Grayson James

John Paul II advanced to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state championship game last year. The Cardinals look to build on that this season but will do so with their leading passer (Grayson James, pictured) and leading receiver (Jerand Bradley) both transferring during the offseason.

One of the key components in John Paul II’s hallmark 2019 season was one of the top quarterback-receiver combinations — Grayson James and Jerand Bradley — in all of Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools football. If the Cardinals hope to build off last year’s success, they’ll have to do so without either player.

As James and Bradley prepare for their senior seasons, they’ll do so outside of John Paul after deciding to transfer from the private school. In June, reported that Bradley is headed to DeSoto for the 2020 season, and on Wednesday, Cardinals head football coach George Teague said that James transferred out of John Paul earlier in the week. The quarterback’s next destination is unconfirmed, according to Teague.

The exits of both players opens up a wealth of competition on offense as the Cardinals look ahead to the start of the fall practices, which are currently scheduled to begin Aug. 3.

“With all these guys, it brings a new level of excitement for them,” Teague said. “Your quarterback transfers out and a big-time receiver moves out, that immediately opens up opportunities for guys to step up. You enter the year thinking you’ll have seniors playing in front of you, but come Aug. 3 when football starts up, it’s going to be wide-open competition for several positions, particularly on offense.”

Teague mentioned Drew Forkner and Gabe Warren — move-ins from Plano and Allen, respectively — as well as junior varsity signal-caller Chase Washington as names in competition to take over at quarterback, while the Cardinals will look down the depth chart for options at receiver.

Myles Parker had as productive a 2019 season as any No. 2 pass-catcher in the state, catching 82 balls for 1,160 yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to a TAPPS all-state second-team selection. Shunte Nettles, who finished fourth on John Paul in receiving at 374 yards and three scores, also figures to see an expanded role next season, while the Cardinals look for a number of JV receivers to step up, including Ben Boland, Jordyn Tyson, Jude Nicolaidis and Kyle Parker, as well.

“I don’t see us changing what we do. We feel like we have an offensive scheme that can be conducive to different kinds of players that we have in our system,” Teague said. “Obviously, it does hurt anytime you lose three- and four-star players like that, but we’re still very confident in the guys that we have.”

Whoever emerges atop the depth chart will have big shoes to fill. James nearly threw for 4,000 yards as a junior, topping out at 3,898 alongside 41 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in 2019. His top target, Bradley, used his towering 6-foot-5 frame to haul in 88 passes for 1,401 yards and 19 touchdowns. A TAPPS all-state first teamer, Bradley is verbally committed to Texas Tech.

James is uncommitted but recently concluded a stint in Nashville, Tenn., at the Elite 11 finals — a prestigious quarterback camp that had the former John Paul signal-caller competing alongside several of the country’s top high school passers. James currently has offers from nine schools, including Texas State, Central Michigan and Louisiana-Monroe.

“This reiterates why it’s important to develop depth within your program,” Teague said. “In the private school world, there are a lot of transfers while building a program, but one thing we’ve done is make sure that we built ourselves up so if guys make a decision to transfer that we don’t have to go into panic mode. 

“No one ever wants any kids to leave their program, no matter the level, but it happens nowadays and you have to always be thinking about it and prepared.”

As John Paul breaks in some newer faces on offense, it still retains plenty from what developed into one of the elite defenses in TAPPS last season — holding opponents to 14.7 points per game through the first three rounds of the playoffs. Among the returners on that side of the ball are cornerback Braxton Myers, safety Terrance Brooks, linebacker Max Mazur, safety Trey Spann and linebacker Charles Daniels.

“We were going in thinking we’d be strong on defense anyway, which is a plus,” Teague said. “We’ve got a lot of talent back on that side, but it’ll heighten it a little bit to where if we’re struggling on offense, which I don’t think we will, we know that we can lean on the defense to get the ball back.”

Teague noted that the Cardinals also return their leading rusher from last season, Grant Robinson. A rising senior, Robinson ran for 774 yards and six touchdowns in 2019. 

With new faces at the control of the offense, John Paul looks to build off a campaign that resulted in its best-ever finish as a football program. Going 10-4, the Cardinals won their first-ever playoff game and advanced to the TAPPS Div. I state title game — dropping a 42-14 decision to Parish Episcopal.

John Paul’s 2020 campaign is set to begin Aug. 28 with a 7 p.m. road tilt against Lovejoy.

“We’ve just got to see how this pans out, what camp looks like and how the quarterbacks evaluate,” Teague said.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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