, Muskogee, OK

July 21, 2013

With wings spread, Hornet looks ahead

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— It’s a habit that, apparently, Oklahoma State receivers coach Kasey Dunn picked up on — that spread formation possessed by Hilldale’s Bradley Campbell.

No, not what you think.

It’s when Campbell ran stop routes. Out went his arms. In came a nickname.

“He said I looked like a 747,” said Campbell.

Fair enough, because arms in or out, Campbell is flying high after his junior season as the Hilldale Hornets’ receiver.

Had their been a Comeback Player of the Year award on the All-Phoenix team, Campbell would have gotten it. He wound up with the Newcomer of the Year because while junior high ball was familiar, he skipped his first two seasons of high school football, figuring himself too small for the game.

Then came a three-inch growth spurt, to 6 feet, 1 inch.

And, the wing span.

“I flair my arms out. I don’t know why but (Dunn) pointed it out,” Campbell said, who also happens to be 15 pounds heavier than last year, at 173.

The coach also pointed out the strides he’s made in a short time. It’s  put him in a position to extend his career beyond high school. And it’s got Campbell focused for a bigger impact in 2013 following a 30-catch, 594-yard season.

“Last summer I really didn’t know what was going on and hadn’t experienced the drills or training for what I was doing,” he said. “Now I know how to make myself a better player and I can show others now to do it instead of being the one that watches and tries to figure it out.”

Quarterback Chandler Puckett found a growing level of trust with him over the course of the 2012 campaign.  There was a two catch, 105-yard game against Beggs and a four-catch, 80-yard, two touchdown game against Locust Grove and former Muskogee High head coach Matt Hennesy.

“We’ve scrimmaged them in 7-on-7,” Campbell said. “I have a pretty good idea from that coach Hennesy’s going to go crazy on me with double teams.”

The game that lifted Campbell to greater heights was the second-round Class 3A playoff win against Verdigris. He had six catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yarder from Puckett that sparked a 29-point comeback from a 20-7 halftime deficit to win, 36-23. The other score came in the first half, an 80-yard strike.

“I still felt like the new guy, but when I caught the first one I went up and told Chandler, ‘You just keep throwing it to me and I’ll get it done.’” Campbell said. “We’d thrown a lot with each other up to that point but neither of us had ever been in the third week of the playoffs at Hilldale. There was a lot of pressure on all of us, but I’m pretty good under pressure with the ball whether it’s 30 yards downfield or whatever.

“But that game definitely solidified that for me.”

Now, he’s solidified as a leader on an offense that’s more likely to throw the ball than run.

“I think we’re going to pass it a little more,” Campbell said. “We’ve got to have other receivers to do that. We’ve got one that just came in (Dylan Duncan) and another (Dakota Holmes) who like me, hasn’t played in a couple years. I want to help those guys out. As with Dakota, I’ve been in his position and I see him coming along just like I have.”

Matt Bargsten and Kaden Weaver will also be available in the receiving corps.

“I’m pleased where we’re at in the passing game but with any offense, you want to be able to establish the run that opens the passing game. We’ll try to be balanced and with Bradley, he’s as talented a receiver as we’ve had,” Hilldale head coach Chad Kirkhart said. “He goes up and catches the ball and has great control of his body. He does a lot of things well and never gets tired. He’s equally important on defense.”

He had five interceptions in the Hornets’ secondary. Two were returned for touchdowns, making him a potential big-play maker on both sides of the football.

“I just try to catch everything around me,” he said.

Wide wing span and all.