Aaron Torczynski remembers when things were different.
For years, Salado struggled on the football field, winning just four times during the previous four seasons, including a one-victory showing in 2015.
This year, however, the atmosphere changed.
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Alan Haire, the Eagles produced a 6-4 record during the regular season before winning their first playoff game since 2007 last week, and now, everything is different, according to the Eagles’ running back.
“In past years,” Torczynski said, “it has been kind of rough. Nobody was showing up to the football games, because we weren’t very good.
“But now it feels like we’ve won the community back, and it definitely helps to know they have our backs, and they aren’t going to just bail on us if something goes wrong. That feels really good.”
Salado recently showed its support by helping Torczynski be named the Freddy’s-KDHpressbox.com Player of the Week after the junior ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 35-34 Class 4A bi-district overtime win against La Grange.
The performance earned Torczynski an overwhelming victory in the poll, garnering 60.7 percent of the 1,086 votes cast, and based on recent encounters, he is not surprised to see the turnout.
“It’s not just the parents who are rallying around the team,” Torczynski said. “There are lots of little kids that come up to me, and I don’t even know who they are, but they know who I am.
“They’ll give me a high-five or ask me about the game, and I know they look up to all the players. That’s really cool.”
Torczynski beat out some strong competition to earn the award, including a pair of standout Killeen High girls basketball players.
Lady Kangaroos senior guard Shianne Johnson finished second, receiving 25.8 percent of the vote after helping lead Killeen to a third-place showing at the Austin Bowie tournament, averaging 14.8 points and being placed on the all-tournament team in the process.
Complementing the outing was teammate Jacen Moore. The senior recorded a pair of double-doubles and averaged nine rebounds per game en route to joining Johnson on the all-tournament team.
Belton distance runner Brooke Gilmore and Ellison senior swingman Madison Hattix-Covington rounded out the nominees.
Gilmore capped off her cross country career by placing 10th at the Class 6A state meet, while Hattix-Covington averaged 18 points and five rebounds during the Lady Eagles’ run to second place at Copperas Cove’s tournament.
Although Torczynski is honored to receive the award, being part of the team responsible for changing Salado’s perception of the Eagles is truly meaningful.
“It has been really special,” he said. “We’ve completely turned around the program.
“We went from basically being a bye week on the schedule to making teams respect us as an opponent.”