Keller football coach Carl Stralow recalls a team meeting after his Indians started the season 0-2. Senior nose guard Mason Ward addressed the team.
“He said, ‘Football’s not that difficult a game. I could bore you with algorithms, but if everybody does what they’re supposed to do, we’ll be fine,’” Stralow said.
The Indians recovered and advanced to the playoffs, following the wisdom of Ward’s advice. And now Ward finds himself among the semifinalists for Scholar Athlete at Thursday’s Sixth Annual 1st Down Club of Dallas-Fort Worth Awards Banquet at the Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts. The event starts at 7 p.m.
The awards recognize the top football players, both athletically and academically, from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, south to Waco and north to Wichita Falls. They honor players with scholarships for a high level of play on the field, success in the classroom and positive community involvement.
“We knew we had a wonderful young man on our hands when we got him,” Stralow said, noting that having a valedictorian on his team is a plus.
“I’m 48 years old and think I’m intelligent, but to talk to him is something else,” Stralow said. “He wants to go to Texas A&M and be an aerospace engineer.
“I’d like to work on his campaign sometime after I retire, because he could be a great leader who can get things done.”
Ward, in his second varsity season, posted 48 tackles. This was after he didn’t see a lot of action as a junior, Stralow said.
“He’s just a selfless kid. As late as Wednesday before the opener against (Abilene) Cooper he was helping the scout team,” Stralow said.
Then, a player missed practice and Ward was put in his place.
“He played so great, we couldn’t get him off the field,” Stralow said. “He allowed us to be a playoff football team. He showed guts, determination and he trusted his technique.”
Nominees for Players of the Year include Gage Campbell, Argyle; Tkai Lloyd, Allen; Brock Sturges, Allen; Jaxon Player, Waco Midway; Bumper Pool, Lovejoy; Tucker Horn, Graham; John Stephen Jones, Dallas Highland Park; Brady McBride, Coppell; Tanner Mordecai, Waco Midway; Spencer Sanders, Denton Ryan; Spencer Trussell, Arlington Martin; D’Montae Davis, Arlington; Dreylan Hines, Mansfield Summit; Cam Jones, Mansfield; Grant Johnson, Mansfield Legacy; Jalen Knox, Mansfield Timberview; Ryan Thompson, Southlake Carroll; Alan Bowman, Grapevine; Matthew Leehan, Southlake Carroll; and James Williams, Aledo.
Additional academic nominees include Chase Bell, Fort Worth Paschal; Lane Ferguson, Saginaw; Cale Nanny, Argyle; R. Mason Ward, Keller; Jarrett Skaggs, Mansfield; Jackson Anderson, Colleyville Heritage; Jacob Doddridge, Southlake Carroll; Esteban Larranago, Euless Trinity; and Grayson Jarvis, Aledo.
Coach of the Year semifinalists are Chris Jensen, Euless Trinity; John Abendschan, Boswell; Brady Carner, Muenster; Kenny Davidson, Graham; Jeff Miller, Rockdale; Chris Melson, Mansfield Legacy; and Greg Winder, Stephenville.