MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Bobcat Bradley always versatile in making impact

Published 12:28 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

There is simply no question that Blake Bradley put forth plenty of blood, sweat and tears into the Orangefield Bobcat Athletic program.

He not only excelled in both football and baseball for four seasons, he was an excellent example for all of the underclassmen behind him.

Bradley earned a ton of accolades throughout his run wearing the Orange and White.

What a great run Bradley had, and with that, he has earned the 2019 Orange Leader Male Athlete of the Year.

“I will always be proud to say I’m a Bobcat,” said Bradley. “I always took a lot of pride in representing our school in everything I did. The thing I liked the most is that we were not always the fastest, the biggest or the strongest but we always hit the fields giving it our best shot. I was brought up that being a Bobcat was all about being a battler and giving it your all no matter the odds. I’m so proud of what we accomplished and so proud for all of the teammates along the way, we did some good things and had a great time doing it.”

He was definitely fierce on the football field. Not many freshman get to play on varsity Friday night but Bradley proved he could in 2015. And ever since that moment it was hard to get the young man off the field.

“I played a couple games on the JV as a freshman and we had a couple injuries and the coaches put me in the fire early and I loved it,” said Bradley. “I was smaller and not as strong but the upperclassmen showed a lot of confidence in me and my game grew as the season went along and I continued to get bigger, stronger and faster and I was so ready for my sophomore season.”

Bradley was a four-year letter winner for Coach Josh Smalley and played everywhere, whether it was at linebacker, where he earned All-District honors, or whether it was at fullback, where he claimed All-District honors. He even caused problems for opponents on special teams.

“I wasn’t off the field much, even though I didn’t play special teams quite as much my senior year, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” said Bradley. “That just made me feel good that the coaches liked the effort I was giving and it made me want to work even harder.”

Bradley played two of the most toughest positions in the game but ate it up.

“They were both physical positions for sure,” said Bradley. “At linebacker, you can take some punishment by some big linemen and you take some shots playing fullback. I loved the challenge though. I liked running down running backs at linebacker. I also tried my best to do the punishing when running the ball at fullback. I tried to dish more out than I took, that was the way my thoughts worked.”

Bradley was a key cog in the Bobcats making the playoffs three straight years from 2015-2017, whether it was making a tough tackle on a runner trying to get through the middle or him running over defenders to grit out those extra yards from his fullback spot.

Bradley wrapped up a solid senior season last fall in playing both sides of the ball.

At fullback, he zipped for 615 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He also caught eight passes for 87 yards. On defense, he notched 80 tackles, seven of them for losses, which included two sacks.

“We had some big wins that I will always remember,” said Bradley. “We lost an overtime game at LC-M and despite the loss, we showed who we were that night with a big comeback. We had some big games with Hardin-Jefferson that settled playoff spots for us that were really intense.”

In baseball, he was definitely a standout for Coach Tim Erickson as the Bobcats found their way to the postseason, including a trip all the way to the Class 3A Region III quarterfinals last season.

“I came in and played some as a freshman and sophomore and I just pushed myself to get better and with the help by the coaches and my teammates, it paid off,” said Bradley. “By the time I was a junior, I knew I was going to have to take on a bigger role, especially on the mound, and Coach Erickson gave me the ball and that made me feel great.”

Bradley helped the Bobcats to a second-place finish in District 22-3A play as Orangefield soared to a 10-2 district mark.

He finished with a 8-4 overall mark on the mound and was stout in 22-3A play in helping get the Bobcats into the postseason. He compiled an impressive 5-1 record in district play and went 2-1 in the playoffs. He tossed 57 2/3 innings, striking out 57.

At the plate, he drove in 16 runs and collected nine doubles.

“We had a really good run this year for sure,” said Bradley. “The team that beat us in the playoffs (Central Pollok) is playing Kirbyville (22-3A champions) for the right to go to State this week. Even though we fell a little short in that three-game series to Pollok, we feel pretty good about what we accomplished.”

Bradley saw some big diamond wins along his journey.

“I loved it when we beat a highly-ranked Lufkin Hudson team in the first round of the playoffs,” said Bradley. “Our 3-2 win over Kirbyville in eight innings at home the first time we played them this year was awesome. The year we played WO-S in the third round in front of a big crowd at Lamar was great too.”

Bradley will look to stay in shape after graduation but he is going to concentrate on getting a mechanical engineering degree at Lamar. However, he will cherish Orangefield forever.

“ I will always be a Bobcat, noting will ever change that, that’s for sure,” said Bradley. “Orangefield is a very tight school and we all root for each other, whether if it is on the field or in class or in the future. That’s what has always made it so special. You don’t find that at a lot of other schools and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”