Ashton Hartsfield, center, rushes the ball for Central against Cedar Park on Friday, September 13, 2019. (Photo: Colin Murphey/ San Angelo Standard-Times)
A 2020 season that will be like no other before starts Thursday night in Killeen for the San Angelo Central High School football team.
The Bobcats will be starting nearly a month later than originally scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic when they face Killeen Shoemaker at 7 p.m. Thursday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Fans can visit gosanangelo.com/sports for live coverage.
Central went 6-5 last season and finished 4-2 in its final year in District 3-6A before getting realigned into 2-6A this past spring. The Bobcats reached the playoffs for the 10th straight year and lost in the first round.
Shoemaker is coming off a 7-4 showing a year ago, and the Grey Wolves also went 4-2 in their old district before they were eliminated in bidistrict.
The Bobcats won’t need any extra motivation heading into the season opener after getting blown out 54-21 at home last year by Shoemaker.
The Wolves’ team speed is always a big concern for Central.
“And this year as much as ever,” Bobcats head coach Brent Davis said. “They’ve got a bunch back. They’ve got eight back on offense and six on defense from last year. They stomped a mudhole in us last year.
Malachi Brown, center, prepares to throw a pass for Central on Friday, September 13, 2019. (Photo: Colin Murphey/ San Angelo Standard-Times)
“We’re excited to have another opportunity to go play these guys, knowing that they’re as good as anybody we’ll see this year as far as anybody who can run the football like they do.”
Davis talked about the challenge his defense faces this week, and it all starts with trying to contain Shoemaker senior quarterback Tyjayzeon Bell.
“This guy’s an ultimate dual-threat quarterback,” Davis said of the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder. “He can run, he can throw and he’s like a scatback. We’re going to have our hands full.
“I don’t think that we’re going to sit here and say we’re just going to shut these guys out. That’s unrealistic. Hopefully we can keep them down far enough to where we can outscore them.”
Davis says that even if the Bobcats are sound on defense, they’ll likely give up some big plays due to Shoemaker’s speed and athleticism.
“We’ve got to play assignment football and we’ve got to run to the football,” he said. “We’ve got to take proper angles. If we do those two things — proper angles and everyone’s trying to get there — I think we’ve got a good chance.”
The Bobcats tuned up with a scrimmage at home against Abilene Cooper last Thursday, and Davis gave his team a pretty good grade.
“I thought overall in the scrimmage we played really well against a good football team,” the Central coach said. “Abilene Cooper’s really good. I thought we looked good in spots for sure and had some flashes of really good stuff.
“But the pre-snap penalties and the hits out of bounds and the things you have complete control over, we’ve got to cut out. And if we can do that, we’re going to have a chance to be pretty decent.”
Three years ago in Killeen, current Texas Tech University quarterback Maverick McIvor accounted for seven touchdowns running, passing and receiving to pull out a 52-42 come-from-behind win for the Bobcats.
“That year Maverick pulled all that out, he got the Player of the Week from the Built Ford Tough thing,” Davis said. “We had to use every trick play we could come up with to try to win that game and we finally did. Yeah, that was a nail-biter ’till the end.”
Now it’s Malachi Brown’s turn to see what he can do against the Wolves at their place.
Davis has high expectations for his third-year starter at QB.
“He’s looked good in practice,” the Central coach said of the 5-11, 185-pounder. “I thought he played well in the scrimmage. But we’ve got to eliminate our mistakes. He threw a couple over the middle that he shouldn’t have.
“One of them they picked and another one they almost did. We’ve got to stop taking unnecessary risks, but when he figures that out he’s pretty unstoppable.”
Brown threw for 2,697 yards and 26 touchdowns with 15 interceptions as a junior, in addition to being the Bobcats’ leading rusher for the second straight year with 772 yards and 15 scores.
“He’s running the ball extremely well and it looks like he’s quicker and faster than ever,” Davis said. “He’s throwing the ball great and he has a good head on his shoulders.
“He knows our offense really well now, so hopefully he has a great season. If he has a big season, we’re going to have a big season.”
With the season starting a month later than schools in the four smallest classifications, Central will be wrapping up district play Nov. 27.
If the Bobcats are fortunate to make the postseason again, the first round will be the first weekend in December.
The only thing on the Bobcats’ minds right now, however, is taking care of business against Shoemaker in the season opener.
“It’s really obvious in the first football game that it’s the team that’s in the best shape, the team that handles the special teams the best, and then it’s the team that handles the turnovers,” the Bobcats coach said.
“That’s all coach talk and a cliche, and it’s true because that’s the way it is. The team that’s in the best shape usually wins these games. And then you’ve got to cancel out your turnovers and you’ve got to win the special teams (portion). If you do those things, you’re probably going to win it.”
After going through an offseason with so much uncertainty due to the pandemic, Davis says his players will have a little pep in their step.
“We’ll be ready,” the Central coach said. “They were real excited last Thursday, and they’ll be even more excited this Thursday because this one will count.
“It’s been nearly 10 months since we’ve actually gone against anybody in a live game, even ourselves. So it’ll be fun.”
Former Bobcat great mentioned on ESPN
Former Bobcats football great Bobby Clatterbuck’s name came up Sunday when ESPN was showing NFL highlights.
Justin Herbert, the backup quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, got his first start as a rookie against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, and he became the first rookie since 1954 to throw a TD pass and run for a TD in the first half of his first start.
Sixty-six years ago, Clatterbuck accomplished that feat with the New York Giants.
Clatterbuck graduated from what was then San Angelo High in 1950, and he’s in the Bobcat Athletic Hall of Fame. He later broke all the passing records at the University of Houston before turning pro. In addition to playing for the Giants, he also played for the Chargers.
“Bobby Clatterbuck was my first football hero,” said San Angeloan Buddy Peel, who founded the Bobcat Hall of Fame. “He was so good to us kids and everything. We would go out to old Bobcat Stadium and watch him play.”
Charles Bryce is a journalist covering sports in West Texas. Send him a news tip at [email protected] Consider supporting West Texas journalism with a subscription to GoSanAngelo.com.