Dre’ Sonte Dorton takes advantage of time to shine

Breaks Cooper Kupp’s record for receiving yards in single a game


Malati Powell for The Easterner

Dre' Sonte Dorton breaks Cooper Kupp's record.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

Dre’ Sonte Dorton spent three years waiting in the wide receiver ranks behind EWU greats such as Cooper Kupp, Shaq Hill, Nic Splendorio and Nsimba Webster. Now in his senior season, the Pasco native has been given an opportunity to step into the limelight. 

It’s an opportunity that Dorton has capitalized on. 

Dorton’s 2019 campaign began the same way the rest of his career had gone at EWU: returning kicks, but being rather uninvolved in the offense. Against Washington, he had just one catch for six yards in EWU’s 47-14 loss. 

A week later, everything changed. 

Going into EWU’s Sept. 7 game against Lindenwood University, Dorton was set to see more targets at receiver due to sophomore starter Andrew Boston’s absence for that game. What wasn’t expected, however, was how Dorton took advantage. The speedster broke Kupp’s record for receiving yards in a game by recording 289 on 15 receptions while adding three touchdowns in EWU’s 59-31 win. 

Dorton said he never expected to break a record held by arguably EWU’s most well-known player ever.

“It took a while to (process),” Dorton said. “I told my friends back home, ‘guys, I really just broke Cooper Kupp’s record.’”

“Our defense was great,” Winston said, “(We) have each other’s backs and know that someone is going to be there…I just have to be there a few key times.””

— Dorton

EWU head coach Aaron Best said after the Lindenwood game that Dorton had broken a record that most people thought wouldn’t be touched again.

“Any of Cooper Kupp’s records, everybody once thought they were untouchable,” Best said. “Well, today they were touched and exceeded by a Tri-Cities fellow named Dre Dorton. I’m proud of Dre.”

Dorton graduated from Chiawana High School in Pasco in 2015. He was recruited by EWU, University of Montana, Montana State University, University of Idaho and several Division II schools. He chose to attend EWU because he said it felt like family the minute he showed up on campus. He also had a family connection to the school, as his uncle Doug Dorton played defensive back for EWU, lettering in 1994.

“It was kind of an easy decision to make,” Dorton said. “My (uncle) made me want to come here.”

Dorton was a football and track athlete at Chiawana High. He chose to pursue football collegiately because he had more playing experience there.

“It was a tough decision,” Dorton said. “(But) I’ve been doing football way longer than track, so I wanted to continue doing what I’ve always wanted to do.” 

EWU originally recruited Dorton as a defensive back. When he arrived in Cheney, however, he was informed that he would be switching to receiver. For three years, he saw limited offensive reps while specializing as a kick returner. His best season prior to 2019 was 2017, when he was second-team All-Big Sky Conference as a kick returner. In the 2017 season he ranked ninth in the FCS with an average of 27.4 yards per return.

Dorton said having to wait for three years to get his opportunity at receiver was difficult, but having great players ahead of him made the process easier.

Dre’ Sante sprints to a touchdown as the crowd cheers.

“My first year felt like another redshirt year, because I was behind Cooper (Kupp), Shaq (Hill), Splendo (Nic Splendorio) and all them,” Dorton said. “But I learned from them, got feedback about little things here and there.”

Now that Dorton is a key feature of the EWU offense, his stats have increased. He had seven receptions for 133 yards and a score on Sept. 21 in EWU’s 35-27 loss at Idaho. Dorton also returned the opening kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown on Sept. 14 during EWU’s 45-42 loss at Jacksonville State University. 

While Dorton’s receiving numbers have increased, they haven’t stayed consistently high throughout five games. Against JSU, Dorton didn’t record a catch. In EWU’s 35-20 win over University of North Dakota on Sept. 28, Dorton had just one reception for 11 yards, but EWU threw the ball just 15 times total in that game. 

EWU receivers coach Pat McCann attributed this trend to the team’s depth at wide receiver. 

“Sometimes the ball finds its way to one guy more than other games,” McCann said. “We have quality depth that (means) as coaches we don’t have to scheme it for one guy.”

McCann said that Dorton has grown in confidence throughout his career at EWU and is a fun person to be around.

“From route running to catching the football…it’s been pretty cool to see his confidence grow,” McCann said. “He stays to himself…he’s got a fun personality…definitely a lead by example guy.”

As a former track athlete, one of Dorton’s greatest assets is his speed. He showcased this on the first play from scrimmage against Lindenwood, burning the defense for a 78-yard touchdown catch from EWU junior quarterback Eric Barriere. Is Dorton the fastest guy on the team? He said that’s a tough call between himself and senior running back Dennis Merritt.

“We haven’t officially raced, but if we did, it’d be close,” Dorton said. 

Dorton will look to showcase that speed in an important game at Sacramento State on Oct. 5. EWU (2-3) will look to beat the Hornets (2-2) to keep pace in its quest for an FCS playoff berth by season’s end. Kickoff from Sacramento is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. •