Maybe the nickname will stick.
But even if it’s just for one game, Cade “Big Play” Bell will enjoy the spotlight. The Southlake Carroll senior wide receiver is the elder statesman of an inexperienced yet potentially prolific passing attack that the Dragons hope to deploy throughout the fall.
Put it this way. When the season began on Sept. 1 at Broken Arrow (Oklahoma), Carroll had 37 receptions and 564 yards returning from last year’s District 5-6A championship team. Bell had 25 of those receptions and 385 of those yards.
His eight-reception, 153-yard performance served notice he had made the leap. Another test arrives Friday when the Dragons (1-0) play Arlington Martin (1-0) at 7:30 p.m. at UTA’s Maverick Stadium.
“What I hope I can do is bring others with me and make them better,” Bell said. “They’ve been with me since my freshman year. They can play. But I feel like I can set a tone. Being a leader is about being able to pick them up whenever they need it. And I know they can do it for me.”
“Big Play” No. 1 was in the second quarter. The Dragons faced a fourth-and-8 at the Broken Arrow 34. A 51-yard field goal was probably too long. Bell lined up in his normal inside position and ran a streak route. As the Broken Arrow safeties converged, Dragons quarterback Will Bowers’ pass slipped through the window and hit Bell, who ran away for the score.
“Big Play” No. 2 developed on Carroll’s go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Bowers found Bell on a 30-yard pass play down the Carroll sideline that moved the ball to about the Broken Arrow 30. T.J. McDaniel capped the rally with a 1-yard plunge.
Maybe other players could make those plays. However, Bell’s toughness defined his night. He collected more than half of his yards after contact.
“His experience gives him that credibility as a leader,” Carroll offensive coordinator Mark Humble said. “He’s a great route technician. His productivity in the offseason and work ethic just pushes him. And he’s someone that other kids rally around.”
Bell (5-10, 180) is defined as an explosive receiver. There’s a different way to look at that besides speed. While he has it, he uses his knowledge of the routs to his advantage. Sudden shifts in direction allow him to turn five-yard slants into 15-yard gains. Small plays in space can open up the field.
And as a middle infielder for the baseball team — he played second base on Carroll’s run to the 2016 Class 6A state tournament, but is expected to move to shortstop in the spring — that usually means his hands are trustworthy.
There’s little doubt that Bell will draw the attention from Martin’s defenders. It could mean more passes for the more inexperienced receivers to become distractions. Senior Colton Phillips (6-0, 165) could be that No. 2 receiver. Seniors Hudson Shrum (6-0, 165) and Darryl Crockett have the ability to help Bowers spread the field.
Time will tell how it all unfolds, especially if sequels of “Big Play” Bell are needed.
“On the big catches, confidence is the key,” Bell said. “But all of us are capable of doing that. We just have to play each play and stay within the moment.”
NOTE: Carroll’s game with Arlington Martin can be heard on KWRD 100.7 FM with the pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m.