What Braden Barfield may lack in height, he more than makes up for in heart, determination, skill and grit.
So while the Gonzales senior stands just 5-foot-6 tall, he also stands tied for No. 2 in the state of Texas — regardless of classification — in interceptions after last week’s contests.
Barfield has picked off six passes so far in seven games this season, which has him tied with 10 others and just one interception behind state leader Luke Laminack of Amarillo, who has played in eight games.
A team captain and a leader for the Apaches (2-5 overall, 0-2 in District 13 4A-2), Barfield does not take solo credit for his success on the gridiron.
“It feels good, but it’s all because the coaches and my teammates have put me in the right position out there,” Barfield said. “It does feel good to be up there (among the leaders) but it doesn’t happen without my teammates and coaches.”
Barfield is usually counted on to play lockdown on the opposing team’s best receiver — and sometimes, that individual nearly can be up to a foot taller than him. On Friday, Oct. 15, Barfield was placed on Smithville’s Chuck Hodge IV, who stands six inches taller at an even six feet and has verbally committed to play football at Division I Tulsa next fall.
Hodge came into the game with nine touchdown receptions and averaging more than 100 yards a game receiving, but Barfield kept his man out of the end zone, deflecting three passes on the evening and making four tackles as well.
“My mindset is always don’t get beat deep, that’s really it,” Barfield said. “Getting an interception is nice, but at the end of the day, just don’t let the receiver catch it.
“Last week, when I was guarding No. 4. He is going to Tulsa and it felt like an island out there. It’s nice sometimes, but it’s scary sometimes, too.”
A two-way player, Barfield caught a team-high five passes for 75 yards in Friday’s 35-19 loss to Smithville, including a 24-yard touchdown from quarterback Jarren Johnson. He also added 26 yards in kickoff returns for 101 total all-purpose yards.
For the season, Barfield has a team-high 18 catches for 233 yards and a TD, as well as 35 yards rushing, 167 yards in kickoff returns, 70 yards in punt returns and four interception yards for a total of 509 all-purpose yards — second on the team. He also has three two-point conversions, with two coming by air and one on the ground. On defense, he has made 22 tackles, a forced fumble and 16 pass deflections to go with his six picks.
Barfield said he enjoys both offense and defense for the Apaches and his favorite depends on the situation.
“When you’re scoring, it’s offense, but when you’re getting the interceptions, defense is more fun,” he said.
Barfield said one of his favorite players to watch is Texas A&M senior safety Leon O’Neal Jr., who is known for his physicality as a ball defender. Neal had two interceptions in the Aggies’ season-opening win over Kent State and a season-high nine tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in the upset win against then-No. 1 Alabama.
As for his own future, Barfield said he would be open to finding a spot on a football field after he graduates from Gonzales High School in the spring.
“I don’t have any offers right now, but I would like to keep playing and I’ve been talking about walking on possibly at Texas State and trying to give it another shot,” he said. “I want to go to school for kinesiology. I want to have my own gym one day and be able to train people.
“I’m just happy we are getting to play now. COVID is a big deal still and not everybody is getting to play, so I am thankful we are just able to go out there and do so.”