Tolar football fans will be able to look back on the 2012 and 2013 seasons as two of the best campaigns in the history of the school.
It also will be associated with the careers of two of the Rattlers’ all-time most productive offensive performers – record-setting running back Cory Solomon and quarterback Corbin Wood.
The 18-6 record over the past two seasons was the best two-year mark in the 13 seasons Mike Franklin has been head coach of the Rattlers, and believed to be the best back-to-back marks in school history since they began playing 11-man football. No Tolar 11-man football team has won 10 games in a season.
“This group of seniors (11) had a lot of success,” Franklin said. “A lot of kids in the state would love to have that record in their last two years of high school. In the playoffs, there’s only one team at the end that leaves happy.”
Tolar’s first two losses were to Comanche, 31-20, in nondistrict play and to Scurry-Rosser, 41-14, in district. Franklin admitted he felt disappointed immediately after the Rattlers were eliminated 28-6 loss in the area round of the Class 2A, Division II playoffs to previously unbeaten S&S Consolidated. But looking back later, Franklin had a different take.
“Looking back and thinking about this 9-3 season, it’s a pretty successful season,” said Franklin, whose Rattlers were also 9-3 in 2006.
“We overcame a lot of things. We had a lot of injuries and players came back at different times. We had one quarterback with a hurt shoulder (Wood) and a backup quarterback (junior Dakota Endsley) with another shoulder injury, (senior linebacker) Alec (Elder) hurting both knees. We overcame a lot of things and still succeeded.
“I felt like they’ve done everything we asked of them. Their attitude was great. They came to practice every day, and listened. They were a loose group. They enjoyed the process – even the practice and the bus rides. They had fun. They demanded a lot of themselves, but they kepts a level head about it.”
He pointed to the team’s depth and resolve not to make excuses.
“They set the bar high. This year’s group raised it, with their work ethic and the attitude they brought to practice every day on and off the field,” Franklin said immediately after the season-ending loss. “I’m proud to be their coach. They’ve set it up for the ones to follow.”
Franklin acknowledged that the loss of Wood and Solomon to graduation is substantial.
Solomon, despite missing the equivalent of two games with an ankle injury, recorded his third consecutive season with at least 1,100 yards rushing with 1,470 yards on 198 carries and 17 TDS. That gave Solomon what is believed to be an all-time school career individual rushing record of 4,321 yards on 611 carries.
Solomon scored 50 TDs in three years – the most of any player during Franklin’s tenure.Fittingly, his final carry was for a 30-yard touchdown against S&S Consolidated.
Wood, meanwhile, was long on yardage and short on turnovers as he led the Rattlers in passing over that three-year span. He had a career-high 1,439 yards passing this season and was in on 33 of the team’s 61 offensive TDs. He threw for 21 touchdowns and was second on the squad in rushing with 647 yards and 12 more scores.
Wood finished his career as a Rattler with 2,803 yards total with 37 TDs through the air and just five interceptions each year. Only Will Garlick (3,448 from 2003-2006) and Tanner Gilliam (2,856 from 2008-2010) had more passing yards for Tolar under Franklin.
“Eras end and other (players) step up,” Franklin said of Wood and Solomon. “They’ll be missed. They are great players and they did a lot of things for us. The thing is, now it’s somebody else’s turn to step up and fill the role and do that job. A lot of offensive production is going to graduate with this team.”
In addition to Wood’s passing, Endsley threw for 313 yards, giving the Rattlers 3,563 passing yards combined in the last two seasons – the most team passing yards in any two-year span under Franklin.
Junior Dalton Shaw led the Rattlers in receiving this year, with 580 yards on 26 catches with eight TDs. Senior receiver Garrett Winston was next with 343 yards and seven TD receptions.
Junior linebacker Hunter Ryan led the Rattlers in tackles with 116, including 13 behind the line. Next was junior linebacker Gordon Lewis with 99 tackles, followed by junior defensive back Rodie Brister with 71 and senior lineman Kaleb crawford with 62. Lewis and Brister tied for first in quarterback sacks, with three apiece.
“This year our two leading tacklers were inside linebackers,” Franklin said. “That means the defensive line was doing their job occupying the offensive line, and the linebackers are making their reads and flowing and making tackles so they’re not getting to the secondary.”
Junior defensive back Blake Watson, Winston and Endsley tied for the team lead in interceptions, with three each.
Franklin said there were 18 on the final playoff roster that are expected to be returning lettermen in 2014, and additional talent is on the way from the sophomore class.
“The cupboard is definitely not bare in Tolar, Texas,” Franklin said, noting that he sees the team outlook for next season as being “very similar” to the last two years. “A lot of those (underclassmen) saw playing time. It’s going to be a continuation of the same.”
[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 254