Month: March 2020

BREAKING: Ramsey leaving Merkel for Morton

The Merkel football team will have its third head coach in as many seasons after Brian Ramsey resigned his post on Monday.

Ramsey was then named the athletic director and head coach at Morton, later in the day.

Ramsey tweeted “Wish the Badgers nothing but the best,” on Monday morning. When reached by BigCountryPreps.com on Tuesday evening, he said he had no comment on his departure.

In his lone season at Merkel, the veteran coach went 2-8 after replacing John Cornelius in June. He had previously served as the head coach at Cross Plains (2010-11), Ranger (2013-16) and Electra (2017-18).

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Coaching change shifts Winters’ philosophy

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume.  If you have a suggested story for the “What might have been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

This was not how Derek Dallas and Brady Keane saw their first season with the Winters baseball team going.

Last year, Dallas was an assistant in Snyder before becoming the head baseball coach for the Blizzards this year. Keane, his assistant, was a sportswriter with the Denton Record-Chronicle covering high school athletics.

The duo spent this season working on reinvigorating the Blizzards baseball team and changing the mentality of the program.

To say that they were successful after 10 games, before the UIL shut down games due to the Coronavirus, would be a gross understatement.

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Evan Ren’s 2020 Gym Rat Team: The hardest workers in the Big Country

Scoring and rebounding is only part of the story when it comes to basketball. Behind the scenes and beyond the view of the public, is where character is often measured. And it is with our Big Country Preps Gym Rat Team that we salute the individuals who exude the most of it. 

This team isn’t about who the best players are, though some of the area’s top players are on this list. 

The Gym Rat team is about effort, discipline, toughness, coachability and selflessness — traits that coaches love above all else and that championship foundations are built upon.

It is for that reason that our Gym Rat team is selected entirely by area coaches, described in their own words. And Big Country Preps is absolutely honored to present these individuals to you — the best “team players” (boys and girls) that the area had to offer during the 2019-20 season.

Players are listed in no particular order. 

Enjoy.

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All-Big Country Preps Boys Basketball Superlatives: Brewer, Medina, Lenard head of 2020 class

Here are our superlative award winners for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps boys basketball team. For the rest of this year’s selections, click the links below.

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2020 All-Big Country Preps Boys Basketball Team: First-Team Roster

Here are our first-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps boys basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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2020 All-Big Country Preps Boys Basketball Team: Second-Team Roster

Here are our second-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps boys basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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2020 All-Big Country Preps Boys Basketball Team: Third-Team Roster (w/ honorable mention)

Here are our third-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps boys basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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All Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Superlatives: Galvin sisters, Gonzales take top spots

Here are our superlative award winners for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps girls basketball team. For the rest of this year’s selections, click the links below.

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2020 All-Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Team: First-Team Roster

Here are our third-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps girls basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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2020 All Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Team: Second team starters and reserves

Here are our third-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps girls basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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2020 All-Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Team: Third-Team Roster (w/ honorable mention)

Here are our third-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps girls basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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FEATURE: Rotan softball still hoping for a chance to make it to state

Photos courtesy of Greg Decker

The Rotan softball team began the 2020 season looking to complete some unfinished business from last year. Now, the Lady Hammers are just hoping to have a 2020 season.

Rotan was one win away from advancing to the UIL Class 1A state tournament last season, but two one-run losses to Borden County left the Lady Hammers wanting a chance to finish the job this year. They even beat Borden County 7-2 during a tournament earlier this season.

But the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, stopped high school sports in Texas — along with a lot of other normal activities — after the first day of Rotan’s softball tournament March 12-14. Now the UIL has said the earliest high school sports could return is May 4, and some are wondering if it’s even possible to resume spring sports at all after losing seven weeks.

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TGCA, TABC All-State teams released with multiple Big Country players honored

A strong contingent of 16 area players were named to their respective all-state teams by the Texas Girls Coaches Association as well on Monday, spearheaded by Abilene High’s Trakenya Roberson in Class 6A. A further 12 (six boys and six girls) were given all-state honors by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. 

The TGCA named Brownwood’s Matyha Thompson to the Class 4A team. Jim Ned’s Brooke Galvin and Alexis Espinosa, Brock’s Olivia Lewis and Torrye Tyler, and Cisco’s Landri Edgar earned roster spots in Class 3A. 

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS Q&A: FCA Area Director Andy Penney provides updates on All-Star Festival

The Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes is like everyone else in the sports world these days.

With the Big Country All-Star Festival scheduled for early June, the FCA is not sure if, or when, it will be able to host the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has the entire country at a standstill.

The FCA is stuck in a holding pattern due to the uncertainty of what the University Interscholastic League is going to do. Currently the UIL has stopped all activity for athletics and fine arts through the first weekend of May.

Sunday afternoon, Andy Penney of the Big Country FCA chapter took some time to discuss the evolving situation with BigCountryPreps.com and talked about how the local group is proceeding during this unprecedented time.

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EVAN REN: Big Country baseball, softball hit hard during corona outbreak

Come springtime, I’ve always been a big baseball and softball guy, which makes my current life in exile all the more difficult. 

With the entire country on a virtual lockdown and me stuck in my office until further notice, I can’t help but be torn between doing what’s right and thinking about what has been lost. 

Globally, very few will escape the coronavirus outbreak without being affected in some way, shape or form. But on a personal level, it means contemplating the loss of one great season after another. Barring a sudden turnaround, hundreds of irreplaceable memories that could have been, will simply never materialize.

So, am I of the opinion that the rest of the athletic competition for this school year will be lost?

SIGH … I hope I’m wrong. But yes, I believe it’s over.

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FEATURE: Senior-led AHS, Wylie softball teams still hoping to finish what they’ve started

In a way, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis has put everyone on equal footing. Life has effectively been put on hold for adults and students alike, and the only certainty for either group is uncertainty.

This reality has hit close to home for veteran coaches Heather Collier and Jim Reese, whose Wylie Lady Bulldogs and Abilene High Lady Eagles have, in less than two weeks, gone from district title hopefuls to just hoping for a chance to take the field again in 2010.

Like all softball teams in the state of Texas, Wylie and Abilene High are in a holding pattern, adhering to the University Interscholastic League’s suspension of all sanctioned sports, which was extended from March 29 to May 4 on Thursday. But with senior-led teams that were off to outstanding starts, the waiting game’s a little extra painful for Collier and Reese.

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EVAN REN: Sometimes a tough experience can have some value

I’ve never been very good at appreciating the little things. You know, like being able to feed myself, shower, go to the bathroom or get out of bed without assistance.

They didn’t even register on my radar.

They were like “automatics” — things that were so routine and so mundane that they didn’t warrant any thought. 

That is, until I needed help doing them. 

In case you haven’t heard, I’m coming off a tough experience — one that saw me hospitalized for eight days with pneumonia (not coronavirus). 

A sniffle brought home from Lubbock on March 7 had become a full-blown cold by March 8. A day later, I awoke, convinced I was drowning. By that afternoon, I was checked in to Hendricks Medical Center in Abilene, where I would remain, largely bedridden, for more than a week. 

Continue reading “EVAN REN: Sometimes a tough experience can have some value”

BCP Podcast No. 86: Brandon McAuliffe joins Daniel to discuss coronavirus impact on state hoops, spring sports

With Evan Ren at home recovering from a bout with pneumonia and a week-long hospital stay, Big Country Preps contributor Brandon McAuliffe joins Daniel Youngblood for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

In this episode, Daniel and Brandon discuss the massive impact the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has had on the Big Country sports scene and country at large. 

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Uncertainty hits home amid coronavirus response

A week ago Monday, my partner Evan Ren and I were sitting down to do interviews with Jayton’s Ryan Bleiker and San Saba’s Mark Kyle for our weekly podcast.

Evan was planning his trip to San Antonio to cover those men’s teams at the University Interscholastic League’s boys basketball state championships, and I was prepping for a baseball tournament that was scheduled to be held here in Abilene over the weekend.

As it turned out, neither of us would reach our destination.

Instead, Evan was hospitalized Tuesday for a case of pneumonia that would put him on the shelf for a week, and most of what I was planning to cover in his stead was canceled or postponed amid growing concern over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

What a difference a week makes.

Continue reading “DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Uncertainty hits home amid coronavirus response”

FEATURE: San Saba boys basketball in state limbo amid COVID-19 crisis

Making its first state tournament appearance since 1928, the San Saba boys basketball team was hoping to make a little history this weekend in San Antonio.

This wasn’t the kind of history the Armadillos had in mind.

Coach Mark Kyle’s squad was one of 16 teams across four of Texas’ six public school classifications to have its state semifinal game suspended by the University Scholastic League on Thursday as a result of growing concern over the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

So instead of hitting the Alamodome court on Friday against top-ranked and undefeated Martin’s Mill, the Dillos were hitting the road back home, uncertain if they’d ever get to punctuate one of the greatest seasons in program history.

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STATE RECAP: Jayton boys fall to Slidell in 1A semis; competition suspended over coronavirus concerns

SAN ANTONIO — Jayton’s season didn’t end the way the No. 8 Jaybirds wanted it to Thursday morning, but at least the JHS boys basketball team got to take the court at the Alamodome.

Coach Ryan Bleiker’s squad fell 45-28 to No. 5 Slidell in the second of two Class 1A state semifinal games — one of just four contests completed before the University Interscholastic League suspended action on the 2020 boys basketball state tournament as a response to concern over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

That means that San Saba’s Class 2A semifinal against top-ranked Martin’s Mill, originally slated for 8:30 a.m. Friday, will not be played as scheduled, if completed at all.

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FEATURE: Multi-sport experience, success at heart Jayton’s confidence, poise

Between the No. 1 ranking they held for most of the 2019 football season and the target that comes with being a defending state runner-up in basketball, the Jayton Jaybirds have played more pressure-packed games this school year than some programs do in a decade. 

But when you’ve been as successful as the JHS athletic program has been in recent years, you grow accustomed to the big stage.

So if coach Ryan Bleiker’s Jaybirds don’t seem as nervous as they should heading into their second consecutive appearance at the Class 1A boys basketball state tournament in San Antonio, you’ll have to excuse them. This group of Jayton athletes has been groomed for moments such as these.

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BCP Podcast No. 85: Jayton’s Bleiker, San Saba’s Kyle talk state hoops with Evan, Daniel

Jayton boys basketball coach Ryan Bleiker has led the Jaybirds to their second state tournament appearance in as many years. San Saba’s Mark Kyle has led the Armadillos to their first state trip since 1928.

Earlier this week, both men took a few minutes to chat with Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood about the challenge their teams face for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel recap last week’s boys basketball regionals.

BOYS BASKETBALL STATE PREVIEW: San Saba looks to continue dream season against unbeaten Martin’s Mill

It’s been 92 years since San Saba last played in a boys basketball state tournament, and few expected coach Mark Kyle’s Armadillos to do so this year.

But after completing a remarkable and unexpected run through Region IV-2A, the Dillos are hoping to add a few more memories to what’s already been an unforgettable campaign.

Standing between them and a potential state championship is a semifinal matchup with undefeated Martin’s Mill (39-0) at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. And though they enter that game as heavy underdogs, the San Saba boys are excited for yet another opportunity to prove people wrong.

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BOYS BASKETBALL STATE PREVIEW: No. 8 Jayton prepped for state rematch with defending champ Slidell

After making their first state tournament appearance last March and coming within a single win of their first state title, the Jayton Jaybirds will have a chance to finish the job this year.

But fresh off a grueling run through the Region II-1A bracket, JHS will face another stiff test in their 2020 state opener. Standing between the No. 8 Jaybirds and the Class 1A crown is a semifinal matchup with the defending state champion and fifth-ranked Slidell Greyhounds — a team with which coach Ryan Bleiker and his players are quite familiar.

It was Slidell that ended Jayton’s championship hopes last year, defeating the Jaybirds 49-36 in the 2019 title game. Bleiker and Co. are intent on reversing that outcome when the teams meet at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, but the coach knows that won’t be easy.

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LOCAL BASEBALL ROUNDUP: Wylie, Cooper fall to open league play

ALEDO — The Wylie baseball team opened District 4-5A play with a tough 3-2 road loss to Aledo, seeing 2-0 lead evaporate over the final four innings.

The Bulldogs scored single runs in the first and third innings to go up early, but the Bearcats trimmed the lead to one run in the fourth before completing the rally with a two-run sixth.

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LOCAL SOFTBALL ROUNDUP: Cooper routs Wichita Falls to open district, AHS wins again

WICHITA FALLS — The Cooper softball team opened District 4-5A play in dominant fashion Tuesday, routing Wichita Falls High 12-2 in five innings to improve to 8-4 on the season.

With the game tied at 2 after one inning, the Lady Cougars exploded for four runs in the second inning and five in the third before putting the run-rule into effect with one in the top of the fifth.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Multi-talented AHS star Roberson takes top spot

Abilene High junior Trakenya (KK) Roberson is probably best known for her work on the basketball court, where she’s been weaving through defenses for one layup after another since she was a freshman. 

But this speedy standout’s skills aren’t confined to the hardwood. She’s also an excellent softball player where she serves as a starting outfielder and leadoff hitter for the 15-4 Lady Eagles.

Last week, she put her many talents on display in leading AHS to four wins in six games, earning Big Country Preps Player of the Week honors in the process. 

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FEATURE: De Leon’s Powledge makes first start, prepping for full mound return

Photos by Madisyn Stone

Even before De Leon pitcher Lane Powledge began putting up gaudy statistics last season, teammate Kevin Yeager knew what was possible.

Yeager — a De Leon senior last year and the school’s best all-around athlete be it in football, basketball, golf or baseball — was set to be the Bearcats’ No. 1 pitcher in 2019. But once he saw how well Powledge, then an unknown sophomore, was throwing, Yeager made a profound statement.

“You’ve got to realize that Kevin (now a college quarterback) was a special athlete. He was in his senior year and ready to be our No. 1 pitcher,” said De Leon head baseball coach Ricky Barrett, the Bearcats’ assistant coach last year.

“Kevin told us we had something special in Lane. He said, ‘Man, Lane is throwing really well. Put me at shortstop and make Lane the No. 1 pitcher, and we can compete with anybody.’”

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FEATURE: Turner, Lee headline dangerous Clyde softball team

Kaitlyn Turner and Peyton Lee have been impact players on Clyde’s softball team ever since they were freshmen.

Coach Reagan Sewell knows having two college-caliber pitchers at the 3A level is a luxury. The growth they’ve achieved since joining the Lady Bulldogs in 2017 hasn’t been a fluke, either.

“Watching them become the leaders they are right now has been tremendous,” Sewell said. “And you give that up to experience, just having the experiences they have had. They’ve just grown all the way around, it just seems like every year they get better.”

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GAME STORY: Jaybirds punch second straight ticket to San Antonio with win over Paducah (two videos included)

Poise. Discipline. Defense. 

Coach Ryan Bleiker’s Jayton Jaybirds used that simple, three-part recipe to reach their second straight Class 1A state basketball tournament in San Antonio, with a 49-36 win over Paducah on Saturday at McMurry University. 

Tye Scogin scored 23 points and Tripp Scott and Pecos Smith added 10 each to pace Jayton (31-3), which now advances to the state equivalent to the Final Four. Scogin scored 21 of his 23 points at the free-throw line, burying all but one of his shots from the stripe. 

Paducah closed its season at 28-5, led by Mark Flemons with 16 points and Deftlon Flemons with seven. 

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GAME RECAP: San Saba tops Normangee, earns first trip to state tournament

SAN MARCOS — The San Saba Armadillos are headed to the state tournament in boys basketball for the first time in school history.

Less than 24 hours after getting a late steal and bucket to pull off a 55-54 win over Weimar in the Region IV-2A semifinals, the Armadillos downed Normangee 49-35 to claim their first region title and earn a trip to San Antonio next week for the Class 2A state tournament.

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2019-20 Jayton boys

GAME STORY: Scogin’s surge lifts Jayton over Irion County, into II-1A final

In 2019, a driving layup at the buzzer by Tye Scogin sent the Jayton boys basketball team to the Class 1A state championship at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Friday night, with the Jaybirds locked in a nail-biter with Irion County at McMurry’s Kimbrell Arena, the senior took over the final 10 minutes and led eighth-ranked Jayton to a 43-31 win in a Region II-1A semifinal.

The Jaybirds will face seventh-ranked Paducah on Saturday afternoon with another state tournament berth on the line.

Continue reading “GAME STORY: Scogin’s surge lifts Jayton over Irion County, into II-1A final”

GAME RECAP: Martinez’s late heroics fuel San Saba past Weimar, into IV-2A final

SAN MARCOS — Trailing 54-53 with four seconds remaining Friday, it appeared the San Saba boys basketball team would see its season end with a heartbreaking loss to Weimar in the Region IV-2A semfinals.

Abel Martinez had different ideas.

The senior forward stole the ball and hit a layup with 1.2 seconds remaining to lift San Saba to a thrilling 55-54 win over the Wildcats and earn the Armadillos a spot in Saturday’s IV-2A championship game against Normangee (29-5).

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GAME STORY: No. 5 Slidell too much for Eula boys in Region III-1A semifinals

MANSFIELD — Eula boys basketball coach Josh Fostel knew a fast start would be key if his team was going to have any hope of knocking off the defending state champion Slidell Greyhounds in Friday’s Region III-1A semifinal at Mansfield Legacy High School.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, what they got was the opposite.

Falling behind 16-1 after a quarter, ninth-ranked Eula was never able to recover in a 58-33 loss to No. 5 Slidell, falling to the Greyhounds in the same round for the second consecutive season. 

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GAME STORY: Brock’s season ends with loss to Shallowater in Lubbock

LUBBOCK — An uncharacteristic problem — turnovers — proved lethal for the Brock Eagles in their Region I-3A semifinal with Shallowater on Friday. 

Crippled by 21 giveaways, Brock fell 53-45 before a packed house at Lubbock Christian’s Rip Griffin Center. 

Led by 6-foot-8 post Jalen Brattain’s 21 points and nine points from Hunter Gossett, Shallowater (24-4) advances to face Peaster (33-5) in Saturday’s regional final at 1 p.m. 

Brayton Chitty scored 17 points and Nathan Jones added 10 more to lead Brock, which closed its season at 29-10.   

“They made us work the ball all game long,” Brock coach Zach Boxell said. “They did a good job of (blocking) the passing lanes and with their intensity and length, they caused problems for us during parts of the game for sure.” 

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BREAKING: Pearce named head football coach at Breckenridge

Casey Pearce, a 1993 Breckenridge alum, was named as the head football coach and athletic director at BHS during a school board meeting on Friday. 

Pearce, the long-time defensive coordinator at Longview, will replace former coach Casey Hubble, who resigned in February to take the coaching position at Canton. 

Pearce, who played football at Breckenridge under his father, Bill Pearce, has been a notable part of the success at Longview. 

During his tenure as defensive coordinator at LHS, the Loboes reached three state championsip games, including a Class 6A DII state title in 2018. 

BCP Podcast No. 84: Evan and Dan talk playoff basketball and go over the top softball teams in the area

In this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood reflect on last week’s girls basketball regional action and take a look at the boys regional tournaments that are set to get underway on Friday. 

They also take a quick look at some of the top softball teams in the area and how they have performed thus far.  

BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYOFF ROUNDUP: Eula, San Saba boys advance to region tournament

David Phillips scored 17 points and Dakota Boles added 12 more to lead Eula to a 46-41 win over Richland Springs in a Region III-1A quarterfinal on Tuesday in Coleman.  

Trailing 32-28 heading into the fourth quarter, the Pirates rallied with an 18-9 run through the final eight minutes to advance to the regional tournament. 

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GAME STORY: No. 7 Paducah ends Hermleigh boys historic run

No. 7 Paducah proved too much for the Hermleigh boys Tuesday night, routing the Cardinals 66-29 in a Region II-1A quarterfinal at McMurry’s Kimbrel Arena. But the loss didn’t diminish the positive steps coach Kia McCarty’s squad made this season.

Finishing at 17-14 with their first two playoff wins since 1907, the Cardinals experienced historic success in McCarty’s first season as a head coach.

And following the game, after giving the Dragons the credit they earned with Tuesday’s victory, it was that fact the coach wanted to focus on.

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GAME STORY: Jaybirds jump on nervous Westbrook, then hang on for regional berth

After making its deepest playoff run in decades, the Westbrook Wildcats were playing with house money entering Tuesday’s Region II-1A quarterfinal with perennial power Jayton. 

But that didn’t prevent a slight case of nerves in the opening minutes — a jittery start that eventually cost them in a 48-39 loss at Wylie High School.

Tye Scogin scored 13 points and Tripp Scott added 10 more to lead Jayton (27-3), which now advances to the regional semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons. 

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