Central's Slattery selected Southeast Missourian football player of the year

Monday, December 11, 2006
Blake Slattery, the Southeast Missourian player of the year, accounted for nearly 2,000 yards of offense as Central's quarterback. The all-state defensive back also intercepted four passes, including two in a district victory over Poplar Bluff. (Don Frazier)

Blake Slattery was thrust into the starting quarterback role during his sophomore season when Central's scheduled starter went down with an injury just weeks before the season opener.

During the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Slattery shared the signal-calling duties with Garrett Stevens and gave the Tigers a more mobile option behind center.

With the help of some diligent work over the summer prior to his senior season, Slattery was able to claim the starting spot for himself, and ultimately earned first-team all-conference honors while leading the Tigers to their first district title in three seasons.

With his performance at quarterback and defensive back, where he last week was awarded first-team all-state honors from the Missouri Football Coaches Association, Slattery earned Southeast Missourian player of the year honors.

"It felt good to come in knowing I could take the quarterback job at the start," Slattery said. "Everyone helped me the whole year. No one gave up. It was a good team."

Over the past three seasons, Slattery spent time under center, at wide receiver and defensive back. During that time, Slattery did not complain. He simply took the field and tried to get better.

"As long as you get to play, that's fine," Slattery said. "Wherever the coaches decided, I always did my best. I knew my senior season I really wanted to be the quarterback."

With that in mind, Slattery split this past summer between playing a 50-plus game American Legion baseball schedule and football preparations. Slattery hit the weight room in the morning, sometimes before Legion games, and attended Central's summer camps.

All of the work made it a no-brainer for Central's coaches when it came to the quarterback position. Despite a nagging injury, Slattery played in every game, missing just a half in the regular-season finale.

"It's tough sometimes," Slattery said of balancing his summer schedule. "You lift in the morning and then play in the afternoon or evening. The team, after last season, we knew we wanted to win and win district, so the team camps were a no-brainer. Everyone wanted to get better."

Added Central coach Lawrence Brookins: "Blake basically made it his mission to take that job and he did."

Slattery accounted for nearly 2,000 yards of offense and 16 touchdowns during a 4-7 season. The Tigers had a two-game win streak to start district play, including a dramatic 34-31 victory against defending district champion West Plains. They fell to Farmington in the sectional round.

The 6-foot-2 senior carried the offense during its district run, acting as the Tigers' primary weapon on the ground after starting running back Hykeem Hammonds suffered an injury. Overall, Slattery threw for 1,636 yards and 10 touchdowns on 124-of-217 passing. Slattery added 297 yards rushing and six scores.

"I just did what the coaches taught me and the players from the past taught me," Slattery said. "My line blocked well and my receivers caught the ball well."

When the game was on the line, Brookins wanted the ball in Slattery's hands. Slattery made good when it counted, coming up with two of his biggest performances during district play.

"There were times when he asked for certain duties to be put on his shoulders," Brookins said.

Slattery ran for two scores and had two interceptions on defense in Central's win over Poplar Bluff. The following week against West Plains, Slattery passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns, and he added a rushing touchdown.

"We started off slow, but we got some things together and picked it up," Slattery said. "It felt good winning against West Plains. That game's probably one of the best moments in my high school career."

For all of Slattery's offensive numbers, his impact also was felt on the defense. He finished with 94 tackles, four for losses, and four interceptions. Slattery also broke up four passes.

His performance was noted by the coaches, who placed him on the all-state team. Slattery also earned first-team all-conference honors at defensive back as well.

"Quarterback gets more of the spotlight, but it's pretty fun getting to hit people and trying to intercept balls," Slattery said.

Added Brookins: "There were a lot of coaches who were probably more impressed with him on defense than on offense."

Now that football is over, Slattery will turn his attentions to baseball. He was one of Central's top hitters as a junior.

Slattery hopes to translate his skills to a collegiate athletic career, but he is no longer sure which sport he will pursue. Either way, Slattery will be happy to play at the next level.

"He's putting himself in a position where he's getting looked at from colleges in football and baseball," Brookins said.

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