Temperatures drop comfortably on a summer evening at a well-lit Bullard High football field, setting the stage for a play with Charles Williams – yes, in practice, but a signature running play – that surely will define the Knights’ season should they deliver a second Central Section title in school history.
This is what happens, and this is what has to happen for Bullard – No. 4 in The Bee’s preseason rankings – to conquer a deep Division I pool: “Go, Charles, keep running,” booms coach Donnie Arax. “Score. Score. Score.”
So the player with several major college scholarship offers virtually does score, taking a handoff from quarterback Jack Taylor out of the team’s new wing-T offense, racing through a huge hole and toward nothing but green and the east goal post before stopping just short of the end zone and returning to midfield.
Given similar opportunity, Williams won’t be down-shifting in a season opener Friday against Hoover at McLane Stadium; surely not as the nonleague schedule hardens considerably against Buchanan, Grant-Sacramento, Central and Clovis West; ditto for County/Metro Athletic Conference finales wrapped around Halloween against Sanger and Edison; and then absolutely not for the D-I playoffs.
It promises to be a formidable journey, one that Bullard navigated to the tune of a 13-0 record in 2009 for its first section football championship in a program now about to launch a 60th season.
It’s an operation identified with an unfailingly proud community force in Arax – a 1982 graduate of the school with a 111-60-1 record and six league championships there in 15 seasons, according to section historian Bob Barnett – a former all-league offensive lineman, a short, muscular dude with neck veins bursting and a daily demand not to be confused at Palm and Barstow avenues: “Hustle, tenacious, very intense.”
And, while throwing the football has certainly been highlighted in this program – from section record-breaking Kevin Sweeney, for whom Arax once protected, to Bee All-Star Kerr Taubler on that historic 2009 team – the coach cannot return home following practice, face wife Kristine and 7-year-old son Ara and allow that his team is not founded on one that will shove it down your throat on the ground.
Charles Williams will attempt to replace Demetrius Warren (2,546 yards, 33 touchdowns, 2011) as the most prolific single-season running back in Bullard history.
Arax, suspecting the program had slipped a bit honoring that mantra, will call plays this season as opposed to delegating the responsibility to an offensive coordinator: “I felt the last couple of years the team got away from my personality. I want the offense to fit my personality and I thought the only way we’d get there if I called the plays.”
The run-based genre defies a national vogue of pass-oriented, spread-formation, basketball-in-the-grass football, from preps to pro.
While Bullard throttled Clovis West (35-9), Bakersfield (23-10) and Centennial (42-31) through the air in the 2009 playoffs behind Taubler and wide receiver Jajuan Hammond, the Knights also rushed for 2,443 yards and 44 touchdowns that season behind a mostly punishing quartet of Jordan Jones, Devin Mack, Demetrius Warren and Caleb Justice.
Warren would rush for a school single-season record 2,546 yards and 33 touchdowns two years later and he, with 4,468 yards from 2009-11, Travon Jones (3,254, 2002-04) and Dejonte Oneal (2,407, 2011-13) are the program’s career leaders, according to Barnett.
Williams, faster than them all and at 5 feet, 11 inches and 195 pounds, rushed for 1,438 yards and 20 TDs last fall before winning the section Masters 200 (21.55 seconds) and placing second in the 100 (10.80) in track and field in spring.
He’s been offered football scholarships by Washington State, Wyoming, UNLV and Eastern Washington.
This is a blessing. And I’m not going to act any different because it’s only going to get harder now. Everything’s on me, people are watching and my coaches and school are counting on me.
Bullard running back Charles Williams, who has received four major-college scholarship offers.
“This is a blessing,” he says. “And I’m not going to act any different, because it’s only going to get harder now. Everything’s on me, people are watching and my coaches and school are counting on me.
“I feel pressure because of the tradition at running back here, getting on the field and filling in for the big names like Demetrius, Trevon and Corey Jackson. I’ve got to keep that tradition alive. Coach Arax knows what he’s doing at the running back position; he knows what he’s doing in trying to win Valley championships.”
This expectation in football is relatively new for an athlete who long considered himself geared toward track and field, including at Bullard-feeder Tenaya Middle School, where he played both sports.
And Arax, in retrospect, questions why: “Charles didn’t come into Bullard heralded at all. But I think he was misread (in football) at Tenaya; I’m not sure he got a great shot there. But, to his credit, he stuck with it and got better every year. He’s always been one of the fastest kids wherever he’s been. He has true track speed; you don’t catch him.”
Williams has a supporting cast that makes the Knights legitimate threats to win a section title, notably junior quarterback Taylor, who will throw often out of what Arax calls their “West Coast wing-T,” Air Force-offered center Connor Vikupitz, tight end Cvaughn Stewart and running back Sidney Washington.
Defensively, Bullard is anchored at a preferred position of strength, middle linebacker, with juniors Ben Baker, a 2014 Bee All-Star, and Cameron Lamanuzzi.
“This is a team,” Arax says, “that you get every three or four among 15 years where there are good kids, leaders – which are hard to find nowadays – and they hold each other accountable. It’s one of those old-fashioned things you’re looking for.”
2015 Bullard High schedule
- Aug. 28: vs. Hoover (McLane), 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 4: at Buchanan, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 11: vs. Grant-Sacramento (McLane), 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 18: at Central, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 25: at Clovis West (Buchanan), 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 9: at Madera, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 16: vs. Madera South (Madera), 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 23: vs. Memorial (Chukchansi), 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 29: vs. Sanger (McLane), 7 p.m.
- Nov. 6: vs. Edison (Chukchansi), 7:30 p.m.