WHITEHOUSE — The move to receiver has been welcomed with open hands by Whitehouse’s Dylan Cantrell, who played defensive back last year.
The change has limited him mainly to the offensive side of the ball, because a Wildcats receiver’s role can be demanding. But the 6-3, 180-pound junior still lines up for the stop unit in red zone situations, and delivers when given the chance.
“He’s so valuable to us on the offensive side, it’s hard to put him over there,” Whitehouse coach Randy McFarlin said. “He can cover lots of ground and can make tackles. He’s just a great overall athlete. The best part is he’s just a junior and we’ve got him back next year.”
A season after starting for the defense, Cantrell is tied for the team and area lead in receptions entering Friday night’s District 14-4A matchup at Nacogdoches (1-4, 1-1). That means he’s become one of the top threats for the explosive Wildcats (2-3, 2-0), winners of two consecutive games after finishing non-district winless.
“I feel at home more at receiver and I’m really enjoying the opportunity,” Cantrell said.
“I like defense, too, but I’ve always felt at home on offense. …It’s exciting. You never know when the big play is going to happen.”
Cantrell has 36 receptions for 548 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. He’s tied in receptions with senior teammate Jonathan Aldridge, whose catches have resulted in 777 yards and 11 scores.
Cantrell’s performance last week might’ve been below his standard from previous games, but his three catches for 49 yards and a 23-yard score helped Whitehouse get past Hallsville (35-24) and remain unbeaten in district.
“Dylan has come on and become a go-to guy,” McFarlin said. “I would like to see us throw it down the field more and use his height. He’s developed into a great receiver people have to account for.
“He’s a third-and-eight guy, so I guess you could call him a possession receiver. He is a threat down the field. He has great speed and good hands.”
Cantrell, who is beginning to gain the attention of NCAA Division I football, witnessed former teammate Trey Metoyer’s historic career. It resulted in All-America honors last season and a second-place spot on the state’s all-time receptions list.
“I learned a lot watching Trey play, whether it be how to get off the press or stuff like that,” Cantrell said. “He’s an unbelievable receiver and it was crazy to see some of the catches he made last year.”
Cantrell’s favorite NFL receiver is former Lufkin Panther and current Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant, whom Metoyer has often been compared to. Cantrell also enjoyed the way Randy Moss played the position.
“Getting that one-on-one and going up and Moss-ing on a guy is the best feeling in the world,” Cantrell said. “It’s just the best feeling a receiver can get. One guy on you and one guy to beat, and you go up and make a play.”
Cantrell enjoys playing alongside Aldridge and Wildcats quarterback Hunter Taylor, who has completed 136 of 242 passes for 1,924 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.
“(People) think he’s going to be an early offer kid,” McFarlin said of Cantrell. “He’s a straight-A student and the kind of athlete a lot of guys are looking for.
“As the weather gets cooler we may use him more and more on defense. It’s hard to go both ways in our offense as a receiver. You have to have a little recovery time.”
The Dylan Cantrell file
Favorite Music: 89.5 FM
Artist: Chris Tomlin
Movie: “Friday Night Lights”
Actress: Jessica Alba
Actor: Robert Downey Jr.
Food: Mac n’ Cheese
Did You Know?: Cantrell plays piano.
They said it: “We’ll let him grow another year and let him fill out a little bit more. He’s going to be an awesome football player one of these days.” — Whitehouse coach Randy McFarlin