Prior to the release of our All-Big Country Preps softball and baseball teams on Friday and Saturday, Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood will review the 2018-19 school year throughout this week and the top athletic stories produced by the area in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball.
Before we dive into last football season, let me begin with a quick thank you. With a full year now in the books, BigCountryPreps.com enjoyed a successful first campaign, and that is entirely due to you — the Big Country sports fan.
We are already chomping at the bit to begin our second year in business and we’ll be preparing our 2019 Football Preview throughout much of the summer, with a release date set for mid-August.
Which brings us to the subject at hand.
Midway through the 2018 football campaign, Daniel Youngblood and myself were already concurring that it was one of the strangest seasons we had ever experienced. And by December, I felt compelled to write about that very fact.
Here’s a quick sample: At various points, 2018 produced a 7-0 Dublin team, a 13-0 San Saba team and 1-9 clubs from Sweetwater and Goldthwaite. How’s that for a reversal of recent history?
We’re just getting started.
At one stage, Albany was 0-5 for the first time since 1956 and perennial powers Wylie and Munday were winless from start to finish — a simultaneous occurrence that is about as likely as a meteor crashing on the 50-yard-line at Shotwell Stadium.
All of this was preceded by the sudden, unexpected resignations of Cooper coach Todd Moebes and Brownwood coach Kyle Maxfield.
Nonetheless, some things did go as expected.
Albany recovered to make a deep playoff run and nearly reached the Class 2A Division II state title game. Brock and Wall met in the Region I-3A Division I semifinals with BHS advancing all the way to the state semis. And of course, Strawn won the 1A DII state championship.
Other than that? It was five months of insanity, which, at the end of the day, equated to some extraordinary fun.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
TEAMS OF THE YEAR
You have to go with three here, beginning with the Big Country’s only state title winner, Strawn. Albany reeling off nine straight wins after its 0-5 start would qualify AHS for this list, as does Brock making our deepest push in Class 3A.
It wasn’t the best season on record for Big Country football teams as far as the amount of postseason damage they inflicted.
But no season in my recollection produced more intrigue. The “weird factor” alone was off the charts.
GAMES OF THE YEAR
Dublin’s 22-21 win at Breckenridge on Sept. 28 that saw Cy Wing hit Mark Ybarra with a game-winning TD pass with 19 seconds to play ranks as the top thriller.
What some forget about that game, is that Breck’s Justin Bell hauled in a deflected pass only to have his momentum carry him out of bounds inside the Dublin 2 as time expired.
Hamlin’s monumental upset of top-ranked Wellington (21-18) in the regional semis is running a close second, and Brock’s 23-21 win over Shallowater in the Region I championship game deserves mentioning.
I’m willing to wager that no one … and I mean NO ONE outside of the Hamlin city limits believed that the Pied Pipers would knock off second-ranked, previously unbeaten Wellington to advance to the regional title game.
Yet coach Russell Lucas’ HHS club did exactly that on Nov. 30. The Pipers were 18-point underdogs.
But behind three TDs from Jackson Sepeda and a sturdy defensive effort, Hamlin was able to eliminate a team many believed would win the state title.
And guess what? BigCountryPreps.com was the only Abilene-based media source on hand that night in Iowa Park to produce a game story.
Without focusing on some of the disappointments from around the area that I found stunning, very little surprised me more than to see the Dublin Lions at 7-0, which included an equally shocking 46-23 win over De Leon in our Big Country Preps Game of the Week on Sept. 14.
I wasn’t particularly thrilled to see a 10-1 Colorado City team draw eventual state runner-up Canadian in the area round. It was far too early for the Wolves to get stuck with a team like that, and it ended their season.
One can argue that the Cisco beat itself in its bi-district loss to a 6-4 Spearman team, finishing with six fumbles. But let’s not forget that Spearman reached the regional semifinals, where it lost to eventual state runner-up Canadian. Cisco was good enough at 9-0 to get something far easier in the bi-district round. My solution? Invent a practical method of seeding the regions!
TEAMS ON THE RISE
I was excited to see a solid postseason run from Haskell, which quietly became a force in 2A DII after a slow start. The Indians have clearly taken a step forward and their 2019 should prove interesting.
Dublin with Wing at QB could be one of the most exciting teams in the area in 2019 and let’s not forget the solid group of juniors that Breck has retained, including QB Owen Woodward.
We can’t forget about a rapidly growing program at Jim Ned. And lastly, Eastland should be nothing short of lethal with QB Behren Morton at the controls. If the Mavs give him time to throw and catch what he delivers, you’re going to see some major fireworks out of this junior.
Don’t miss our All-Big Country Preps softball and baseball teams, which will be released Friday and Saturday, along with Big Country Preps All-Hustle team, featuring the hardest-working players in the area! Our reviews of girls and boys basketball are coming up on Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Photos may be purchased for $7 each by clicking on the small shopping cart emblem below the lower right corner of the two galleries below.