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Cedar Creek battles adversity and 15-game losing skid

Sophomore quarterback Blaze Orr received his baptism by fire as a freshman against archrival Bastrop

By Jim Irish

Photos by Jim Irish

Cedar Creek would like nothing more than to terminate a 15-game losing skid. The Eagles last tasted victory against Elgin 14-6 in a district contest on Oct. 1, 2021.

Last season, they finished 0-10 overall (0-6 in District 13-5A) and allowed 48 points a game.

Third-year head coach Josh Thomas believes the team will break the losing cycle. He points to a varsity roster of 50 athletes that is two deep at every position.

"I think this team, this school, and this community is ready."

-- Cedar Creek coach Josh Thomas

“I think this team, this school, and this community is ready,” he says. “There’s a lot of good support behind this group.”

Thomas says tackling and scoring have to improve

Thomas points to the need for better tackling and taking advantage of scoring opportunities.

Against Gonzales in last season’s opener, “We had a lot of chances early that we missed,” Thomas says about the offense. “We had three or four drives in the red zone that we came away with no points.”

Thomas says turnovers were an issue as well.

Brothers Kade (left) and Kole Masters, both second-team all-district selections, are sure-handed receivers

“I think one turnover is too many,” he says. “Part of our maturation process was we didn’t recover well after a turnover. If something bad happened, we didn’t recover mentally.”

Thomas says the Gonzales game was an example of being hurt by turnovers.

“We had some huge turnovers, two in the red zone. In theory, we left 28 points on the board. The game could have easily swung the other way.”

Thomas and staff have spent time “revisiting” that game and areas that require improvement.

Tackling was a huge priority in the spring with the emphasis on correct technique, pursuit, and tackling angles, Thomas says.

Nine starters return on the multiple spread offense.

Mason Thomas, the coach's son, is Cedar Creek's only two-way starter at tight end and defensive end

Thomas’ son, Mason Thomas, (6-2, 240, sr.) will line up as a tight end or H-back. He caught eight passses for 128 yards last season with one touchdown and was a second-team all-district selection.

Brothers Kade (6-0, 175, sr.) and Kole Masters (5-10, 165, sr.) will be receiving targets. Kade had 21 receptions for 464 yards and two touchdowns, while Kole caught 19 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Both were second-team all-district choices.

Sophomore Orr directs offense

Blaze Orr (6-2, 185, so.) has taken control at quarterback. He was thrown into the deep end against arch rival Bastrop last season as a freshman after Bryan Allen suffered a concussion.

“I was a little nervous but also confident in my abilities to go out there and perform,” Orr says.

He recalls a lot of trash talking between Cedar Creek and Bastrop.

"It kind of fueled me a little bit and made me a little bit better, I think."

-- Quarterback Blaze Orr on crosstown rivalry with Bastrop

“That’s what it is about rivalries,” he says. “It kind of fueled me a little bit and made me a little bit better, I think.”

In four games, Orr completed 36% of his passes for 376 yards and had one interception. The jury is out on his running ability. Allen was the team’s leading rusher last season with 456 yards and six touchdowns.

Tackles Ayden Abrego (left) and Lance Jaramillo both stand 6-foot-5 and weigh more than 300 pounds

“Blaze is a very mature sophomore,” Thomas says. “He’s pretty much an eat, sleep, breathe football kid.”

Orr attended a summer camp in Austin and then was invited to the three-day Football University Top Gun Showcase in Naples, Fla. in July.

The other returning starters are guard Hector Arredondo (6-0, 250, sr.), second-team all-district pick; center Lorenzo Chairez (6-0, 260, sr.); left tackle Ayden Abrego (6-5, 305, sr.); wide receiver Roy Rose (6-2, 170, sr.); and running back K’Veahon Houston (6-1, 185, sr.).

Rose had 18 receptions for 310 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Houston gained 333 yards and scored three touchdowns but will miss the first several games after undergoing surgery in the summer.

David Chavez, a sophomore, returns as the kicker. He converted all 13 extra points and was 4-of-7 on field goals.

Chris Nino is a hard-hitting cornerback who was a first-team all-district selection. He also plays offense

Newcomers on offense are right tackle Lance Jaramillo (6-5, 330, so.), running back Isaiah Cancino (5-10, 160, so.), running back Devon James (5-11, 160, jr.), and wide receiver Dakota Baker (5-10, 165, jr.). Baker ran track and is one of the quickest athletes on the squad.

“We’re doing a lot more now that we have a veteran group,” Thomas says about the offense. “We’re still running our base stuff, but we’re adjusting it to (opponents), what they do well.

“We’ll be able to load the box and run the football. We’ll use RPO (run pass offense).”

Defense switches from three-down front to a four front

The defense is switching from a three-down front to a four front because of new personnel and defensive coordinator Jeremiah Granada’s experience with the alignment.

Among the eight returning starters on defense is cornerback Chris Nino (5-8, 160, sr.), a first-team all-district selection with 20 tackles. Nino can also play offense, scoring two rushing touchdowns and catching nine passes for 99 yards.

Mason Thomas will be the team’s only two-way starter, lining up at defensive end.

Other returning defensive starters are safety Ivan Lopez (5-10, 160, jr), end Grant Davis (6-0, 185), end Josh Dyer (6-1, 200, sr.), inside linebacker Benjamin Young ((6-2, 190, jr.), outside linebacker Tristan Cornwall (6-1, 210, sr.), and tackle De’Marqus Ockleberry (5-11, 240, sr.).

Newcomers who will see playing time are safety Eli Meyers (6-0,190, jr.), strong safety Seth Staples (6-1, 180, sr.), cornerback Joseph Redmon (6-0, 170, so.), and inside linebacker Ryan Watson (6-0, 180, so.).

With Cedar Creek’s losing streak in mind, Thomas and staff “have preached overcoming adversity. We have an older team, and they’ve learned from that. They are ready to take the next step.”

Thomas knows that District 13-5A is “extremely competitive” with the likes of Liberty Hill, Lockhart, and Veterans Memorial. Liberty Hill returns its top three running backs.

“You have no reason not to have Liberty Hill at the top,” he says.

Thomas’ goal is “ultimately get into the playoffs anyway you can.”

Cedar Creek plays host to Gonzales in its opener at 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium.

Jim Irish is a freelance writer in Bastrop, Texas

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