Ozark football

ETHAN PRITCHARD carries the ball for Ozark during the Tigers' summer camp this week.

Ethan Pritchard is back in his element.

The Ozark senior has been taking hand-offs at H-back and making tackles from his linebacker post during the first two weeks of the Tigers’ summer camp. Pritchard will be a three-year starter and to this point, already ranks among the premier players during coach Chad Depee’s six seasons at Ozark.

Pritchard is coming off a junior season in which offensively he averaged 8.2 yards a carry while rushing 40 times for 328 yards and four touchdowns and averaged 24.9 yards a catch while hauling in seven passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, he collected 56 tackles, including three stops for a loss.

He’s also established himself as one of the better teammates the Tigers could ever ask for, whether it’s on the gridiron as a star or on the hardwood or ball diamond as a backup in much more of a supportive role. 

“It humbles me,” Pritchard said of his contrasting status. “In football, I’m one of the top guys on the team and my role is to be a leader. For basketball, it’s really about me being out there for the right reasons. I’m there to have fun with the guys I’ve always played ball with and when I see guys down, I’m trying to cheer them up by telling them I’ve been in a similar situation. 

"(Classmate Hunter Tennison) doesn’t have to go through what I go through, as far as not playing in other sports,” he added. “He’s very good at every sport (football, wrestling and baseball) that he plays. There are guys who come to me and say, ‘I don’t know how you do it, you go through two-hour basketball practices and barely play in a game. But I’m not there to consistently play. I’m there to be a part of the team.”

Being on both ends of the spectrum has made Pritchard appreciate more his football teammates who might not necessarily play on Friday nights, but push the starters during practices. 

“It makes you see things both ways,” he said of his wide-ranging roles. “The guys who are out here holding the dummies and putting the scout team work in, you know they are out here for the right reasons.”

Pritchard was ready to turn in his bat and glove this spring and give track a try. He was hoping repeated reps running sprints would translate to football. Of course, COVID-19 wiped out the spring sports season.

“It was going to be my first year doing track and I was looking forward to it,” he said. “I was going to run the 100 and maybe the 4 x 100 relay. Coach (Kramer) Patterson and Coach (Justin) Emmerton have been begging me to come out for track to get faster for football. It would have been nice."

Pritchard has enjoyed being active throughout the year. 

“I’ve talked to my Dad about that and throughout my life he’s pushed me to play multiple sports and I love playing multiple sports,” he said. “Football is a blast and it’s what I want to do in college. But there’s a time I can relax and go on to do something else and have fun.”

As for playing football in college, Pritchard has received an offer from Benedictine (Kansas). He's heard varying reports on projections of what position he will play in college.

"I haven’t talked to Benedictine specifically on where I would play,” Pritchard said. “I’m talking to Mid-America Nazarene right now and I’m going to their camp Saturday. They have talked to me about playing as a slot-receiver. That would be fun. That’s what I’m hoping to play in college. My (high school) coaches think I could play at a higher level on defense. Right now, I’m just going to take what I can get."

Depee is confident college coaches will like they get in Pritchard.

“Football players, I truly, believe, are going to stand out at whatever they are doing. It could be offense, defense or special teams," Depee said. “Ethan has had to play H-back for us and has done a good job. There are times we need him at linebacker or free safety because we need a stop. He’s a ‘Yes sir’ kind of kid that college coaches like. Those are the kind of kids with the attitude we’re all looking for. They just want to be on the field and know what they can do for the team.”

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