By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (December 28, 2017) — Blake Aragon is headed off to Texas State after this school year is complete, while the ever-versatile Gage Graham has another year ahead at Stephenville High School.
Both have added unique titles to their list of honors after helping lead Region I -4A Division I champion Stephenville to a 12-3 mark including a 4-0 district record to be crowned outright champions in 3-4A Division I before reeling off four consecutive playoff victories to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2013.
Cross Timbers Orthopaedics has named the honorable-mention selections to the Associated Press Sports Editors Conference 4A All-State Football Team its comeback players of the year, according to Dr. Bill Evans, certified orthopedic surgeon serving Erath County and the Cross Timbers Region since 1998.
“We congratulate Blake, Gage and all the Yellow Jackets for their success this season, and we’re especially proud to have had a role in
getting these two great athletes back in the game,” said Evans. “Both worked hard to recover from injuries and to become two of the best players on a great team. Congrats to each of them, their teammates and their coaches, and thanks to all of you for taking our community on a fun ride this season.”
At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Aragon brings an imposing presence to the offense as a wide receiver. And appearances in this case are not deceiving, as he proved to be one of the toughest edge match=ups in Conference 4A.
After a slow start due primarily to quarterback Easton Jones being out of the lineup and running back Krece Nowak shouldering the load on the ground early in the season, Aragon picked it up beginning mid-season and led Yellow Jacket receivers in every statistical category with 52 receptions, 924 yards, 11 touchdowns, 17.8 yards per catch and 71.1 yards per game.
Aragon took a slip screen 81 yards for a touchdown in the semifinal loss to Kennedale, part of a four reception, 106-yard performance to end his high school football career. He was at his best in the biggest win of the season, hauling in nine receptions for 160 yards and two scores while also drawing three defensive pass interference penalties when the Yellow Jackets never trailed en route to a 31-28 regional semifinal win over No. 3 Argyle.
Over five playoff games, Aragon had 23 receptions for 368 yards and four scores. He totaled five 100-yard receiving games as a senior and caught five or more passes four different times and finishing with a streak of 12 straight games with at least one catch.
Aragon signed his national letter of intent with Texas State University on the inaugural Early Signing Day allowed by the NCAA. It proved to be a storybook finish to a career that easily could have been sidetracked after Aragon lost much of his junior season to an ankle injury. But once he returned he was a force on the basketball hardwood then made his biggest headlines by soaring to the state championship in 4A boys high jump.
Aragon slammed home a pair of highlight-reel dunks in his first basketball contest this season, scoring 10 points and blocking a couple shots just four days removed from the football semifinal. He is with the Jackets in the TexasBank Holiday Classic in Brownwood Thursday through Saturday.
Graham rebounded from an ankle injury to start this season for the Yellow Jacket defense, but it seems no one realized just how big a difference the junior was prepared to make.
Already a stalwart in the secondary, an injury to teammate Clay Krause opened the door for Graham to develop into an iron man of sorts, starting on offense and defense and after proving to be a big threat with the ball also taking over return duties on special teams.
In his offensive debut, Graham snagged 11 passes, quickly joining Aragon as the top targets for Jones and a unit that averaged 423 yards and 37 points in the regular season.
Graham was the biggest star during District 8-4A action, and was justifiably named the league’s most valuable player. By the end of the season, all-state defensive back accumulated 38 receptions for 678 yards and six TDs, good for second in second on the team behind Aragon in receiving yards and third in catches and TD receptions, also tailing Nowak.
But that’s just half the story, or a little less when you also consider his special teams prowess. Defensively, Graham made 146 tackles, 5 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. He scored a special teams touchdown by recovering a muffed punt in the end zone during a 31-21 regional final win over Wichita Falls Hirschi, and also recovered a muffed punt in the win over Argyle.
Special teams were pivotal in both those playoff wins. The special talent of Graham – and Aragon – were pivotal to the success enjoyed by the Jackets and their many can fans.
Success that began with fighting their way back from injuries and ended in leading Stephenville from four wins when they were in 2016 to the final four in a healthy 2017.
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