Two-way standout Sears finds a home with No. 6-ranked San Saba
If there’s room for improvement from San Saba High School’s Stone Sears, his opponents better brace for impact.
In four games this year, the senior running back has carried 104 times for 683 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He's averaging 6.6 yards per carry and 170 yards per game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound linebacker has 26 tackles, nine for loss, six quarterback sacks and one hurry, one fumble caused and another recovered.
He’s a big reason why the 3-1 Armadillos are ranked No. 6 in the state in Class 2A Division I.
“He’s done a tremendous job,” San Saba head coach Andreas Aguirre said. “He’s gotten off on the right foot, I know that for sure. Especially offensively, he’s doing some big things and it’s good to see that.”
San Saba takes on Goldthwaite to start District 4-2A Division I play at 7 p.m. Friday at Brownwood’s Gordon Wood Stadium. The game was moved there to better socially distance and accommodate more than the 150 visitor and 200 home side seats available in Goldthwaite, the game’s original venue.
It will be the 103rd meeting between the teams, one of the oldest rivalries in the state of Texas.
It's a big difference from Lakewood to San Saba
As a new junior at San Saba, Sears transitioned quite nicely in transferring first from Austin (Lake Travis and St. Michael’s Academy) to the town where his father Scott was a three-sport athlete from the class of 1987.
Playing mostly on the defensive side of the ball, Stone Sears finished last year with 105 tackles in helping the 13-1 Armadillos advance to the regional final.
Aguirre, however, needed to find a replacement for all-state running back Eli Salinas. Sears spelled Salinas a little last year, but 2020 would be his first season to really play on both sides of the ball.
His performance in San Saba’s only loss this year – a 35-31 decision in Week 4 on the road at 3A DI Llano – might have been his finest game to date. He carried 30 times for a hard-earned 93 yards but scored four touchdowns against the bigger Yellow Jacket team. He also caught a 28-yard pass. Defensively, he had eight total tackles and five sacks.
“We’re doing pretty good,” said Sears when asked to evaluate the Dillos’ performance so far this season. “We lost our running back and our quarterback (Sean O’Keefe) from last year but we’re figuring things out. It was a big difference moving from Lakewood to San Saba and it’s a big difference playing both ways, but I’m getting the hang of it.”
Aguirre said the 15 pounds Sears gained in addition to good coaching from assistant coach Mark Kyle has gone along with great offensive line play to make the Dillos more of a hard-nosed running team than they have been the last two seasons in compiling a 27-2 record.
“He’s got great vision and great feet and explosiveness, but he leans on the offensive line a lot. He gives them a lot of credit,” Aguirre said. “He’s patient at times but he doesn’t back away from contact. I feel bad, when we get to that second level and some 140-, 150-, 160-pound guy is trying to tackle him, 201 pounds coming at you full-steam, 6-foot-2. That’s big time.”
'Dad, I can't learn'
After Scott Sears describes where his son was two years ago about this time, the reality of the 2020 season is improbable, if not simply remarkable.
“Stone has three diagnoses,” said Scott Sears. “When he started going to elementary school, we took him to a neurologist, and Stone has ADHD, Tourettes and OCD. Can you believe that? When a kid has one of them, it’s tough in the classroom. When he has two, it is very hard; but when a kid has three, it’s almost impossible. If it wasn’t for that, we’d probably still be at Lake Travis.”
Scott said that while the personnel in the Lake Travis schools were as helpful as possible, Stone was just “not a kid who could handle all the distractions of 30 to 35 kids in a classroom. He was in there to learn and he wanted to learn but, you know, in a classroom of that many kids, some kids don’t want to be in there at all, they’re there to cause chaos, and he came home his freshman year and said, ‘Dad, I just feel stupid. I can’t learn.’
"That was the only place he had low confidence was in the classroom. He just wasn’t getting it. He saw all his friends on the football team who were getting it.”
After surviving the academics his freshman year and doing well in the football program, Stone started his sophomore year at Lake Travis. Later that day, he walked out of school and “nothing had changed. He knew he wasn’t going to learn anything,” Scott said.
“He said, ‘Dad, I want to play football here but I can’t be in a classroom here. I go in there and sit down, and it’s like a whirlwind and I’m out.”
The Sears family first turned to St. Michael’s Academy, which is close to Lake Travis and where some of Stone’s middle school teammates played. Classes were 12 to 15 in size and the school wanted to work with Stone. But St. Michael’s is an advanced academy which normally doesn’t accept students with learning disabilities, and it would mean retaking some classes. Ultimately, the school and the Sears family knew it wouldn’t work there either.
'That's a tight group of kids in there'
It was March of 2018. The family looked at several other schools. They were mostly larger than 2A and mostly around the Austin area, which is about two hours away from San Saba.
Scott Sears said he really didn’t know what he was going to do until he was talking to some friends from home.
“They said the (San Saba) teachers are phenomenal, the teachers and coaches care about the kids so much, the principal is wonderful.
“The only thing Stone ever knew about San Saba is that’s where his grandfather lives. And I can still see his face when we’re driving through San Saba that day, because he’s used to living in Lakewood, where things are going on all the time," said Scott Sears of the June 1 tour of San Saba ISD.
"We came in and met with the principal and met with the coach, and we walked around the school and toured around the weight rooms and he said, ‘Dad, can we stay here this weekend so I can work out with the team on Monday?' We never left that first day.”
Aguirre said he thinks his family-first philosophy made it easy for Stone to return to his father’s hometown and adjust quickly.
“It’s family-first in this office and it carries over to that locker room,” Aguirre said. “That’s a tight group of kids in there. And anytime we get somebody new, they show them the ropes, show them how things are done, and the kids buy in — or else they’re on the outside looking in, and they don’t want to be an outsider. Stone came in and fit right into our alignment.”
With the move to San Saba, Sears has embraced the chance to improve himself in the classroom and his ability to put points on the board, as well as knock the stuffing out of an opposing quarterback.
His father said he's grown out of most of the symptoms of Touretts and OCD. Athletic competition is an outlet for him as well as fishing and other outdoor activities.
"I'm working on my grades a lot," said Sears, who hopes to land a scholarship to play college football. "We want to win as a team and win more games, but it's mostly my grades I'm focusing on right now. Because I'm not going to go anywhere with bad grades."
He's already come a long way.