FRANKFORT, Ohio (BVM) — The Adena High School football program has reached new heights over the last few years. A large part of that is due to a terrific 2021 class, highlighted by quarterback and defensive back Preston Sykes.
Prior to his high school athletic career, Sykes played multiple sports, including basketball, baseball and track. Beginning with tackle football in third grade, the 18-year-old grew a quick interest in the sport thanks to his dad.
“My dad got me into football when I was young and would tell me stories and show me clips of a bunch of great all-time players,” Sykes said. “Then, when I finally got to start playing, I just loved all the contact and the grit of the game.”
Growing up, Sykes’ initial positions on the gridiron were at running back and linebacker. But as he got to middle school, he began playing quarterback. And in high school at Adena, the football star found a new home on the defensive side of the ball, playing safety.
Through the years, Sykes believes it is his confidence that has allowed him to be so successful.
“I’d say my confidence is one of the best parts of my game,” Sykes said. “I rarely ever second guess myself and that helps me always be quick and in a groove.”
Unfortunately, confidence was hard to come by for the Adena Warriors during the 2017 season. In Sykes’ freshman year, his team would compete in several close matchups, but ultimately suffer eight losses during the campaign. As a true competitor, the losses did nothing but motivate the quarterback and safety.
“It was terrible,” Sykes said about his freshman season. “I hate losing so bad and we had three or four games that year that were within a touchdown that I thought we should’ve won. It just motivated me to come back stronger the next season and have a season I knew we could have.”
Sykes and his teammates did indeed come back motivated in 2018, helping better the Warriors to a 7-3 record. The success would carry over to the following year, as Adena improved to an 8-3 mark. With Sykes and his 2021 class turning the program around, the stage was set for a special season this fall.
Coming into the 2020 season, Sykes and his teammates had several goals. The main one was to win the Scioto Valley Conference (SVC) title for the first time since 2010, which the Warriors were able to accomplish.
“I wrote down several goals that I taped up on my wall and looked at often,” Sykes said. “The biggest one was winning a gold ball and we achieved that, so that was awesome.”
Winning the conference was a big achievement, but this year’s Warriors’ squad would go one further by winning the first two playoff games in school history. It took a one-of-a-kind team to be able to achieve what Adena did this season, and Sykes knows he was part of something exceptional.
“This was a special team,” the senior said. “We played with an attitude and it showed. Winning the first playoff games in school history just made us feel like we could do something other great teams hadn’t reached.”
A big part of what led to the Warriors’ success was the play on both sides of the ball by their senior leader. As a quarterback, Sykes threw for 875 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also rushing for 807 yards and an additional 16 scores.
On defense, Sykes was a true leader as well, making 49 tackles, intercepting five passes, and scoring two times. Helping Adena to an 8-1 record, Sykes’ play did not go unnoticed, as he was named a first team All-Ohio player, as well as the Division IV Southeast District Player of the Year and the SVC Defensive Back of the Year.
“I thought this was the best season I have had in my career,” Sykes said. “Those accolades were part of my goals for this season. I had gotten second team All-Ohio twice and said I would not accept it a third time. Knowing I reached higher levels made me happy.”
While the individual accolades stand out, Sykes is all about his team, and it is what helped lead the Warriors to a 25-15 record over the last four years, including three consecutive playoff appearances.
“They mean the world to me,” Sykes said about his teammates. “We’ve all had each others’ backs through everything. There’s just something about going out onto that field with the same guy you’ve busted your butt with all offseason that just feels different than playing with someone who just shows up when the season starts. They all bought in and it felt like a brotherhood.”
The future of Adena football is brighter than ever thanks to Sykes and his teammates, and he hopes his senior class has left a mark on the program while also living up to the standard that was set before them.
“The whole team culture is what is so impressive,” Sykes added. “We pride ourselves on toughness, grit and hard work. We’re a blue-collared community, and our parents are working class people who all have to work for the life we have. We don’t expect anything handed to us.
“I hope we have just set a standard that should be chased and even passed for the years to come. As long as they have a great mentality and keep the same culture we’ve created, they will compete for SVC titles.”
With his football career at Adena finished up, Sykes will now look to put a cap on his high school basketball career this winter. The 18-year-old had “the time of his life” on the hardwood during his sophomore year, where he helped the Warriors to their first district title since 1980. And this season, Sykes believes his team has a chance to be even better.
“I think my senior season has the ability to be the best season in Adena history,” Sykes explained. “We just have to stick to our hard-nose style of play and accomplish what we know we have the ability to.”
Despite his basketball season starting up, Sykes recently made more football-related headlines when he made his official college commitment on Dec. 23. While he had several in-state offers to consider, Sykes will attend Division II Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, W.Va.
— Preston (@PrestonSykes2) December 23, 2020
In the classroom, Sykes will study exercise science and hopes to become a strength and conditioning coach or physical therapist in the future. After suffering a back injury in his freshman year, the 18-year-old was inspired by those who helped him, and hopes he might be able to do the same someday.
“I really got interested in weight lifting and how the body moves efficiently and works after I hurt my back my freshman year. I hope I can one day help out those who were in my position like the ones before me did. Without them, I wouldn’t be close to the same athlete or even person I am today.”
Sykes will also look to stay involved with football as a coach whenever the opportunity presents itself. First however, the Adena senior will get to live out his college football dream, and knows he has a special chance in front of him at Alderson Broaddus.
“I’ve wanted to play college football for a long time,” Sykes said. “I hope to be part of a winning culture and win championships at Alderson Broaddus, and also hope to develop into a much greater player.”