By Nate Aker
Over the next few weeks, SBLive Oklahoma will break down high school football teams from the four largest classifications in the state in anticipation of the upcoming 2022 season. Here's our look at the Oklahoma City John Marshall Bears.
Chris Berus, 1st season
3 offense, multiple defense
2021 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 3-7
League Record: 2-5, 5th in District 4A-2
Playoffs: Did not qualify
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Davien Taylor, 6-2, 200, Jr.
Taylor will enter his junior season at a new position. After competing at wideout for his initial first two years with the Bears, he’ll look to assume a more leadership-oriented role at the quarterback position.
As a 6-foot-2, 200-pound athlete, it should be a beneficial move for the junior, as he has a handful of targets to work with, as well as an experienced and talented offensive line.
WR/CB Dorien Middleton, 5-9, 170, Sr.
Middleton will look to make big plays at the receiver position for John Marshall in this upcoming season after flashing what he could do in 2021. As a fluid athlete, working at both the wideout and cornerback positions have helped him bloom into a more skilled, well-rounded player on both sides of the ball.
With a new gunslinger in Taylor, him and Middleton will have to work in tandem in a new dynamic.
Last year, they worked together in the same position group. This year, Taylor and Middleton will have to connect on a different level in order for this John Marshall squad to be proficient on the offensive end.
DL Crayden Sandersfield, 6-2, 220, Sr.
Sandersfield has developed into a great leader by example for this Bears' team, but in a unique way. As head coach Chris Berus put it, Sandersfield is “quiet” and “unassuming” to the naked eye, but when presented an opportunity to smack the head off of an opposing quarterback, running back or any position for that matter, he does not hesitate to attack in full force.
As a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior, Sandersfield will look to create a memorable final season in 2022.
Chris Berus had spent four seasons as head coach at Ada before he made the move to Edmond and spent a season as the defensive coordinator for Edmond North in 2021. Now, his coaching journey puts him back at the helm while still residing in the Oklahoma City metro through taking the head coaching job at John Marshall.
Widely regarded as one of the best assistant coaches in the country, Berus will have his work cut out for him as the Bears missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013 this previous season. But, with his expertise alongside a few skilled, pure athletes in important skill positions, Berus and the Bears have the opportunity to build something special.
In his first year as head coach, Berus will have a first-year quarterback in junior Davien Taylor to work with and develop, acting as a blank canvas for both of them. To Taylor’s advantage, he will have a talented duo surrounding him as senior wideouts Dorien Middleton and Kylin Drennon will look to help Taylor spark plays through the air.
Taylor will also be dealt some good cards along his offensive line, with seniors Aalijah Kirby and Angel DeLeaon working to protect him.
Defensively, senior Crayden Sandersfield should act as a disruptive force on the Bears’ defensive line alongside junior Tre’Quan Johnson and senior Alante Benford. The linebacker core will be a lineup of sophomore Sean Powell, who’ll look to make an impact as an underclassman, junior Terrance Caldwell and senior Shazdon Guliford.
It should be an interesting first year for Berus, as he hopes to make an immediate impact in Class 4A and help get the John Marshall Bears back to their recognizable caliber.
Marshall kicks off its season on Aug. 26 with a home game against Lawton MacArthur, and is at home the following week against Bethany. The Bears then face Heritage Hall - a 3A semifinalist last season - on Sept. 16 before starting 4A-1 play on Sept. 23, a home game against defending 4A champion Clinton.