BLUM — Blum coach Gary Talafuse wanted to get the ball to Michael Arrington, and didn’t want to waste any time doing it.
The Bobcats won their first 11 games in 2006 by the 45-point mercy rule, then advanced to the third round of the playoffs by whipping Coolidge, 58-0, and Strawn, 51-40. But against Trinidad in the region final, Blum fell behind at halftime.
With his team trailing, 36-32, Talafuse knew the Bobcats needed a boost. So when Trinidad was flagged for offsides after pooch-kicking to up-back Matt Reid, Talafuse seized the moment.
He called Reid to the sideline and gave new instructions.
“I said, ‘Matt, if they pooch that to you again, toss it back to Arrington,’ “ Talafuse recalled. “They teed it up, pooched it to (Reid) again, he pitched it to Michael and he took it to the house.”
Arrington also pinpointed that play as the highlight of a season in which he rushed for 1,666 yards, passed for 645, and accounted for more than 40 touchdowns.
His 60-yard return against Trinidad sparked a second half in which Blum mauled the Trojans, 48-8. The play also neatly capsulized the merit of Super Centex Player of the Year Arrington, and Super Centex Coach of the Year Talafuse.
The 22nd annual Super Centex Six-Man Football team celebrates a season that saw Abbott overcome tremendous adversity, Calvert post another phenomenal campaign, and Bynum reach the brink of its first playoff berth in 18 years.
But Blum trumped them all.
In his second season as head Bobcat, Talafuse, the 2003 Super Centex Six-Man Coach of the Year at Buckholts, amped the Blum defense.
“In 2005, we were not a good defensive club,” Talafuse said. “We did know that if we were going to have a chance to win a state championship, we were going to have to be better defensively.”
Every account of the Bobcats in 2006 noted that they were an extremely fast team. Last spring, Blum sent its sprint and 4x200 relay teams to the 1A state meet and all four members of those squads — Jimmy Ishmael, Levi Hardcastle, Steven McPherson and anchorman Arrington — returned for football season.
Arrington said a lot of other teams had as much talent as the Bobcats, but Talafuse knew how to push his players.
“He just preaches about discipline and technique and fundamentals,” Arrington said. “He preached defense a lot because he knew the offense would be able to score points. It was just how would we be able to stop ‘em?”
Midway through the regular season, Blum was stopping opponents cold and dazzling Central Texas Six-Man fans.
Those who follow the wide-open game expect final scores that resemble basketball results. But Blum made an art of shutting down and shutting out its foes. The Bobcats didn’t give up an offensive touchdown in its first 11 games and recorded eight shutouts in that span, including six straight.
That resulted in some short games as Blum won by the mercy rule each time out from September through mid-November.
“I knew we’d be good and some of our opponents would have a hard time playing a full game with us,” Talafuse said. “But that wasn’t ever a goal. In fact, that would be kind of arrogant and a little unsportsmanlike for that to be an expectation.”
Talafuse followed a regional final appearance in his first season at Blum by going a round further in 2006. By elevating his team that much, he edged several other worthy candidates for the Trib honor.
Among them, Abbott’s Terry Crawford helped his team fight through the loss of star back J.R. Price to injury and qualify for the playoffs. First-year Coolidge coach Chris Bennett took the Yellowjackets to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Jonesboro coach Chris Ashby turned the Eagles’ season around from an 0-4 start to a playoff appearance, and Penelope’s Corey McAdams guided the Wolverines to a school-record four wins.
Blum had an impressive collection of talent on offense and defense. The Bobcats rolled up 55 points per game and Arrington developed into the go-to player.
He said his job description was “running hard, blocking whenever I had the chance, doing whatever I could to help.” But he admitted he liked the spotlight, too.
“It’s good whenever the game’s on the line and they’re giving you the ball,” Arrington said.
Arrington finished as the standout of a plethora of six-man stars in 2006. Bynum’s Kody Fain passed for 2,548 yards and 49 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Calvert’s Eddie Green piled up 49 catches for 942 yards and 20 TDs on offense, 87 tackles on defense and 427 return yards and four TDs on special teams.
2006 Super Centex Six-Man Football Team
|Blum: Austin Owen, Steven McPherson, Jimmy Ishmael and Felipe Delgado|
Bynum: Luis Chavez, Josh Baumgardner, Chance Brockette and Deray Bunton
Calvert: Deterrius Pleasant, Kealton Thompson and Wendell Green
Milford: Craig Deckard and Derek Williamson
Morgan: Juan Ortiz and Garrett Cline
Penelope: Kyle Cox and Jonathan Moreno