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With depth an issue for OHS, Carriss Chilsom-Johns fills multiple roles

Carriss Chilsom-Johns (1) gets set to make a tackle on a kickoff during Okeechobee’s preseason game against Jupiter Community on Aug. 19, 2021. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

JUPITER — There is no doubt that the versatility Carriss Chilsom-Johns brings to the football field will come in handy for Okeechobee High School this season.

With a young roster that is thin on experience and depth, Chilsom-Johns’ ability to play multiple roles on offense as a running back, on defense as a linebacker and on all special teams, is a valuable asset.

Case in point came Aug. 19 when the Brahmans visited Jupiter Community High for a preseason kickoff classic.

Chilsom-Johns made his presence felt immediately by making a tackle on the opening kickoff. He also returned kickoffs, caught a 10-yard pass on a third down for a first down, rushed for 35 yards on a dozen carries and played outside linebacker.

“We try to do a lot of things with him because he is so athletic,” said Okeechobee coach and athletic director Kenny Buckner.

With only about 30 players on its roster – and just eight seniors – Okeechobee doesn’t have the luxury of being able to make a lot of substitutions. Chilsom-Johns played most downs in the first half, but received some breaks in the second half as Jupiter pulled away for a 37-6 win.

Carriss Chilsom-Johns (1) picks up yards on a run against Jupiter Community on Aug. 19, 2021, in Jupiter. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“We try to give him some breaks –offensive, defensive, wherever we can – but when it comes to crunch time, we want him in the game,” Buckner said.

Chilsom-Johns saw plenty of playing time as a freshman last year when Okeechobee went 5-4, its first season above .500 since 2016.

“It was a good season last year. We really enjoyed it,” Chilsom-Johns said.

Carriss Chilsom-Johns, right, lines up against Jupiter Community in a preseason game Aug. 19, 2021. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

This season Chilsom-Johns has been joined on varsity by fellow Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School graduate Santana Alvarez, who worked his way up to varsity after playing on JV last year as a freshman.

Alvarez started at cornerback and looked right at home on the varsity level. He made the game’s final tackle, which was for no gain.

Buckner was pleased with what he saw from Alvarez and Chilsom-Johns.

Okeechobee cornerback Santana Alvarez, left, sees his first varsity action in a preseason game against Jupiter Community on Aug. 19, 2021, in Jupiter. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“I expect a lot of good things out of them. I saw a lot of good things tonight and I saw some things they need to work on; nothing out of the ordinary because they are young,” Buckner said.

Two players from the tribe that Buckner wishes he would see are the Edouard brothers – Lee and Leon. Both are impact players. Last season, Lee, a quarterback, earned All Area and was named the team’s most outstanding player on offense. However, Buckner said neither player came back to the team this season.

“We will not have them [this season]; I’d love to, it would sure help the depth,” he said.

Former Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School students Santana Alvarez, left, and Carriss Chilsom-Johns are sophomores on the 2021 Okeechobee High School football team. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at