The 49ers High School Player of the Week Award for the final week of the 2015 season goes to Austin Bartlebaugh of Aptos High School in Aptos, CA.
The program wouldn't be complete without recognizing one of the true skill positions in the game. This player goes to battle in the vicious trenches with each and every snap of the game. He has his hand in the dirt, ready to do what it takes to protect his quarterback, knowing it's their job to allow the offense to go to work. They certainly don't call for the glitz and glamour, but they are the reason glitz and glamour can sparkle in the end. This player is the ultimate unsung hero – an offensive lineman.
Aptos High School guard, Austin Bartlebaugh, is the textbook teammate, leader, classmate, and all around young man. "Austin is what awards like this are all about. He's just an incredible kid. He lifts everyone up around him. He's just got that about him," said Aptos High School Head Coach Randy Blankenship of his starting guard.
Senior, two- year starter, and co-captain of the 2015 Mariners football team has had himself an impressive senior year season. The Mariners outlasted San Lorenzo Valley 28-26 to remain undefeated in league play in a huge division game Friday night. By defeating SLV, Aptos officially clinched a spot in the CCS playoffs.
The Mariners have a loaded back field with a variety of options to throw at opponents. With a couple of fullbacks and a variety of running backs, they have relied heavily on their running game all season. In the win over SLV, FB Jack Harris had one of his best games of the season recording 173 yards on 12 carries and a pair of touchdowns. RB Jack Wolf also broke 100 yards rushing on 16 carries and punched in a touchdown.
"Austin was a huge part of that," said Coach Blankenship.
When taking a closer look at the stats, 85% of the carries were over and through Bartlebaugh's position.
Last week against another SCCAL rival in Harbor, Aptos produced a dominating 60-7 win with seven rushing touchdowns. They totaled 360 yards rushing on the night.
Most notably, the Mariners have had a remarkable 17 different player's record rushing attempts this season, 10 of whom have recorded a rushing touchdown. The young men in the running back's room are not afraid to reflect a large part of their success to the stout play of their offensive line.
Over the last four weeks, Aptos is averaging an impressive 10 yards a carry, largely due to Bartlebaugh and the dominant offensive line.
"I think the offensive line is the strength of this team," noted Coach Blankenship.
When asked if Bartlebaugh is one to take lead in the offensive line room, Head Coach Randy Blankenship quickly insisted:
"He is more than just a leader on the o-line. He gets this entire team going. He starts us off in the morning and gets us going in morning weights, he rallies the troops, he's a direct reporter to me… he is someone his teammates highly respect and trust. He is respected by everyone. His teammates, his coaches… everyone rallies around him."
Bartlebaugh's leadership and focus is highly valued, but so is his ability to brighten everyone's day around him and make people smile.
"I look forward to going to practice and having exchanges with him. It's honestly the highlight of my day. He knows when to crack a joke when I'm being too intense, but at the same time he is the first to buckle down and prepare. He knows exactly what this team needs and when," said Coach Blankenship.
As influential as Bartlebaugh is on the field, the same praises are said of him and the person he is off the field. He is a genuinely caring young man and is very aware of those around him.
Coach Blankenship noted that he and his family were in the process of moving a few weeks ago.
"Austin got a group together and helped us move. It was incredible. But then again, that's just Austin. That's the kind of kid he is. He's always willing to help, and not just me, but his teammates, his classmates, his teachers….You don't even have to ask. He'll beat you to it."
Bartlebaugh also works at a Farmer's Market in town while juggling football and his school work. Selling strawberries at the Farmer's Market, participating in the state fair with his hog, and driving his infamous truck with the big American Flag on the back, Bartlebaugh is the epitome of your fun loving, all- American kid.
"That's Bartlebaugh for you," said Coach Blankenship. "He's an easy kid to love. There are no skeletons in his closet. He's a good natured, caring, fun- loving, all-American man."
Aptos, the winner of four straight SCCAL titles, heads to Scotts Valley this Friday to try to make it five straight titles in a match-up for the SCCAL championship.
As the home school of the 49ers High School Player of the Week, Aptos High School will receive a $500 grant for their football program from the 49ers Foundation. Austin Bartlebaugh will receive two tickets to a 49ers home game. Bartlebaugh will be invited to the SAP Performance Facility to accept a certificate from 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula recognizing his achievements.