A testimony to Tascosa’s gridiron success over the last five seasons continued to be on display Wednesday afternoon thanks to Avion Carter and Tayden Barnes.
The two seniors used the early college signing period to officially sign with a pair of Division I football programs. Carter, a defensive lineman, stuck with his summer commitment to play for TCU, while the speedy Barnes, a standout on both sides of the football, signed with New Mexico State.
Both players have been regulars for the Rebels over the last five seasons, and they culminated their careers with an unbeaten championship season in District 2-5A Division I. Signing with big-time schools put the exclamation points on their careers.
Carter, the district’s defensive MVP, has been touted as a potential prospect practically since breaking into Tascosa’s starting lineup at defensive tackle as a sophomore. At 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, Carter provided matchup nightmares for opponents, which got the attention from programs like TCU well before his senior season began, as he committed to the Horned Frogs over the summer.
“it’s a dream come true, honestly,” Carter said. “I’ve dreamed about this day since I was young. This is something that’s been in the works for a long time. A lot of hard work and dedication went into this.”
This season, despite relentless double teaming and occasional triple teaming from opponents, Carter was still the dominant force in Tascosa’s defense. He recorded 75 tackles, including 10 for losses, along with five sacks and 10 pressures as the Rebels went 10-2 and 6-0 in district.
Carter had the peace of mind knowing he’d committed to TCU before seeing his first snap this season. That TCU is playing in a national semifinal game against Michigan on New Year’s Eve only further proves the caliber of recruit Carter was.
“Regardless of that I was going to stay with (TCU),” Carter said. “It’s where I felt comfortable and I felt like that place was for me. The winning and stuff is amazing and I love seeing them go forward.”
One of those people going forward is someone Carter played with for two seasons at Tascosa. Major Everhart played on defense with Carter as a defensive back for two years and one year ago signed with TCU where he is now a wide receiver.
Everhart hasn’t gotten a chance to play for TCU yet, but Carter has been in constant contact with him since even before making his commitment to the Frogs.
“I talk to him all the time,” Carter said, without hesitation. “He was happy for me regardless. He never really told me to come here or there. I was always going to be happy wherever I go.”
Carter said he will likely be playing defensive end at TCU.
While he was going to a different school, Carter got to share his happiness with a teammate, as Barnes, his longtime friend and teammate, also made his commitment official. Along with Amarillo High quarterback Mason Graham, Barnes is one of two Amarillo players signing with New Mexico State.
“I played with Tayden a long time back when we were really young,” Carter said. “Just to see us grow up to the men we’ve become has been really amazing.”
Like Everhart, Barnes was used extensively by the Rebels on both sides of the ball. He’ll go to NMSU as a safety and was named the district’s overall MVP.
Barnes didn’t get the immediate attention Carter did, but when he got it, the decision was easy.
“New Mexico State, they were my very first offer,” Barnes said. “I got it when I went down to a camp. They’ve always been heavy on my mind, because they kicked it off in starting my recruiting and they weren’t scared to take a chance on me.”
Barnes started at defensive back for three seasons and had 127 tackles, including 13 for losses and broke up 13 passes, while making two interceptions this season. He was also a lethal threat with the ball, scoring 27 touchdowns in three seasons and he set a school playoff record with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
After making his official visit, Barnes was convinced that Las Cruces, N.M. where he wanted to play college football.
“Whenever I got down there, they treated me like family,” Barnes said. “They take very good care of all their players. It just felt like home when I was down there. I wasn’t ready to leave whenever I had to.”
While it was a big day for Carter and Barnes, it was just as gratifying for Tascosa coach Ken Plunk and his staff. The Rebels have five straight 10-win seasons and have consistently sent players up to the next level, whether at Division I or elsewhere.
“I think it represents the program well because they represent the program well,” Plunk said of Carter and Barnes. “We’re always happy with whatever school they decide to go to and whatever division if they’re going to further their career academically and athletically. These two young men are certainly deserving of it from an ability standpoint, but also from a character and effort standpoint.”