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Saugus' Blake Austin: Underrated, overpowering

Saugus senior linebacker nearing end of a quietly dominant career

Posted: October 21, 2013 9:10 p.m.
Updated: October 21, 2013 9:10 p.m.

Saugus senior linebacker Blake Austin led the Foothill League last year with 67 tackles and he's currently leading the league with 69 tackles so far this season. He's also been a key offensive weapon for Saugus, rushing for 311 yards and four touchdowns on the year.

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Despite leading the Foothill League in tackles during the regular season a year ago, Saugus Centurions’ linebacker Blake Austin has endured a largely thankless tenure as one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s best defensive players due to his lack of elite physical attributes.

For this reason it seems that Austin is the perfect leader of a Saugus team that has seemingly managed to both overachieve and underachieve at the same time in 2013.

Thus far, the Centurions have been an enigma. The team is currently 3-4 overall and 0-2 in league, losing their four games by a combined 22 points. Because of the number of high quality opponents on Saugus’ schedule, it’s easy to envision a scenario where the Centurions take solace in the fact that they have been able to compete with a variety of high caliber squads.

It’s just as easy to imagine that 2013’s moral victories have grown less satisfying as questions of what could have been grow impossible to ignore.

After letting yet another close one get away last Friday against Canyon, Saugus now faces the ugly prospect of missing the playoffs if it can’t right the ship in its remaining three games against Hart, Golden Valley and West Ranch.

“There are only so many things that we can control,” says Centurions head coach Jason Bornn on the remainder of the season. “All we can do is go out and work hard, and from there let the chips fall where they may.”

It seems the Foothill League is about to find out how resilient the Centurions are, and if Austin’s attitude is any determinant of the status of the Saugus football program, the answer is: very resilient.

“We don’t really have many other options — to make the playoffs we are going to have to close out strong and beat Hart, beat West Ranch, beat Golden Valley,” says Austin, who has also contributed to the team on offense with 311 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 4.4 yards per carry. “We can do it. We have to.”

Much of Austin’s success is rooted in his dedication to the task at hand. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior has earned his keep through micromanaging individual facets of the game, an approach ingrained in all Saugus football players by the coaching staff.

“At Saugus we don’t see opponents as being any better or worse than another,” Bornn says. “Each team we play presents a unique challenge, and because of that our preparation strategy is always on a week-to-week basis.”

Beyond Bornn, Austin is privileged in that he can always consult his father, Randy, for motivational tips and preparation strategies.

Randy Austin was an all-league linebacker/tight end for Coach Harry Welch and his historic Canyon football teams between 1982-85. During that period the Cowboys suffered just one defeat, posted a 46-game winning streak and captured three consecutive CIF championships. Following his decorated high school career — in which he received the Golden League MVP award his senior season, Austin moved on to catch passes for Troy Aikman at UCLA before being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.

“I don’t think he competes against my legacy or anything, but he definitely works hard,” says Randy of Blake. “He’s a natural born leader and he’s got the biggest heart of anybody on the field — when you put those factors together those are the types of things that make you stand out.”

Beyond playing the position, Randy speaks as an experienced coach. A former SCVAA Warrior football coach, Austin not only developed Blake, but other prominent football players in the area.

To add perspective, Blake leads the league in tackles with 69 total, nine of those coming for a loss.

That’s already two more than his league-high 67 tackles a year ago.

So what will Foothill League fans remember about Blake Austin?

That he put up big stats?

Probably not. Austin is on the verge of leading the league in tackles for the second straight year, but it seems that few have paid attention. He was an All-Foothill League second-team selection last year.

That he lived up to his father's pedigree?

From a winning stand point, such a task is impossible at this juncture.

That doesn’t mean that Blake and his teammates can’t still make this year a special one.

“In order to turn this (season) around we have to come together as one football team, storm the football field and execute... it’s hard to explain,” Blake says.

So many things about this Saugus team have been hard to explain.

As Bornn said: “There are only so many things we can control.”

Had he been three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, Foothill League fans may have remembered Blake Austin as a can’t-miss defensive prospect.

If Saugus runs the table from here on out, Austin will undoubtedly play a central role in that chain of events.

Regardless of what happens these next few weeks, when Blake Austin’s career as a Saugus Centurion ends he’ll know that he made all the tackles, gained all the yards, and threw all the blocks he possibly could.

Blake Austin is a player that does everything in his power to help his team win.

Sometimes that’s enough.

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