Jake Vargas is not your stereotypical high school quarterback, but then again, he is a member of an Altus Bulldogs football team that rewrites the book on teamwork, attitude, and accountability.
The program is built around a set of core values that the players follow unflinchingly. These values help transform them from boys into selfless servants and young men capable of doing great things.
Vargas has been around these values his entire life thanks to his father—head coach of Bulldog football, Todd Vargas—and he has made it his mission to always be the best possible version of himself. It is what he strives for on and off the field and when the spotlight is turned on him, he is quick to revert the attention back towards the football team as a whole.
His team-first attitude began at a young age when he bounced around to a few different positions to do what was best for the team. His career as a quarterback became cemented his seventh-grade year under former Dickson and Altus head coach Jeremy Reed.
“My dad actually coached me my fourth- and fifth-grade years when I was playing tight end and defensive back. When we moved to Dickson during my sixth-grade year, I wanted to play a different position and so tried out for the city team as a quarterback. I got the position but towards the end of the season they moved me to running back because I ran so much,” Vargas said. “When I started playing football for the school, I got to play quarterback again under Coach Reed. As a seventh grader, one of my friends and I would play with the eighth graders and as eighth graders we would play with the freshmen, so we played a lot of football games those two years.”
It was during Vargas’ eighth-grade year that things would change for him and his family for the better when he was informed about an impending move to Altus.
“Coach Reed talked to me about how he was going to get the head coaching job in Altus and that he wanted my family and me to come. He said he could see us winning a state championship there and that I would have better opportunities going to a Class 5A school,” Vargas said. “I was a little skeptical at first but after awhile, I felt like that was best for my family and me.”
The family followed Reed to Altus and from there, coaches Reed and Vargas set about transforming the program into the powerhouse that it is today.
Vargas played quarterback and linebacker during his freshman year but had to move to slot receiver during his sophomore year on the varsity team before getting his job back as the starting quarterback during his junior season.
Vargas’ time in Altus and as a Bulldog has been one to remember.
That state championship that Reed talked about was won in 2015 against Collinsville, but Reed left the program and star quarterback Jayden Benway graduated and moved on to college.
The team regrouped and with Vargas’ under center, the Bulldogs battled their way to an 8-3 record during his junior year.
Now as a senior, Vargas sees big things for this team.
“I expect the best for us this year. Our whole team has put in so much work and I guarantee you there isn’t one school that has outworked us this summer. Our whole team has sacrificed so much this past year. Even during the school year, our entire football team woke up and worked out before school,” Vargas said. “Our team is dedicated and that’s why I believe we will have the gold ball this year.”
That “gold ball” is the state championship trophy and Vargas has been putting in the work to ensure he can lead his team back to the championship game to bring Altus its second trophy in three seasons.
“I have been working very hard and I plan to have a great season. This is my last year so I’m going to make it count but I try not to think about myself. I put my family first,” Vargas said.
His family is his team. Family and brotherhood are what the Bulldogs are built around. There is not a closer-knit group of young men in the state and each player is willing to step up and help out in any way they can to take this team to new heights.
Vargas wants to go out on top and he is focused and prepared to make that happen.
“This being my second year as the starting quarterback, I don’t think I’ll be nervous and I don’t think the team is nervous. The team is hungry and ready to play and we prepare one day at a time,” Vargas said. “I try to make every rep perfect at practice and watching game film is very important as well.”
Vargas’ excitement for the upcoming season is contagious. He leads a team capable of doing terrific things on the field and as the general of the offense. He knows that a lot of the teams success and failure will rest squarely on his shoulders, but his father has said before that this is the hardest working group of men that he has ever coached. Vargas agrees with his assessment and believes they have all the necessary tools to dominate during the season.
“It feels good to know that I’m getting to lead a team that is so committed to what we do. We have other great leaders on this team as well that will be big play makers this year,” Vargas said.
More than anything else, Vargas just wants to make his father proud and hopes that when the season is over with, he did everything in his power to do just that.
“My dad has pushed me so hard and I am who I am today because of him,” Vargas said. “He’s a great role model to me and I want to be just like him.”
The Bulldogs open their season on Aug. 25 when they host the Clinton Red Tornadoes at Hightower Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.