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8-Man Top 8: Bryson Turner

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  • 8-Man Top 8: Bryson Turner (Photo: Annabelle Payton)
    8-Man Top 8: Bryson Turner (Photo: Annabelle Payton)

Throughout early to mid-December Kansas Pregame contacted 8-Man football coaches in an effort to name the third annual Top 8 team of seniors for both divisions of 8-Man football in Kansas. After an overwhelming response from coaches, and once all the votes were tallied, 16 players were selected.

This is the seventh of 16 individual player profiles highlighting the Top 8 selections in each division and released in no particular order. Look for more in the coming days.

Bryson Turner, RB/WR/DB, 5-9, 160, Madison

Madison featured one of the best playmakers in the state over the past four seasons in their offensive weapon and defensive stalwart Bryson Turner, whose incendiary speed helped the Bulldogs to a 38-7 record and multiple deep playoff runs over that span.

As a freshman Turner hit the ground running at an unsurprisingly fast pace, totalling 31 tackles with an interception and a pass deflection. Offensively he gained 213 yards with three rushing TDs, along with 77 yards receiving for two more scores.

Madison was one of the top teams in the state in 2019, going 11-1 and making a trip to the state semifinals. While he saw limited offensive action, he made the most of his opportunities, averaging 15 yards per rush and reception.

“Bryson is a special young man on and off the field,” head coach Alex McMillian said. “He is the most athletic player I have ever coached. HIs speed and explosiveness is unbelievable. He also has a very good football IQ, and you don’t realize how physical of a runner he is until you see it in person.”

Turner’s sophomore year was marred by a dislocated shoulder that caused him to miss a majority of the season. He again made an impact despite his limited playing time, recording 15 tackles, forcing a fumble, and also recovering two. On offense he gained 349 yards rushing and receiving with eight TDs.

Madison had an identical result to the season prior, going 11-1 with a trip to the state semifinals.

Entering his final two seasons Turner went from showing promise to asserting his dominance. On 77 attempts as a ball carrier during his junior season he totaled 1,402 yards with 28 TDs, good for an average of 18 yards per tote. He also caught 26 passes for 698 receiving yards for 14 more TDs at just under 27 yards per reception.

Turner made a significant impact on the other side of the ball as well, with 42 tackles, 10 pass deflections, and four interceptions, while also taking over as a leader on a defensive unit that shutout six teams and held two others to six points.

The Bulldogs finished the season 10-1 after following a 38-32 loss to eventual state runner-up Little River in the quarterfinals.

Madison’s graduating class of 2022 left McMillian’s squad with minimal varsity experience, putting much of the weight on their three returning starters.

“Everything we did offensively went through Bryson,” McMillian said. “Everyone knew he was getting the ball or he was the decoy to let some of the other guys get going.”

Turner did not disappoint as the focal point of the team’s offense, running the ball 164 times for 1,429 yards and 33 TDs with another 163 yards coming on 15 receptions that resulted in a pair of additional scores.

The senior faced added pressure in the middle of the season when junior quarterback Hayden Helm went down with an injury.

“After Week 4, we moved (Turner) to quarterback due to injury, and at halftime of the Lyndon game I pulled him aside and I told him I was putting this season on his shoulders,” McMillian said. “He understood and wanted the challenge, and he excelled.”

Turner went 16 for 28 with 190 yards and a TD over the course of the rest of the season, splitting time with Helm after the junior returned in Week 7. 

On defense Turner had by far his best season of his career, tallying 91 tackles, a sack, four pass deflections, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries.

“Bryson played safety for us and made our defensive calls,” McMillian said. “He’s so fast he made plays all over the field, leading our team in tackles.”

Madison finished the season 6-4, with the four losses coming against teams with a combined record of 38-9. Turner missed Week 8, a game the Bulldogs lost to Chase County, with an injury, but the senior playmaker came back strong in the first round of the playoffs against a 6-2 Oswego team, winning 56-32.

Despite losing in the next round to a Little River team that went on to play in the state title game, he left a strong impression, even hobbled by injury.

“When we played them this year we knew he would be a major factor in every phase of the game,” Oswego head coach Matt Fowler said. “We scored on our first possession and it was time to send the kickoff team out. We have a very good kicker who regularly kicks it to the end zone. He got off a good kick and Turner backed up and had the presence of mind to keep his back heel up hovering over the goal line when he caught the ball. He raced down the field quickly and you could tell we hadn’t faced anybody with that kind of speed. He is a tremendous player and plays the game the right way. I was really impressed also with the way he toughed things out through injury this season.”

Football is just one sport where Turner’s speed pays dividends. Later this spring the senior will work on his third straight 1A state title in the 100-meter dash, and second straight in the 200.

Adding to that, it’s rare to find Turner doing anything other than working hard.

“Bryson has never been a huge vocal leader, however he has always led by example in everything he does on and off of the field,” McMillian said. “His teammates see how hard he works in the offseason and how hard he practices and plays on Friday nights, and that’s contagious.”

Turner, who holds a 4.0 GPA, is considering a few options post-graduation, with running track and potentially playing football at Emporia State as his current front-runner.

“Bryson is a one of a kind young man,” McMillian said. “Obviously we will miss his speed, athleticism and leadership  on the field, but what makes him unique is how humble he has always been. He has never really cared about post season honors or stats, he just wants the team to be successful as possible. We will also miss how fun he made practice, he always brought energy and lightened the mood of every practice. It has been a pleasure coaching him the last four years.”