CENTRAL POINT — Ten seconds into speaking with Crater senior Tony Flores and there’s no doubt he carries a matter-of-fact personae.
Ten seconds into watching film of Flores in action for the Comets and there’s also no doubt that he’s a throwback to another generation, where physicality reigned supreme.
“He’s definitely worth the price of admission,” says Crater football coach Randy Waite. “He’s fun to watch play football.”
“He’s old-school football right there,” adds Waite of his senior running back and linebacker. “He wants to be physical. It doesn’t matter if he’s on offense or defense, he wants to make sure they know he’s there.”
The 5-foot-8, 200-pound wrecking ball certainly made an impact last week in Crater’s 26-7 win at North Eugene in the Midwestern League South Division opener. With the Comets’ backfield depleted due to injuries to lead tailback Gavin Acrey and fellow junior Brady Brock, Flores stepped up on the offensive side of the ball and ran 16 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns while adding three receptions for 68 yards.
“He’s just an impact kind of guy,” says Waite, whose team is 2-2 overall. “This past week offensively he was definitely our spark, for sure. For a guy that will run you over, he’s actually got some pretty good open field moves. He’s got some speed and moves to make you miss.”
Even Flores found a little extra enjoyment in the game, specifically on a 54-yard touchdown scamper that showed off his breakaway ability.
“That’s not what I do especially, I’m more of a ground and pound, but plays like that are the ones that I’ll appreciate the most when I’m older,” says the 17-year-old. “Breaking that 54-yard run, when I finally hit the end zone I was just like, ‘I did it. This is where it starts, this is where I show my coaches what I have to offer.’”
Flores had only eight carries for 53 yards and one touchdown entering the contest, with Waite primarily using his talents on the defensive side at linebacker and, most recently, at defensive end.
“He’s a very good running back, we’ve kind of not used him in the last couple years that way just because he’s so impactful on defense,” says Waite. “But last Friday, he had to sit on defense and play offense because that’s where we needed him most.”
The move was certainly a welcome one for Flores, who started playing football in kindergarten with the first graders and is no stranger to toting the rock.
“This is my final year of high school sports so I know if I get a shot at running back, I know I’m going to give it all 100 percent, including this Friday,” he says.
“I absolutely love running the ball,” adds Flores. “I’ve been doing it ever since I was little. Defense is one of my favorites, too, but if I can run the ball and just pound kids and keep pounding the ball down the field, that’s my favorite.”
Regardless of which side of the ball he finds himself on, Flores stands as the Comets’ unquestioned emotional leader. His hits are loud, his pleas to teammates are loud. If you’re taking a little too long getting water during a break, it’s undoubtedly his voice you’ll hear barking for you to hurry up.
“My favorite role isn’t any position, it’s more about being a leader,” says Flores, one of only 12 seniors on the roster. “I love guiding my team and I like that my teammates look up to me and ask me questions. It’s an honor to have all my brothers trust me in what I can give to them.”
Waite says he’s appreciated the impact Flores can have on the team in all his various ways.
“He’s definitely an emotional leader, for sure,” says the coach. “He can change the tide of the game quickly with his emotion and the plays that he makes. He plays with passion and that’s the biggest thing, and kids follow that and feed on that because they know that he’s going to be going 100 percent all the time.”
For Flores, it’s simply a mind over matter process.
“I think football is a team sport, yes indeed, but it’s a matter of being mentally strong and mentally prepared,” he says. “That’s how I prepare myself, I like getting my focus and my mind right first.”
And that’s why he finds himself continually spurring his teammates to give more than they may think is possible.
“I know what we’re capable of, it’s just a matter of if we’re ready and if we want it more than anything,” says Flores, whose team faces a stiff test at 7 p.m. Friday against South Eugene (3-1, 1-0 MWL) at Dutch Meyer FIeld.
“I think the challenges we’re facing Friday is not with our opponent,” he adds. “I’m not worried about who we play, I’m more worried if we’re mentally prepared. It’s all about how we approach practice this week and carry it on to Friday. I don’t think any opponent should beat us, but we beat ourselves with mental mistakes we have or just not thinking straight sometimes. We can be better and I think we will be better.”