If Keller High is to end its football playoff drought this year and return to the postseason, it’s likely going to need significant contributions from Garrett Blubaugh – the kind of stifling defense the senior linebacker provided in the Keller lacrosse team’s climb to the Texas High School Lacrosse League Division II state championship this past spring.
Blubaugh is one of almost two dozen Keller football players that moonlights on the Lacrosse team in the spring. Lacrosse coach Matt Pate said Blubaugh was a big part of the team’s historic run.
“We moved him from back to defensemen. With him and a pair of others we just locked down on defense,” Pate said. “He’s a physical beast. He’s 6 feet, 2 inches of pure muscle and he hits so quickly and just shuts down the best attack he goes against.”
Football coach Carl Stralow is hoping that physical beast will help the Indians lock down District 5-6A opponents this season.
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“He’s been a starter for three years for us and I think he’s gotten better every year,” Stralow said. “This year I think he’s got a chance to be dominant for us.”
Blubaugh considers himself a football player who plays lacrosse, instead of the other way around, but his history with the sport of lacrosse dates all the way back to elementary school.
“We were always a football family, but [Coach Pate’s] son, Bevan, played on my football team and that’s how I learned about [lacrosse],” Blubaugh recalls. “He started up a team and wanted me to come play, so I said, ‘Sure, what the heck?’”
It’s not uncommon to find football players on the lacrosse field in the spring. In fact, 16 of the 20 seniors on Keller’s team last season were football players. Pate admits that the relationship with football coaches and the lacrosse team has been tenuous at times in the past, but he feels that is loosening up as the sport catches on.
“After the last few years of showing them that we’re not just playing around, we’re starting to get a lot more [leniency],” Pate said.
Stralow said he’s all for his athletes playing multiple sports, pointing out that a few years ago, two of the best linebackers in the area were also two of the best lacrosse players in the area: Brandon Mullins of Coppell, who plays lacrosse at Syracuse, and Trent Dennington from Colleyville, who now plays at Penn.
“I don’t have a problem with a kid doing everything in the world that they want to do,” Stralow said. “Those kids had a knack to be wonderful linebackers and lacrosse players, and I’m all for doing everything you’re capable of doing.”
Blubaugh, Pate and Stralow see correlations between football and lacrosse.
“They both complement each other,” Blubaugh said. “My hip movements in football kind of replicate in lacrosse. My hip movements have improved from playing both sports.”
“I’m not very versed in the sport of lacrosse, but I know the kids that have played lacrosse and football have been very good in zone concepts and defensive concepts in the game of football, so there’s got to be a definite correlation,” Stralow added.
While lacrosse is still far more popular up north and along the East Coast, Pate and Blubaugh has seen the sport make significant strides in North Texas.
“It’s grown. Before it was just moms and dads coming to games. Now all these high school kids are coming out to support us,” Pate said, adding that it should only make sense that Texas sports fans are drawn to the game of lacrosse.
“It’s the physicality of the game,” he said. “Some people from Texas don’t know about the game, but once they come to one game, so many parents get hooked and so many kids get hooked because it is like football and basketball and hockey and soccer all in one sport.”
Blubaugh would like to take the lacrosse field again in the spring, but says it could come down to what happens with his football career. The senior, who Stralow says is one of the best human beings he knows, is getting some recruiting interest and that could impact what choices he makes after the fall. But for the time being, Blubaugh says his only goal is to get the Indians back to the football playoffs – everything else will have to come after that.