Although it is becoming slightly less common among larger schools, having players who can excel on both offense and defense is still a valuable commodity in high school football.
Most postseason awards usually focus on players at one position or another, but not necessarily two-way players as a whole.
That’s what the Iron Brigade team is designed to do. It’s made up of 11 players across all classifications from around our coverage area who made significant contributions both offensively and defensively during the 2021 season.
How the Iron Brigade team was chosen
To start the process, we asked area head coaches to nominate players they thought were deserving of consideration, from which we narrowed down the list over several weeks to the 11 making up the inaugural team.
While team performance wasn’t necessarily a point of emphasis, it’s important to note that all 11 players on the team played on playoff teams in 2021, with seven of them on teams that reached their respective semifinals.
Of the 11 players, we required that at least four of them were linemen on one side of the ball or the other, as the team could easily have been made up of 11 skill position players with all the talent in the area.
Without further ado, congratulations to the inaugural 615 Preps Iron Brigade team:
Ellis Ellis, RB/DB, Sr., Hendersonville
Hendersonville’s success was driven in large part by Ellis, who amassed 1,588 total yards (966 rushing, 622 receiving) on offense with 20 touchdowns in 2021. Defensively, the Austin Peay signee made opponents think twice about throwing near him, with 10 pass breakups and five interceptions for the Class 6A semifinalist Commandos.
Xavier Harper, OL/LB, Sr., Trousdale County
Harper helped steady the Trousdale County offensive line, leading the Yellow Jackets to a Class 2A semifinal appearance. His defensive work was even better, compiling 103 total tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and an interception in 2021.
Isaiah Horton, WR/DB, Sr., Oakland
Horton was one of the driving forces in Oakland’s second consecutive Class 6A championship run. The University of Miami signee caught 41 passes for 732 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed twice for 87 yards and two scores. On defense, he collected 34 tackles and an interception as his secondary presence largely discouraged opposing passers from throwing in his vicinity.
Jamison Keeley, OL/DL, Jr., Smith County
One of two non-seniors on the list, Keeley did not play like an underclassman, overpowering opponents to the tune of 92 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and nine sacks on defense, while helping a young Smith County line grow considerably in 2021.
Isaac Knowles, WR/DB, Sr., DeKalb County
The DeKalb County senior really didn’t leave the field in 2021, contributing in all three phases of the game for the Tigers. His offensive stat line included a turn at quarterback, throwing two touchdown passes. He rushed for 882 yards and 15 touchdowns, while also catching 72 passes for 1,030 yards and six more scores. Defensively, he finished with 92 total tackles and seven interceptions, and his special teams work included both a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown.
Langston Patterson, RB/LB, Sr., Christ Presbyterian Academy
Vanderbilt fans should be excited to have Patterson, who racked up 127 total tackles, including 12 for a loss in 2021. Helping CPA to its fourth consecutive trip to the BlueCross Bowl, Patterson also found the end zone eight times as he ran for 737 yards for the Division II-Class AA runner-up Lions.
Brady Pierce, WR/DB, Sr., Summit
Pierce seemingly did everything for Class 6A runner-up Summit, helping the Spartans reach the BlueCross Bowl for the third consecutive year. He racked up 1,166 yards of total offense (834 receiving) and 20 touchdowns, while finishing with 138 tackles, a fumble recovery and four interceptions. The Kentucky signee also averaged 38.1 yards per punt on 24 attempts.
Mason Swindle, OL/DL, Jr., Macon County
Swindle anchored the line for a Macon County offense that racked up more than 3,600 yards on the way to an 8-4 season in 2021. He was the Tigers’ leading tackler with 118 total stops and 16.5 tackles for a loss, while also forcing four fumbles and adding three sacks along the way.
Keaten Wade, RB/LB, Sr., Summit
Wade was the centerpiece of the Summit defense in 2021, racking up 119 total tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, four forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and two interceptions. The Kentucky signee also paired with his twin brother in the Spartans’ backfield and rushed for 619 yards and seven touchdowns, while adding three touchdown receptions as well.
Aleric Watson, OL/DL, Sr., Middle Tennessee Christian
The Arkansas State signee led the way along the Middle Tennessee Christian offensive line, helping block for an offense that rushed for 3,265 yards in 2021. Watson also had 46 tackles and three sacks on defense as the Cougars advanced to the Division II-Class A semifinals for the first time in school history.
Sean Williams, RB/DB, Sr., Battle Ground Academy
BGA’s standout senior combined for more than 2,000 yards of offense (1,406 rushing) with 16 rushing touchdowns and six receiving scores for the Wildcats. He also finished with 62 total tackles, 11 forced fumbles and two interceptions during his standout 2021 season.