"It was a tough, tough season," Bell-Jeff Coach Rolando Aguirre said. "my toughest season as a coach."
However, all the doom and gloom and all the consistent inconsistencies could not eclipse the luminous contributions of one — Micah Shirley.
The 6-foot-1, 182-pound Shirley, a senior, solidified himself among the greats who ever played for Bell-Jeff. Whether at wide receiver, running back or free safety, when the Guards needed a play, they most often looked to No. 22.
And rarely did he fail to deliver.
"He was the catalyst," Aguirre said. "His value was second to none. He was the top gun."
The numbers support the sentiment.
Shirley, who has played football since he was 5, rushed for a Santa Fe league-best 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging more than 10 yards a carry. He had 24 receptions for 402 yards and eight touchdowns.
As a quarterback in the wildcat offense, Shirley passed for 200 yards and a touchdown. And, while leading the league in scoring, he threw just one interception and had just one fumble.
On defense, Shirley totaled 122 tackles, a sack, three fumble recoveries and four interceptions.
"He's the fastest kid in the Santa Fe league," Aguirre declared.
Shirley's football brilliance first emerged, according to Aguirre, during a game against Frazier Mountain his sophomore year. Bell-Jeff had given up the lead in the final minute of the game. Aguirre called a timeout and dialed up a play for his budding game-breaker.
Quarterback Daniel Radoccia threw a clutch, game-clinching touchdown pass to Shirley, one of many to come.
"Then, I knew he was going to be the guy," Aguirre recalled.
As a senior, Shirley was called upon to carry the team, which struggled to find supplemental impact players.
"It was very frustrating at the beginning," Shirley said. "But after a while, I got use to it."
"Micah was pretty much on his own," Aguirre said.