Dec 24 — In the closing stages of a close game, Kell’s defensive tackle Joshua Barker often looked at the sideline and received a brief cue from his coach.
“The coach was pointing to the backfield and saying, ‘Go make a play,'” Barker said.
One of those key moments came mid-season at Centennial. Barker faced Daniel Calhoun of the Knights, who is 6 feet 6 inches 330 pounds and one of his top offensive linemen in the country in the 2024 class.
With Barker at 5-10 and 250 pounds, the matchup might have looked like a David vs. Goliath moment. However, in this case, there was no stoning.
In fact, Calhoun was left wondering where his opponent had gone after the snap. .
It was one of those plays that Kell manager Bobby May watched like a fan and said “wow”.
It was also the play that summed up Barker’s season. The senior finished the year with 111 tackles, 32 tackles, 19 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble return with a touchdown. As a devastating force, Barker led a defense that limited opponents to just his 19 points per game, leading the Longhorns to his 10-2 record.
For his efforts, Barker was named the 2022 Cobb County Football Defensive Player of the Year by the county coaches.
“Of course,” May said. “He works harder than anyone. This year he set records for school sacks in a season (19) and career (36.5).”
“Having a defensive tackle like that makes it easier to have a game plan because they know they have to double or triple team him or run[the ball]the other way. If they decide to just be a man, Onman, someone’s going to have a bad night.”
Opponents weren’t the only ones who had problems with Barker, setting a team career mark for tackles-for-losses at 85. He made his own offense difficult.
May said it quickly became clear during spring practice that he wasn’t dealing with typical defensive tackles.
“I couldn’t practice when Josh was on the field,” he said. “The offense couldn’t run the ball, so we had to change plans.”
The only thing left for Barker is to find a place to play college football. Had he been four inches taller than he was, Barker could have chosen which school he wanted to go to, but for now, despite his eye-popping numbers, his size still matters. I’m here.
“It’s definitely a matter of size,” said Barker, who has a 3.9 grade point average. “At five to 10 years old, many men tend to look away.”
But Barker said the match against Centennial has attracted the interest of several more shows. He has been recruited from the likes of Football Championship subdivision Marist, Division III Birmingham his Southern and NAIA-level Reinhardt, but there is still time for other schools to join before signing on 1 February.
After seeing Barker’s tape, it seems likely.
“It’s a winning moment,” he said.
As he did his entire high school career.