Most freshman football players harbor some level of admiration for their senior leaders. Zach Tadlock didn’t have that luxury.
In his first year on varsity at Aquilla, Tadlock watched the vast majority of the senior leadership leave the team in protest of the team’s coach. Only one stuck around, and the Cougars finished Tadlock’s freshman season with just eight players and no wins.
“If you quit and don’t have anyone to play, they cancel (the program) for two years,” Tadlock said. “They weren’t going to ruin it for us.”
Aquilla is sure happy Tadlock stuck around.
Tadlock may have struggled through some early pains in the Aquilla football program, but he came through the other side gleaming.
His senior season was nothing short of exemplary. He rushed for an area-high 2,513 yards and 53 touchdowns, and his defensive prowess was equally important. He made 110 stops, had three interceptions and four fumble recoveries and scored two more touchdowns on defense.
For leading Aquilla to a 10-4 record and into the state semifinals, Tadlock is this year’s Super Centex Six-Man Player of the Year.
Tadlock was born with football in his blood. His father, Larry, was a standout quarterback at Waco High in the late 1970s, and Tadlock had been practicing as a running back since he could remember.
But his start at Aquilla was rocky to say the least.
“A little bit,” Tadlock said, before pausing in thought. “Well, a lot.”
Indeed, the year the seniors left, Aquilla went 0-10, and the Cougars were 2-8 his sophomore campaign, another forgettable, disappointing season.
But help was on the way in the form of new coach Kirk Hinkson. Tadlock showed promise in his junior year, making second team all-region as Aquilla went 6-4, a marked improvement.
That only amplified the excitement for his senior year.
“We were excited because it was finally to where all the other seniors were out and we’re finally up to it, and we had more seniors,” Tadlock said. “We just felt like we were going to go real far.”
Aquilla missed out on a district title due to a narrow 24-22 loss to Penelope on the final week of the regular season, the team’s first loss in five weeks.
But the Cougars caught fire at the right time. After a pair of blowouts against Oakwood and Lometa to open the postseason, Aquilla and Penelope met up again in the state quarterfinals. Grudge match time.
The Cougars weren’t letting the Wolverines escape this time. Tadlock made sure of it.
Tadlock rushed for 264 yards and six touchdowns to lead Aquilla past Penelope, 46-22, and into the state semifinals. The Cougars’ run ended there in a loss to Throckmorton, but it was a ride Tadlock won’t soon forget.
Coach of the Year
Eddie Gallegos, Jonesboro
At just 29 years old and entering his second season as a football coach at any level, Eddie Gallegos didn’t exactly have a 10-0 regular season lined up in his sights.
As 2010 proved, Gallegos didn’t have to wait long to put his marker on Jonesboro. He was closer to the top than he thought.
Gallegos earned the Super Centex Six-Man Coach of the Year award by piloting Jonesboro to an 11-1 record, a district crown and reviving interest in a football program that hadn’t had an 11-win season since 2003.
“It brought a lot of excitement,” Gallegos said. “Our crowds at home were literally twice the size of last year. Last year we’d just have parents. This year we had parents, uncles, grandparents and folks in the community that hadn’t been out in a few years.”
Jonesboro went 2-8 last year, Gallegos’ first year as a football coach. After fighting through that season, it took some faith to see such mammoth change coming.
“At times it kind of just seemed an uphill battle,” Gallegos said. “It wasn’t a disappointment as far as the record because we played hard, we just weren’t quite as good as most teams we played.”
Jonesboro had just one senior last year, but Gallegos had five to work with this year, including one with star power in running back Matt Buster.
Jonesboro got an early taste of success with a 64-52 win over Strawn in the second game of the season. Strawn won a state title two years ago and made the state title game last year. Gallegos was pumped.
Then in the district opener against Iredell, an eventual playoff team, Jonesboro scored 24 points in the final four minutes to secure a 70-68 come-from-behind win that included a game-winning touchdown as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
If Gallegos didn’t already think this was a team destined to run through the regular season undefeated, he did then.
“I’m very proud of our guys,” he said. “It was a good run we had.”
It was a run that included a 48-30 playoff win over Gustine before Richland Springs bounced Jonesboro out of the playoffs en route to an almost uncontested state title.
Given the opportunity, though, Gallegos wouldn’t have switched sidelines for a minute.
“It was a blast,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. If I had an opportunity to be on those state championship teams, I wouldn’t be. This is the group I’d like to be with.”
Player of the Year: Zach Tadlock, Aquilla
Coach of the Year: Eddie Gallegos, Jonesboro
|LB||Colin Pritchard||Sr||5-10||170||Live Oak|
|LB||Kody Stack||Sr||5-10||162||Walnut Springs|
|Josh Hejl and Michael Kaska, Abbott; Josh Jordan, Seth Mowery and Shay Smith, Aquilla; James Johnson and Desmond Reeves, Coolidge; Will Hubbard and Nate Walsh, Cranfills Gap; John Gandy and Joey Lancaster, Evant; Manuel Vergara, Iredell; Jacob Dorsey, Jonesboro; Michael Fulbright, David Moffatt and Tyler Williams, Live Oak; Jarius Russell, Lee Smith, Rolando Vega and Jalyn Williams, Milford; J.P. Crenshaw, Parkview; Quinton Griffens and Melvin Jones, Penelope; Mario Ballesteros, Trey Buscha and Ryan Engelhardt, Walnut Springs.|
District MVP rushed
for 1,050 yards,
accounted for 22
total TDs. Added
119 tackles and
Doubled as district
first-team RB and
DE. Had 2,331
44 TDs and
Led Milford to state
semis with 83
tackles and an INT,
along with 1,075
rushing yards, 24
Threw for 1,028
yards and 11
115 tackles and four
INTs as a rangy defender.
Sr, Live Oak
with 1,120 rushing
yards, 102 tackles
and 26 total
Next in line as the
next great Abbott
RB, Russell ran for
33 TDs, 2,318 yards
and an average of
10.4 per carry.
Sr, Walnut Springs
had 107 tackles and
three INTs. Also had
1,114 rush yards,
No one in the area
topped his 2,513
rushing yards, and
53 TDs was also the
area’s best. Had
110 tackles, too.
win a district title
and reach the third
round of the playoffs
for school’s best
Shifty back guided
Dragons to a
playoff win and
within seconds of district championship.
from 2-8 to 11-1 in
his second year,
winning a district
title and a playoff
game to boot.