Star athletes always have that special niche that makes them stand out. It’s something very few are born with and that most have to work hard for years to achieve.
Whether it’s possessing the ability to fly by a defensive back with blazing speed and make that long breath-taking catch, being able to side-step or spin around a linebacker and pick up that extra 10 to 15 yards or even score or simply lower their shoulder and plow over any defender that stands in their way.
Corinth High School has been home to many of these type of players over the years, several of which currently own school records. The old-timers will remember memorable players such as Aaron “Shorty” Timmons, Jesse Bynum, Bob Dalton, Chig Biggers, Ronnie Pittman, J.B. Darnell, Bruce Dillingham and Tommy Dickerson. Baby boomers will remember names like Tony Dilworth, Larry Dorsey, Willie B. Spears, Jimmy Tsagarakis, John Darnell, Jody Yarber and Bart and Ben Cregeen and Damien Paden. More recently the Warriors have boasted a list of standouts that includes L.P. Spence, Diante Curlee, Bryan Brown, Tavares Patterson, Damien Hughes and Parks Frazier. Then comes the past few years where players such as Antares Gwyn, Tameric Perry, Javen Morrison, Demontra Bell, Jon D Warren, DT Sheffield, Zach Patterson, Tam Patterson and Carter Bonds have become household names.
Now current CHS running back/defensive back/kick returner Cayden Betts can be considered part of that long list of star Warriors. And he’s not just a highly-regarded and recruited athlete he is a standout in the classroom.
Just this season Betts joined the famed list of Corinth football record-holders when he broke the school record for kickoff return touchdowns. His record currently stands at five but is subject to change because Corinth is still playing. They will host West Lauderdale Friday at Warrior Stadium II in the first leg of what head coach Todd Lowery hopes is the road to a second consecutive 4A state championship.
And guess who will be the primary focus of every team Corinth will face from this point. That’s nothing new for Betts, though..it’s been this way all season.
Betts’ first touchdown on a kick return came in the Warriors first round home playoff win over Caledonia one year ago. This season he has added four more and any further returns will add to his school record.
And for good measure, Betts now owns the recognized school record for longest kickoff return for a touchdown. It went for 98 yards against Tishomingo County this season.
The previous record holders for kickoff return TD’s was Dennis Dilworth and Zach Patterson. Each player had three for their careers, Dilworth’s coming in his senior year of 1991 while Patterson accumulated his from 2015-18.
“Cayden has proven to be a pivotal player for our team and in our success,” said Lowery. “He’s extremely important in our offensive game plan and that goes for special teams and defense too.”
One of Betts’ niche’s that makes him great is his ability to run with a low-pad level despite his 6-1, 200-pound frame. Hall-of-fame running backs like Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders ran with a low center of gravity which made them hard to tackle. Betts has that same unique ability, and he’s spent years perfecting it. In addition he has a good three to four inches in height on Sanders and Smith.
“My grandfather used to always tell me to stay low because it’s harder for defenders to bring you down,” said Betts, “so I’ve worked hard for several years now consciously trying to run lower and keep my pads down.”
Another asset Betts brings to the field is his smooth stride and incredibly quick first step.
“He has incredible quickness and balance and has a very fast first step,” Lowery said about Betts. “And he has great vision along with being explosive. He’s deceivingly fast. With his long stride it appears to fans he’s not really running that fast but believe me he is.”
“I pushed Cayden the hardest last year starting with the Rosa Fort game because I knew he had something special in him,” Lowery continued. “That’s when the light went on in his head. He can get those tough extra yards or even score almost anytime he touches the ball because of his low center of gravity.”
Betts lists of favorite memories will always begin with the Warriors capturing the 4A state championship in 2019. But that’s not his only fond memory.
“Obviously the state title win over Poplarville stands out but the Pontotoc game two years ago, the Itawamba game the same year and the Caledonia game last year where I had my first kickoff return touchdown,” said Betts. “I will always have many great memories of my time at Corinth. It’s been a great ride but it’s not over yet.”
Betts and the Warriors will host West Lauderdale in their 4A MHSAA playoff opener Friday at Warrior Stadium II. The Knights, the No. 2 seed from Region 3 behind division winner Louisville, finished the regular season 8-3 with losses to Neshoba Central (49-14), Tupelo (21-20) and Louisville (21-14). All three losses came on the road.