Awarded annually in recognition of excellence on the high school football field, the Pigskin has been around since 1994. Because the race for this coveted trophy was so tight this year, for the first time ever two recipients were granted the honor. When you consider all things, there was no separating this awesome twosome.
Oakland high school marched to a second consecutive class 6A state football championship in 2021. Many great performances highlighted their undefeated run to the title. A pair of Patriot defenders, however, were without question key in conquering all fifteen foes this season.
Defensive linemen Theron Gaines and Ethan McLaurin both earned the Pigskin because of their exceptional playmaking abilities. Feeding off one another’s disruption of the opponent’s offense, these monsters of the midway registered almost unbelievable statistical numbers in 2021.
“Me and Theron have started since we were sophomores and we have always competed with each other”, says McLaurin. “We have always tried to make each other better by working hard every day.”
“I owe a lot to Ethan because without him I could not have done the thing I have done as a high school player”, says Gaines. “The competition between us just helped drive us both to be better and we carried that onto the playing field every week.”
As what some would consider a bit undersized for defensive lineman at 240 pounds, these two used drive and determination while recording gargantuan numbers. Theron Gaines was in on 147 total tackles with 100 of those being solo. Included in those numbers is an amazing 31 tackles for loss. Those are not misprint numbers. Yes, we said 100 solo and 31 tackles for lost yardage! McLaurin’s numbers are not quite as big but he tallied 74 total tackles with 42 solo stops and 27.5 tackles for lost yardage. If you need help mathing that is 58.5 tackles for lost yardage… by two players in one season!!!
“I can’t say enough about what these two kids have meant to our program”, says Oakland head coach Kevin Creasy. “They both faced off against kids a lot bigger than them and were double teamed on nearly every play, but they still found a way to get it done. We are very happy to see them get recognized with this award.”
The internal competition was no doubt good for both. Pride in their Patriot colors and a willingness to compete to the fullest every time they stepped on the field also helped these young men reach almost unheard of heights.
“When we lost in the playoffs at Maryville during our sophomore season we knew there were people out there that doubted us,” says Gaines. “After last season we knew there was a bullseye on our back. We began the season with a slogan of state title or bust. We wanted to go out and prove we are the best each and every week. It was really great that things worked out so well for this program.”
“We know there are defensive lineman out there that are bigger than us and maybe faster than us”, says McLaurin. “But nobody plays harder than us and that is what helped us be successful. I give a lot of credit to our coaches for always trying to make us better. I couldn’t have asked for things to have turned out any better.”
Along with being awarded the Pigskin these two also have been named as members of the Tennessee All-State team for 2021.