Jan. 20—2023 was an incredible year for high school football in Stillwater, Payne County and the surrounding area.
The area was littered with great players, great coaches and even better people.
This year, the News Press reintroduced two All-Area teams, and they feature 55 student-athletes. Eighteen additional players received an honorable mention.
Each of them represent the area in a manner that makes their communities proud.
Player of the Year: Holden Thompson, Stillwater
Holden Thompson completed a historic season in 2023, resetting the single-season school record for rushing yards with 2,167. He also set the school’s record for most rushing yards in a game with his 331 yards in Stillwater’s win over Tahlequah on Oct. 27.
With Thompson’s 24 total touchdowns, the Pioneers won another district championship and returned to the state championship game.
Coach of the Year: Dawayne Hudson, Perkins-Tryon
Dawayne Hudson’s third season as Demons head coach resulted in the school’s first state semifinals appearance in more than 20 years.
Perkins-Tryon (11-2, 7-0) won its first district championship since 2011.
2023 All-Area First Team
John Hilligoss, Cushing
Hilligoss shredded opposing defenses while leading the area with 2,675 passing yards. He threw for 34 touchdowns and posted 577 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Josh Ford, Stillwater
Josh Ford was considered one of the best tight ends in the state going into the season, and he proved it on the field with 245 yards, three touchdowns and countless game-changing blocks for the area’s leading rusher.
On defense, Ford added 50 tackles, 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal.
Brady Matheson, Cushing
As a senior, Brady Matheson smashed his junior-year numbers. He caught 64 passes for 1,175 yards and 17 touchdowns. Just for good measure, he rushed seven times for 136…