FRIENDSWOOD

In what has been an up-and-down season and surprise return to the third round of the playoffs for the Friendswood Mustangs, a bright spot throughout the year has been the remarkable season turned in by linebacker Jake Yurachek.

“I’m not sure that I’ve seen a kid have a better senior year of football than Jake’s had,” Friendswood head coach Robert Koopmann said. “Every game, it’s just tremendous watching him grade out on film and watching the things he does. He’s invaluable because he’s everywhere he’s supposed to be, every play.”

Through 12 games for Friendswood, Yurachek leads the Mustangs with 135 tackles, and has racked up 33 tackles for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception, eight QB hurries and a blocked kick.

Koopman said that Yurachek is not just a great athlete, but also a cerebral player — a combination that has yielded those impressive numbers.

“He’s bigger and stronger, and he’s matured,” Koopmann said. “He sees the whole picture, he’s been running the defense now for three years. And as smart as he is, I think if you put those things together it makes for a great senior year.”

Yurachek’s on-field intelligence has made him a master of detecting opposing offense’s blocking schemes, among other important attributes at linebacker.

“I feel like my biggest strength is reading the offensive line, because that’s one of the more difficult parts,” Yurachek said. “When you’re watching from the stands, you just see someone running with the ball and someone making a tackle, but it’s really more complicated than that.”

Yurachek’s high football IQ has also helped him ease into a new role in the Friendswood linebacker corps this season.

“The biggest thing I had to do is transition from outside linebacker, which I played my freshman, sophomore and junior year, to inside linebacker, which I’ve been playing this year,” Yurachek said. “But really, it’s easy when you have another six guys on the front seven like we do.”

While Koopmann called his team “still a work in progress” after last Friday’s area-round playoff win over Humble Summer Creek, Friendswood’s linebackers and defensive line have been a constant strength of the team.

“I couldn’t be more impressed,” Yurachek said. “Just the difference between trying to make a tackle at inside linebacker the last couple years and this year is just remarkable — basically because just how good our front four on the defensive line are and to have the two linebackers with me, whether it’s Calvin (Whitaker) or Dane (Roenne) or Garrett (Hurst), we just like to use our physicality to dominate the line of scrimmage out there.”

Yurachek said that a season-opening loss at Barbers Hill was an eye-opener for the defense, which began to show its high level of potential in an upset home win in the District 24-6A opener over a Dickinson team rich in talent on offense.

Now, Yurachek and the Mustangs find themselves in the third round of the playoffs for the third straight year in a season where not much was expected with the 2017 graduation of star quarterback Tyler Page.

“Both playoff wins this year have meant so much, knowing that this is going to be the last time I’m on the field with my teammates — and, the fact that people were kind of doubting us before the season with Tyler leaving,” Yurachek said. “We’ve gone this far, and we have a really good chance to make it to the fourth round, which is something Friendswood hasn’t done in an incredibly long time. That really means a lot to the senior class.”

Friendswood takes on the Cypress-Fairbanks Bobcats at 7 p.m. Friday in a Region III-6A, Division II regional semifinal playoff game at TDECU Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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