Coaches felt he was a special playerand it showed on and off the field
By Bruce SmithMatchup
Gabe Ruflin’s best memories of playing football at Herriman High School came during his junior year. In the regular-season finale against Clearfield, he caught three passes, all four touchdowns.
So, it wasn’t surprising to learn that Ruflin had high hopes entering 2012. It didn’t go as he expected, however.
“I didn’t end up having as good of a season … receiving-wise, but I worked for the greater good of the team,” he said. “Everything was just clicking for us most of the time and I just went with the flow.
“It was kind of disappointing how it ended but, other than that, it was really fun getting to play with all of my friends and it was the last time we’d all get together.”
Ruflin was a two-sport athlete at Herriman (football and rugby) and a favorite of the coaches, who recognized Ruflin’s character as much as his ability. At the team’s post-season banquet, he and Thad Hay were given the Outstanding Scholar Athlete Award. It was a proud moment for both of them.
“He (Ruflin) represents what’s possible for every kid,” said Herriman coach Larry Wilson. “He didn’t play much (football) in Little League and was undersized, but worked hard and just blossomed.”
As a senior, Ruflin was listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and began playing on both sides of the ball – tight end and linebacker. He ended up with 34 career receptions (17 each year) and averaged an amazing 22 yards per catch. Eleven of them went for touchdowns. At least one other play – a 60-yarder this year vs. Copper Hills – was negated by a penalty, but Ruflin still said it was his finest of the year.
“They (officials) said I face-masked a guy when I stiff-armed him in the chest,” Ruflin recalled. “It was a delayed, short out route. It wasn’t that I was open, it was just that the ball was (thrown) in the perfect spot and I got it.”
Ruflin still had three catches for 71 yards in that game, and one went for a score. For the season, he was Herriman’s second-leading receiver. Ruflin, however, claimed Herriman’s success was due to its running game, which frequently got key blocks from him, Zach Hogan, Rory Mulitalo, Andre James, Dallon Burningham and Austin Young.
“We had multiple backs who could run the ball well and special teams gave us an edge, for sure,” Ruflin said. “We had Francis Bernard, but Brandon Farmer was our difference-maker. He really stepped up for us this year.
“Francis was playing both sides, so it was nice that we could rest him sometimes but still have a guy who could go in and get it done.”
Ruflin said Herriman’s best game of the 2012 season was its 31-14 home victory over Highland. That win over a tough 4A opponent came a week after the Mustangs dropped a 23-22 overtime decision to rival Riverton.
“It was important that we stepped up and responded,” he said. “(Riverton) was a tough loss, especially since it was my senior year and the last time we’d play them.”
Ruflin’s family lived in the Sugarhouse area until moving to Riverton in 2001. Ruflin attended Fort Herriman Middle School and then chose to follow his friends to Herriman after that. Like most Mustang players, though, he knew a lot of Riverton’s players. He savored the sweet win over the Silverwolves last year, but this year’s game didn’t go as well.
“That was a tough one. They’re our rival,” he said. “But I’m starting to hate Skyline now, too.”
After football, Ruflin said he planned once again to play rugby and help Herriman defend its state title. He said a lot of his football teammates play rugby and it just added to the team camaraderie.
At press time, he was still considering college choices, but had earned a significant academic scholarship to Southern Utah. Unless something better came up, he planned to spend at least the next four years in Cedar City.