Tolar football coach Mike Franklin answered his phone on a Saturday morning, only about 12 hours after his Rattlers had defeated Holliday in the bidistrict round of the Class 2A Division II playoffs. A reporter was asking if it was a good time to talk football.
Franklin said yes, because his players were occupied preparing for their second playoff test.
“Every kid is in the weight room. There’s a lot of excitement in there,” Franklin said of the players, who were enjoying being a part of Tolar’s best season since 2006.
Tolar’s historic campaign included the school’s first-ever playoff berth at the Class 2A level, and the Rattlers’ first Class 2A playoff win.
“That’s something that can never be taken from them,” Franklin said. “I’m proud of this group of kids. They are very coachable. And the parental support they have makes a world of difference.”
Franklin said having such outstanding support translates into players who are more willing to listen to coaches.
“That makes our job easier, and this group did everything we asked them to do,” Franklin added.
The Rattlers’ 23-20 overtime victory over 2011 state quarterfinalist Holliday on Nov. 16 propelled the Rattlers into the second round against Gunter, a two-time defending state quarterfinalist. Tolar was eliminated by Gunter, 35-12.
Franklin said he felt that Gunter, which eliminated the Rattlers in the area round of the Division II playoffs, was not truly 23 points better than his squad. Tolar held a 6-0 lead over the Tigers at halftime, and Gunter didn’t take the lead until the 9:34 mark in the third.
“We played toe-to-toe with them,” Franklin said. “They know they’re not three touchdowns better than us. They were a top-10 team.”
Franklin said the 11 seniors made a major contribution to the team that was the first since 2006 at Tolar to win nine.
“I can’t say enough about our seniors,” Franklin said. “They set the tone and set the bar for classes to come.”
It seems there may be more talent ready to move up to the varsity, as well. Tolar’s junior varsity was 9-1 this season.
“Those kids know how to win,” Franklin said of the JV. “They got two weeks more of practice time (against the varsity during its playoff run). That’s going to make (the JV players) better.”
The Rattlers rallied around being underdogs all season, in part because they were not among the three preseason favorites predicted to make the playoffs.
“Our backs had been against the wall all year,” senior Landon Morris said after the Gunter game. “Defense has been our strength. We had good effort all season. A lot of it was the group of seniors that had been together for a while. We were pretty close – pretty much brothers.”
If the underclassmen have their way, that brotherly feeling won’t be lost next season.
“We’ve got a great bunch of kids coming back – a bunch of hard workers,” said junior quarterback Corbin Wood. “I think this year we started a new winning tradition for next year, and I hope we can carry it on to the seniors after that.”
Junior running back Cory Solomon led Tolar in rushing and scoring for a second straight year. He finished with 1,723 yards rushing on 227 carries (8 yards per try) in 2012, and scored 23 touchdowns on the ground. Solomon also caught seven passes for 150 additional yards plus one TD.
Wood was second in rushing with 398 yards and seven TDs on 93 attempts. He also led in passing yards with 906. Sophomore Dakota Endsley was second with 735 yards passing.
Wood completed 64 of 130 with 12 TDs and five interceptions. Endsley connected on 59 of 105 with three TDs and five interceptions.
The top two receivers, both seniors, were neck-and-neck. Senior wideout Zack Hasegawa caught 23 passes for 382 yards, while Grant Winston was just one yard shy of that on a team-leading 32 receptions. Hasegawa’s five TD catches led the Rattlers in that category, while junior Garrett Winston had four.
Morris ledd the Rattlers in total return yardage, with 314.
Tolar’s leading tackler was senior defensive back B.J. Dollins, with 99, including 71 solo stops. Senior linebacker Colt Arrington was second with 92.
Dollins also led in tackles behind the line with 13. Arrington was next with nine for losses, and led in quarterback sacks with five.
Hasegawa pulled down a team-high four interceptions as a defensive back. Dollins, Morris and senior senior linebacker Justin Brown were tied for second with three each. Brown led in fumbles caused, with five.
Tolar’s other seniors are: Jared Sparks, a wide receiver and defensive back; Alfredo Triana, a wide receiver and defensive back; Zyane Gumler, an offensive lineman and linebacker (55 tackles); Weston Phillips, an offensive lineman and defensive end (three caused fumbles); and Ford Anderson, an offensive lineman and defensive tackle.
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