By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
Haughton football coach Jason Brotherton knew something was up when his two-year starting quarterback sent him this text before the 2020 season:
“Coach, I’d like to meet with you about something.”
It was late in the summer and the Bucs were just a few weeks away from what figured to be a promising season. At the meeting, Peyton Stovall told Brotherton that he was going to quit football to concentrate on baseball during his senior year.
That’s a conversation in which it’s rare that both parties walk away happy. But if you know both Stovall and Brotherton, you realize it’s not a surprise at all.
“Believe me, I saw it coming,” Brotherton says now. “He’s such a good kid and I could tell he didn’t want to let me down.”
“The way Jason supported Peyton’s decision is special,” says Haughton baseball coach Glenn Maynor. “There are a lot of other head coaches who wouldn’t have done that.”
“Did we want him to play football? Yes we did,” Brotherton says. “But I also knew what he needed to do for him and I wanted him to do what he needed to do. Sometimes you put aside what you need. That’s a special kid who needed to go play baseball.”
It’s two years later and Stovall’s decision is looking better every day. Though he is only a freshman, he is the starting first baseman for the Arkansas Razorbacks as they begin play in the College World Series this weekend.
There is plenty of pride going on in Haughton these days over Stovall, who played a key role in the Razorbacks’ Super Regional win over North Carolina. Stovall had a home run in the Game 1 win and three hits in Game 2 and scored the winning run.
The pride line might just start with Maynor, who flew to North Carolina to see his former player shine.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Maynor says. “It was more than I could have expected to see one of your former players on that stage step up. It’s hard to describe. A lot of tears were shed.”
Stovall has battled some injuries and the natural up-and-down nature of being a freshman in the SEC, but he will go into the CWS hitting .286 (fifth on the team) and is 11-for-20 combined in the Stillwater Regional and the Super Regional.
“He’s got guys on the team who are 24 and he just turned 19,” Maynor said. “It’s crazy to think anyone can walk in as a freshman and not have to go through some things. Baseball can change in a heartbeat, but he is so locked in right now.”
That showed in the clinching win over North Carolina. After getting two hits earlier, he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the Razorbacks down by a run and a runner on first with nobody out. He rocketed a 1-1 pitch to center field to move the tying run to third.
“He told me after the game that he’s surprised he didn’t hit it out to win the game,” Maynor says. “He was all over that pitch and there was no way they were going to get him out.”
Three batters later, Stovall touched home plate and touched off a celebration that was felt in Chapel Hill, N.C., as well as in Haughton.
Brotherton was a sophomore when Stovall’s father Matt was a senior on the Haughton baseball team. The coach? Glenn Maynor.
“Matt and I spent a lot of time together growing up and I’ve known Peyton forever,” Brotherton says. “There’s nobody who could represent our school and town better than Peyton Stovall. He’s an awesome kid and when you know a kid who is doing it the right way, that makes it even more special.”
“I’ve known this kid since he was born,” Maynor says. “It’s pretty special for all of us. I hugged him when it was over with (at the Super Regional) and I couldn’t stop crying.”
The kid who nervously met with his football coach and to tell him that he was quitting football to play baseball is now headed for the College World Series.
“We made the right call, didn’t we?” Brotherton says.