Daily Player of the Year honor in back-to-back seasons. Athens quarterback Rob Ezell did it in 2005 and 2006. Austin quarterback Quincy Crittendon was Player of the Year in 2019. He shared the honor with teammates Jevon Jackson and Tre Shackelford in 2020.

Two other players have received the honor twice, but not in back-to-back years. Hazlewood running back Pierre Goode was the 1A-4A Player of the Year in 1983 and 1985. Danville running back Ardie Orr took the honor in 1984.

Tanner quarterback Chadarius Townsend was the 1A-4A Player of the Year in 2014 and 2016. Priceville quarterback Kaleb Barker took the honor in 2015.

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 david.elwell@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

(1) comment

Joseph Dupper

Congrats guys! Great job!

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