Offensive Player of the Year: New receiver Brown takes well to role
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
December 22, 2013 12:28 AM | 3786 views | 0 0 comments | 338 338 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Blace Brown
<BR>Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
Blace Brown
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
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CANTON — When Cherokee graduated its top receiver from 2012, Blace Brown saw it as a great opportunity.

A senior who played defense throughout his high school career, he thought he just might have what it took to be the Warriors’ go-to receiver.

“You see, I’ve got these hands,” he said, holding his palms up. “We ran out of receivers. Our best receiver, Armony (Parker), graduated and I wanted to replace him. They gave me a chance and I stepped up and took over. I have hands that are ridiculously big. I just snatch the ball.”

Brown said that when he was on the field, he focused on what he could do to help his team.

“They switched me over to the offensive side of the ball and I just came naturally to it,” he said.

Looking at Brown’s numbers, no one would deny that he was a good fit for the new position. He finished the regular season as the Class AAAAAA leader in receiving yards with 1,137. He made 80 catches, with seven going for touchdowns.

By the end of the season, opposing defenses viewed Brown as such a threat that they often double-teamed him.

For his accomplishments this season, Brown is the 2013 Cherokee Tribune Football Offensive Player of the Year.

“Most people didn’t expect me to come out like that in my first year of playing offense on varsity football,” Brown said. “They didn’t want me to play offense last year, so I stayed on defense. This year, I came over to offense and just stacked up the yards.”

Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said Brown was a two-year starter at cornerback before making the shift in the offseason. The move worked out well for the Warriors, who finished 5-5 and just missed the state playoffs, and for Brown, who has started to draw interest from colleges.

“It was easy to see that (Brown) was one of the best, if not the best, athlete on the team,” Shaw said. “We knew that the receiver that we were moving him to was a focal point of the team, so it didn’t take a lot of thought to put the most athletic kids on the team in a position that we were going to try to get the ball to.”

“He ended up being a much better offensive player than he ever was defensive. It allowed him to use his athletic skills a whole lot more. Those are the moves that make you look smart as a coach.”

It didn’t hurt that Brown had Spencer Ashley, one of the top quarterbacks Class AAAAAA, throwing for him. Ashley finished the season with 2,276 passing yards and 16 touchdowns.

Just under half of those TDs went to Brown.

“He’s accurate, and we just worked every day during the summer by ourselves,” Brown said of his partnership with Ashley. “We just threw, and it came naturally.”

Shaw said it also didn’t hurt that Brown matured as a player over the summer, and returned to the team focused.

Brown didn’t give up playing defense altogether. Occasionally, the Warriors used him in the secondary, but if Brown has his way, he will be a receiver next year in college.

“I’m hoping for D-I,” Brown said. “I’m looking for a few more offers, but I’ve had some programs come visit me at the school and I’m waiting for some offers in January. I’m looking forward to a new challenge and trying to start as a freshman.”

Because Brown is so new to the receiver position, Shaw said he and his assistants weren’t able to get much film out to scouts until the end of the season.

“We have been blasting out that film now,” Shaw said. “People were aware of him and knew that he was an athlete, but there wasn’t any offensive film out there until the season ended. College interest will probably keep picking up on him. We might not get another kid at this school or in this county that has another season like he did for another 10 or 15 years. That just speaks volumes about the season he had.”

In all likelihood, Brown has seen little of his potential. Shaw sees areas that college coaches could shape, and Brown isn’t blind to it either.

“I know my potential, but I’m not there yet,” Brown said.

Shaw was a bit more specific.

“I think we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We saw him get better over the course of the season. His blocking has gotten better, and that is going to be an area that he needs to be better at in college. His route running will improve, which is something they will work on in college. But the things he has, exceptional hands and being athletic, are things that coaches in college can teach you.”
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