GIBSON CITY — Ryland Holt stands 6-foot-4 and Bryce Barnes 6-2. It’s hardly surprising both juniors suit up for the GCMS High School basketball team.
Yet it took a year concentrating on basketball for the pair to realize they wanted to be Falcon football players, too.
“Missing out on sophomore year and watching all those Friday nights made me think maybe I should get back into it,” Barnes said. “Early on in the summer, I had several friends talking to me.
"Seeing the guys work out this summer and knowing we were going to be a good team convinced me a little more to play.”
GCMS has been good, to say the least. And Holt and Barnes have played key roles in the Falcons advancing to the Class 2A quarterfinals where they will play host to El Paso-Gridley at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“They have been two great additions,” said GCMS coach Mike Allen. “They have helped out tremendously.”
A wide receiver, Holt has 14 receptions for 371 yards (a whopping 26.5-yard average) and a school-record nine touchdowns. Barnes is a tight end-defensive end who has covered 269 yards on 12 catches.
“I definitely missed it,” Holt said of not playing football his sophomore year. “My friends really pounded me about it. I guess I kind of jumped on the bandwagon so I could do as much as I could to help out. It’s been really fun to be part of this group of guys.”
Summer weight work helped Holt prepare for the rigors of a football season.
“That helped to make the transition easy,” he said. “At the beginning, I really had to learn the routes and the plays. That was the hardest part.”
Barnes went out for football as a freshman but was limited by a hamstring injury.
“I didn’t get to play much so it wasn’t that much fun. Sitting out kind of sucked,” said Barnes. “Sophomore year I decided not to risk anything for basketball. But coming out this year has been a lot of fun. I’m real glad I did it.”
Barnes and Holt use their height to their advantage. Quarterback Nathan Garard has thrown only 64 passes all season, but he has completed 43 for 859 yards or nearly 20 yards per reception.
“It helps a lot over defensive backs,” Barnes said. “We’re taller and can jump. It’s kind of easy for us to go up and get the ball.”
Barnes also has 63 tackles on defense as the team’s third-leading tackler behind Luke Freehill and Josh Bleich.
"Defensively, we play on their side of the ball," said Barnes. "Our guys are not waiting for the ball to come to them. They're going to the ball."