Kambrian Colborn sat at the far end of the table waiting her turn Monday inside Pioneer Fieldhouse.
She waited and listened to seven of her classmates – all Stillwater High football players – being honored by their coaches, in addition to hearing them thank everyone. She was the only non-football player at the ceremony that was postponed five days because of winter weather canceling school Wednesday.
The SHS girls’ soccer player, who has played the center-back position, waited until it was her turn to be honored. SHS soccer coach Seth Condley talked about Colborn during the ceremony.
“Kambrian is a testament to anyone in any sport that you can find somewhere to go play and find a college scholarship – athletic or academic – if you put the time into doing it, no matter what level,” Condley said. “She worked and worked, she communicated with me and her coaches, she and her parents did a lot of the leg work on their own. You have to go sell yourself to these coaches and she did that. She’s one of the reasons we’ve turned the girls’ program around.”
Colborn signed her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas. Her signing marked the second-straight year a Stillwater High girls’ soccer player signed to play in college.
Condley said Colborn had other offers after she worked hard to get attention from college coaches.
“Any time you can continue to have players from your program that college coaches feel can play at their level, it’s always a good thing,” Condley said. “You want kids to have that chance to play at the next level. It’s good for anybody and it’s good for the program.
“… This was the one she liked the most. She liked them all, but this one had the best offer and she really liked the girls in the program and the coach. … Her effort and her attitude are awesome. It’s the kind of girl you want on your team.”
Before Colborn was recognized, seven SHS football players were honored. They joined wide receiver Anthony Bland, who signed with Princeton University in December, as the Pioneers who signed letters of intent to play football at the next level.
The football players who signed Monday – or technically signed last week and recognized Monday – were Cedrik Frazier (Northeastern State University), Jake Freeny (Northwestern Oklahoma State University), Jadrian Gibbs (William Penn University), Clay Hatfield (Bethel College), Kobe Holley (Emporia State University), Garrick Martin (Emporia State University) and Sean Preston (Southwestern Oklahoma State University).
“It’s a big group and it’s a lot of fun,” SHS football coach Tucker Barnard said. “We were talking about it in the office before this how exciting it is to see that many guys going on to play. It’s exciting to see some of the DII pathways open up for us, because that’s not something we’ve done a lot of over the past several years. It’s exciting for me to know that these guys want to keep playing and get some school paid for, too.”
Six of the seven football players were on the defensive side of the ball. Freeny, an offensive lineman, was the lone player on the side of the ball that often earned the headlines throughout the past two seasons.
“We put a lot of talent out on the field this year, and I’ve talked all year long about our defense,” Barnard said. “I know the offense was getting a bunch of headlines, but these guys on defense were a huge part of the success we had. We couldn’t have won that many games without those guys playing great defense, too.”
Preston, a linebacker for the Pioneers, agreed with his coach.
“We’ve always let the offense get all of the attention, and that’s fine with us,” Preston said. “Now, we get to show what we’ve got going on here on the defensive side of the ball.”
Here is a breakdown of each football player who was recognized Monday:
The 6-foot-2, 182-pound cornerback missed time early in the season, because of an injury. He had 25 tackles and two interceptions this fall.
Frazier was Class 6A-II District 1 First Team defensive back this year. He will be playing at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Frazier was one of three members of the SHS secondary to sign Monday, along with Holley and Martin.
“All three of these guys are going to great schools,” SHS defensive coordinator Clarence Holley said. “They’re actually going to see each other. They won’t actually play against each other, but their teams will play against each other, and it will be fun to watch these guys compete.”
The one offensive player who signed Monday will be staying in state at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva. Freeny, a 6-5, 260-pound lineman played right tackle this fall, paving the way for tailback Qwontrel Walker and keeping quarterback Gunnar Gundy on his feet.
“I remember when I first started here, he was going into the seventh grade,” SHS offensive line coach Charlie Johnson said of Freeny. “I watched him keep working, keep training and keep grinding, and he got to the point where his number was finally called his senior year. He was a big reason why we were able to have the success that we had this past year. I wish Jake the best.”
Freeny said he was happy to be on the table with his teammates, some of whom he’s played with since third grade. As far as choosing NWOSU, the Rangers were a good fit for him.
“I knew some people who went there and it was my only offer,” Freeny said. “It’s definitely a great school. I went on a couple visits and really liked the coaches.”
After just one year at SHS, Gibbs is headed out of state for college. He moved to Stillwater from Hugo and played linebacker for the Pioneers.
He racked up 35 tackles and one sack this fall. Gibbs is signed to play at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
“Jadrian and I got here this past year about the same time, and he came from a small school, so he was learning the whole time,” SHS linebackers coach Eddie Hatch said. “Here’s the great thing about him – nobody works as hard as he does. His motor runs all the time. We wish he would have been able to be there the whole time, but he’s going to get an opportunity to play at the next level. I’m really proud of him.”
A utility player who went from a wide receiver to an undersized defensive end, Hatfield will likely be sticking to defense in college. The 6-3, 180-pound Hatfield had 18 tackles on an ever-shifting defense that confused many opposing offenses.
“The thing about Clay is he plays the game with lots of passion and lots of energy,” SHS defensive line coach Derrick Anderson said. “Sometimes you have to bring him in – he’s a little too juiced up. We got him back from being a receiver and put him on D-line this year, and we couldn’t be happier with what he did for us.”
Hatfield signed with Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. It was a good fit, he said.
“I went up there with an open mind with other offers, and the coaches were a great group of guys,” Hatfield said. “I really hit it off with them. The teammate atmosphere is amazing up there. It’s small town football and something I’d love to be a part of, and I knew from the start that’s where I was meant to be.
“Right now, they have me training to play outside linebacker or bandit type of position. I’m good with wherever they want me to play. I’m considered a utility guy is what people usually say. I’m up for grabs and play anywhere.”
One of two Pioneers who are headed to Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, Holley was excited to be recognized Monday. The SHS safety finished fourth on the team with 81 tackles and led the Pioneers with seven interceptions this fall.
“It’s really awesome,” Holley said. “I’ve watched kids do it for the past two years. I’ve always wanted to sit in front of my friends and sign that national letter of intent to go play college football.”
Emporia State was a school Holley fell in love with rather quickly. He was leaning toward the Hornets during the season before he committed last month.
“My dad I drove up there this past summer and I got to see what all they did,” Holley said. “I met the coaches and some of the players. From the very beginning, I kind of fell in love with it. It was really nice and my kind of town.”
Holley will be continuing to play alongside fellow safety Garrick Martin at Emporia State. He was happy to recruit his longtime teammate.
“Once they offered Garrick, I was kind on him about going there,” Holley said. “It was looking good and then he got that preferred walk-on from OSU, and then it was getting a little dicey. At the very end, I think we talked him into it enough to where he wanted to go there, too.”
Holley was a big reason Martin is headed Emporia State. The SHS safety did have a preferred walk-on offer from Oklahoma State, but he ultimately chose to go the NCAA Div. II route and keep playing with his teammate.
“I really liked the coaches there,” Martin said. “They were super nice to me. I went on an official visit and really loved it. I just made the decision that was best for me and my family.
“Kobe was texting me every day, because he committed a week before I did. He was texting me every day and sending me pictures and all of this stuff. He’s probably my biggest recruiter, honestly. I’ve been playing with him since I was in third grade. Every team I’ve been on, he’s been on it, too, so it’s really exciting to get to play with him for four to five more years.”
Martin had 48 tackles, two interceptions, two fumbles forced and three fumbles recovered this fall. He also caught 11 passes for 259 and one touchdown after he started playing wide receiver, too, late in the season.
“It’s kind of crazy, honestly,” Martin said. “I never thought this day would come. I’m so proud of myself and all of my teammates for getting here.”
During the past two years, Preston has finished second on the team in tackles. The undersized linebacker at 5-9 and 195 pounds, Preston has racked up more than 100 tackles during his junior and senior season.
“What I will remember most about his last season is the passion he plays the game of football with,” Hatch said of Preston. “I’m so excited to get to go and participate at the next level. He plays with a lot of heart and a lot of passion.”
Preston is now headed to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. He’s also played running back in a few games, but Preston will be heading to SWOSU for his defensive prowess.
“All of us have been talking about this for so long now,” Preston said. “It’s a great feeling to make it happen with all of my friends I’ve been playing with for almost all of my life.
“SWOSU was one of the schools that reached out to me. They really showed interest and told me they wanted me. If they’re going to give me their full interest, I’m going to give them everything I’ve got.”