Month: August 2018

Brandon McAuliffe: Football is family

This is one of the greatest nights of the year for players, coaches, parents, cheerleaders and media members alike.

It’s the start of the Texas high school football season.

For me, it’s a double-edged sword because it’s Aug. 31.

On one end, it’s easily one of my favorite nights of the year because everybody in the state has the same chance of reaching Arlington. I love getting to see coaches from across the area on a regular basis and, during the nondistrict slate, seeing coaches such as Georgetown’s Jason Dean and Lubbock Monterey’s Wayne Hutchinson, who were assistant coaches at Abilene High when I was there as a student from 1997-2001.

On the other hand, for just the second time since 2007, the season is starting on the last day of the month and it won’t happen that way again until 2029.

In the weeks leading up to the 2007 season, my grandmother (who I called Mei Mei) was in hospice care at Hendrick Medical Center here in Abilene.

Mei Mei suffered from dementia, which is a cruel disease. She had moved in with my parents and sister and one of the highlights of her week was when I would pick her up on my way to work for her to go to the hairdresser.

She looked forward to going to see Jimmie Kay Kennedy, a longtime family friend who did my mom’s hair for as long as I can remember.

Mei Mei 1As the season drew near, my grandmother’s health started to deteriorate quickly as she was in hospice.

The week that the season kicked off, both of my parents and I each spent a night at the hospital independently (and unknowingly) from each other to tell her that she didn’t have to hang on any more and that she didn’t have to fight it anymore.

I spent most of Aug. 31, 2007, at the hospital with her because there was nowhere else I wanted to be.

At the time, I was the webmaster for the Abilene Reporter-News, which on Friday nights did a live webcast hosted by local TV personality George Levesque. The webcast was 30 minutes and I produced it as we recapped all the area games from that night.

About 4:45 that afternoon, my parents told me that it was fine to go home, change and head to work, so I did.

Before I was able to drive 20 blocks across town to get home to change, Dad was calling and told me to head back to the hospital and to get there as quickly as I possibly could.

Mei Mei listened to us.

Less than an hour after we all thought she was going to hang around and fight for another day, she was gone. It was two hours before the season kicked off.

Longtime Abilene High team physician Shannon Cooke was her orthopedic doctor, and just minutes after she had passed, Dr. Cooke was the first person to come see us.

Like me, Dr. Cooke loves football season and when we asked why he was at the hospital with us instead of at Shotwell Stadium with the AHS football team, he had a response that 11 years later still sticks with me.

“This is where I need to be.”

That’s a quote that to this day I think about on the opening night of the season.

The start of the season is always tough on me because of the reminder of losing my grandmother.

The 2012 season started on Aug. 31 and was hard. I know tonight is going to be hard, too, but I’m going to have a chicken tender basket from Dairy Queen for dinner (it was Mei Mei’s favorite place to eat out with me as I grew up) and then I’m headed to the press box at Shotwell Stadium for the Keller-Cooper game.

Why? Because in the words of Dr. Cooke, “This is where I need to be.”

Coahoma, Schneider drop Forsan in Howard County Bowl

BIG SPRING — Coahoma junior Zack Schneider may have been making his quarterback debut in Thursday’s game with archrival Forsan, but he may have fooled the uninitiated.

Leading the Bulldogs (1-0) from two deficits, Schneider hurt Forsan with 183 yards and three scores on 20 carries to left CHS to a 24-14 win in the Howard County Bowl and Memorial Stadium.

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BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Kickers/Punters

After recognizing the top offensive and defensive players throughout the Big Country, it’s time to honor the specialists.

We conclude our eight-part preseason position rankings series by naming our top three punters and kickers to watch this fall.

We hope you enjoy this list and that you have enjoyed our position rankings as we get set to kickoff the 2018 season.

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Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel

Each week here at Big Country Preps, we’ll post our picks for all of that week’s 11-man games, in addition to the results of Evan Ren’s Twitter polls for each matchup.

For those interested in voting, those polls go up on Monday night each week and close Thursday evening.

Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.

WEEK 1

Evan’s picks Daniel’s picks Twitter consensus
Last week’s record n/a n/a n/a
Overall record 0-0 (.000) 0-0 (.000) 0-0 (.000)
Forsan vs. Coahoma Coahoma Coahoma Coahoma (49%)
Abilene High at Amarillo Tascosa Abilene High Abilene High Abilene High (77%)
Keller at Cooper Cooper Cooper Cooper (75%)
Georgetown at Wylie Georgetown Georgetown Wylie (67%)
Stephenville at Argyle Argyle Argyle Stephenville (55%)
Midland Greenwood at Big Spring Greenwood Greenwood Big Spring (57%)
Brock at Brownwood Brock Brownwood Brock (70%)
Snyder at Littlefield Snyder Snyder Snyder (69%)
Sweetwater at Cisco Cisco Cisco Cisco (51%)
Ballinger at Brady Ballinger Ballinger Ballinger (51%)
Breckenridge at Jacksboro Breckenridge Breckenridge Breckenridge (79%)
Coleman at Jim Ned Jim Ned Jim Ned Jim Ned (77%)
Comanche at Eastland Eastland Eastland Eastland (55%)
Early at Bangs Early Early Early (60%)
Anson at Hamlin Hamlin Hamlin Anson (50%)
Clyde at De Leon De Leon De Leon De Leon (60%)
Colorado City at Albany Albany Albany Albany (59%)
Dublin at Hico Hico Hico Dublin (64%)
Mason at Wall Wall Wall Wall (69%)
Merkel at Stamford Merkel Stamford Stamford (52%)
San Angelo Grape Creek at Baird Grape Creek Baird Baird (52%)
Goldthwaite at Winters Goldthwaite Winters Goldthwaite (71%)
Haskell at Quanah Haskell Haskell Haskell (72%)
Menard at Cross Plains Menard Menard Cross Plains (52%)
Munday at Seymour Seymour Seymour Munday (57%)
Roscoe at Hawley Hawley Roscoe Hawley (61%)

 

Evan Ren’s top area games to travel to in 2018

Got the truck started yet?

Ready to jump on one of those farm-to-market roads to watch high school football into the late hours on a Friday night?

You’re not alone.

And, as tradition would have it, I tip my cap to those of you who will be hitting the trails each week in search of pigskin. My salute: a preseason menu of sorts.

Each week for the next 11 weeks, Big Country Preps will be searching for its Game of the Week, and we’re already looking ahead. We now present our preliminary list of Big Country Games worth traveling for, but keep in mind: the following list is subject to change as surprises and disappointments emerge.

And as we all know … surprises and disappointments always emerge.

So, without further delay, here is our list of Big Country games worth traveling for in 2018.

I’ll see you on the road.

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Evan Ren: Big Country Picks Week 1

LAST WEEK: 0-0, .000        

SEASON TOTAL: 0-0, .000

In picking our first-ever Big Country Preps Game of the Week, I literally could have thrown a dart at the top seven or eight games and came away with a matchup that was justifiable.

Yes, Week 1 of the 2018 season is that good.

My eventual choice: Brock at Brownwood — a matchup pairing last year’s Class 3A Division I state runner-up with a Class 4A Division I team expecting to be in the thick of one of the toughest district races in Texas.

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BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Quarterbacks

A week into our eight-part preseason position rankings series, we’ve finally gotten to the gunslingers.

To complete our look at the best offensive players in the Big Country, we’ve ranked our top-10 quarterbacks with a list of others to watch in 2018.

Enjoy the list and let us know what you think about it in the comments section below.

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BCP Podcast No. 11: Evan, Daniel catch up with Dublin coach Bob Cervetto

When Bob Cervetto took over the Dublin football program, the Lions hadn’t won a playoff game in almost five decades. In the  seven seasons since, Dublin has twice reached the area-round in football and experienced a higher degree of athletic success during the winter and fall seasons.

This week, the always-upbeat Cervetto took some time to chat with Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood about his positive outlook on coaching and life, the state of the Dublin athletic program and what keeps him coming back each year on this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel discuss the Big Country’s most intriguing storylines heading into the 2018 high school football season.

BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Running Backs

As we wind down our eight-part preseason position rankings series, we’ve finally arrived at the Big Country’s top ball-carriers.

After breaking down this year’s crop of receivers and tight ends yesterday, we move now to the area’s top running backs, ranking our top 10 with a list of others to watch in 2018.

Read and enjoy, and let us know who you’re most excited to see run this fall in the comments section below.

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BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

We’re now past the halfway point in our eight-part preseason position rankings series, and it’s time to look at the Big Country’s top pass-catchers.

After starting the offensive portion of our series Sunday with the big boys up front, we now shift our attention to the playmakers on the edges, ranking our top 10 wide receivers/tight ends with a list of others to watch in 2018.

Enjoy the list and feel free to share your thoughts on our selections in the comments section below.

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BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Offensive Linemen

With the defensive rankings behind us, it’s time to look at the area’s offensive standouts. And we’ll start where any productive offense begins: up front.

For the fourth installment of our eight-part preseason position rankings series, we turn our attention to the big boys, ranking the Big Country’s top-10 offensive linemen with a list of others to watch in 2018.

Take a look and let us know what you think of our selections in the comments section below.

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BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Defensive Backs

After starting with the linemen and linebackers, we turn to the secondary to complete our look at the top defenders in the Big Country.

For the third installment in our eight-part preseason position rankings series, we key on the defensive backs, giving our list of the area’s top-10 players and others to look out for in 2018.

Enjoy the list and feel free to voice your opinions on it in the comments section below.

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Big Country Preps 2018 Football Forecast

With less than a week to go now until the high school football season kicks off in earnest, it’s prediction time here at Big Country Preps.

Site co-founders Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood have put their opinions on paper to tell you how they see the 2018 football season playing out, predicting the order of finish for all 16 11-man districts featuring Big Country squads.

Take a look and let us know where you disagree in the comments section below.

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Wylie gets taste of live action against OHS (w/ photo gallery)

The Wylie football team got its first taste of live action Friday night when it scrimmaged Odessa High at Bulldog Stadium.

The scrimmage started with a controlled session, which was largely controlled by the Bronchos. The Wylie defense forced turnovers on OHS’ first two possessions — a fumble and an interception — but coach Danny Servance’s team found its stride after that.

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BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Linebackers

After taking a look at the area’s top defensive linemen on Thursday, it’s now time to examine those who will backing them in 2018.

Continuing with Big Country Preps’ eight-part preseason position rankings series, here’s our top-10 linebackers to watch this fall as well as a list of the others we’re expecting big things from.

Disagree with our selections or feel we left someone out? Let us know in the comments section below.

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AHS shows promise in scrimmage (w/ photo gallery)

The Abilene High football team scrimmaged Copperas Cove on Friday afternoon at Shotwell Stadium, outscoring the Bulldogs three touchdowns to two across several formats of play.

The scrimmage began with a controlled portion. The teams ran every play from the 30-yard line to start, before switching to drives from the 30 after that.

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BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Defensive Linemen

With football season fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at the players who will be making waves in 2018.

For the first installment in an eight-part series that will cover all position groups, we’ll be taking a look at the area’s top defensive linemen, ranking our top 10 with a list of others to watch this fall.

As with any such list, these rankings are subjective. If you disagree with our selections or feel someone’s been left out, let your opinion be heard in the comments below.

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BCP Podcast No. 10: Al Pickett joins guys to talk “Brother’s Keeper” movie, more

Al Pickett
Al Pickett

In his more than 30 years as a part of Abilene’s sports scene, Al Pickett has done a little bit of everything. In addition to serving as the sports editor of the Abilene Reporter-News for 15 years, Pickett has been the play-by-play voice for numerous local high school and college teams, hosted his own radio show, “Let’s Talk Sports,” and authored five books about sports in Abilene and Texas.

Pickett, who is both the founder and a member of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame, took some time this week to talk about his career in sports journalism, seeing his book “Brother’s Keeper” being made into a feature film and what his future holds on this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

Also in this episode, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood discuss the situations each of the area’s seven 11-man coaches taking over new programs face in 2018.

Adversity, brother have shaped WR Cooley

If all you know about Big Spring senior Jeremiah Cooley is that he’s a gifted athlete, you’re missing the best parts of his story.

If all you know about his brother, Michael Felton, is that he’s a junior high coach for the Steers, you’ll soon learn why.

Cooley, a Hurricane Katrina survivor, has been through a lot to get where he is today. And perhaps no one is more responsible for shaping him into the young man he’s become than Felton, who — at 25 years old; he’ll turn 26 next month — is legal guardian to Cooley and his other five siblings.

That arrangement, born about a year ago of circumstances beyond either’s control, has at times been a turbulent one. But the two have found a groove off the field that could help Cooley achieve his lofty goals on it.

Continue reading “Adversity, brother have shaped WR Cooley”

Every day is a good day for Dublin’s Bob Cervetto

Every day he wakes up with something green and gold to look at is considered a great day for eighth-year Dublin football coach/athletic director Bob Cervetto.

That’s not overstated.

In a nutshell, most of Cervetto’s energy since 2011 has been spent pumping enthusiasm into a high school athletic program that was once considered to be one of the weakest in the Big Country. And we’re not just talking about football here.

The 60-year-old Cervetto, unlike many old-schoolers from his generation, is a total-program advocate. And every new day literally begins with the same mission: elevating everyone in his sphere of influence to reach for a higher level.

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