Orangefield’s Cameron Dischler highlights Willy Ray Smith awards finalists

Published 12:02 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

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The region’s most prominent names of high school football were gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings in Beaumont Monday evening as the Willy Ray Smith award finalists were announced.

Every year, the Beaumont Founders Lions Club presents the Willy Ray Smith awards to recognize the top offensive and defensive players in Southeast Texas.

The late Smith, whose name the trophy carries, is a revered coach who won multiple state titles and contributed to the advancement of the civil rights movement.

Thus, some stipulations to receive a nomination for the award are leadership, positive impact on the community and, most recognizably, excellence on the football field.

Two massive Bronze plaques, which feature a statuesque representation of Smith, were present at the announcement for all to see, with past winners listed on them, which include names such as Earl Thomas and Jamaal Charles.

Orangefield’s Cameron Dischler (40) fights for yardage against Cameron Yoe. (Tommy Mann, Jr./Orange Leader)

One of the finalists is Cameron Dischler, the senior Orangefield running back.

Dischler sprinted and also bruised his way to a whopping 2,441 yards and 28 touchdowns on 247 carries, averaging nearly 10 yards a carry. He also found time to play superbly at defensive back when needed, was a standout on the special teams and tossed two touchdowns for Bobcats coach Josh Smalley.

With his efforts, Dischler is the 2022 Most Valuable Player on the All-Orange Leader Football Team.

“I’ve been in coaching for 25 years now and Cameron might be the best one I’ve ever coached. That says a lot because I’ve seen some good ones over the years. He may not be the fastest or the strongest I’ve seen, but he has a heart and determination like no other,” Smalley previously told Orange Newsmedia.

Another of the finalists is Memorial quarterback Davion Williams, who led the Titans to a District championship in 2022, while going three rounds deep into playoffs and earning district MVP honors. He put pen to paper on an offer to continue playing next year at McNeese State University in February.

Wilson is joined by some stiff competition in the voting with two finalists: Dre’lon Miller, the sure-handed wide receiver of the Silsbee Tigers and Lucas Powell, the gun-slinging quarterback from Lumberton.

Powell, the district 10-4A MVP and whom some consider the front-runner for the offensive award, led the Raiders to a district championship while going three rounds deep into playoffs and leads the offensive finalists in statistical production with a combined 50 touchdowns this year, 46 coming through the air. This is his second year running as a finalist.

“I was pretty happy, yeah, I was pretty happy about it,” said Powell about receiving the news that he’d be a finalist. “I was a finalist last year, too, but I give credit to my teammates and everybody around me, especially my receivers and my o-line. It was not just me.”

Powell said the difference coming into this year was “preparing every single day throughout the offseason.”

When there was some confusion on whether he said “preparing” or “praying,” he laughed and responded, “Well, both. A lot of both.”

The wide receiver of the group, Dre’lon Miller, is a particular standout as it is tougher to be placed among these names when wide receivers typically touch the ball fewer times than quarterbacks and running backs.

Despite the odds being slightly against him, his more than 1,400 yards receiving and 24 total touchdowns earned him a spot among the best.

Along with those numbers came another number: 44. That’s the number of college offers Miller has received to date, but as of now, he said he couldn’t even narrow it down to a top five.

Defensive finalists, from left, are Jayron Wilson, Ty’Anthony Smith, Leighton Foster and Gavin DeRanieri. (Clayton Eaves/Special to The Leader)

“Maybe ask me in May,” he said with a chuckle.

“I felt like I reached my personal goals this year. I didn’t reach my ultimate goal of winning a state championship, but we had a great season.”

Wilson — like most of the others — was not a finalist at last year’s ceremony but he did attend last year’s announcement of the finalists.

“It was difficult to watch,” he said, “but this year, coming in and being a finalist, I hope I can win it.”

The four bruising finalists on the defensive side of the ball all represented the linebacker position: Gavin DeRanieri of Hamshire-Fannett, Leighton Foster of Newton, Ty’Anthony Smith of Jasper and Jayron Williams of Silsbee made up the field.

The Silsbee Tigers Jayron Wilson, the statistical leader among the group, had 179 total tackles, with ten sacks and three blocked field goals, among other statistical accomplishments.

The Official Award Banquet and announcement of the offensive and defensive finalists among four finalists on each side of the ball takes place at the Elegante Hotel in Beaumont April 24 at 6 p.m.

— Written by Clayton Eaves