Here are the Big Country’s receiving leaders through Week 1:
It has been at least years since we’ve seen the type of offensive execution exhibited by the Big Spring Steers in Friday’s 36-14 win over Vernon. And Big Country Preps has never had a Big Spring player as its player of the week.
Junior quarterback Gabriel Baeza helped bring both of those streaks to a close, hitting 20 of 32 passes for 282 yards and four scores. In his spare time he also rushed nine times for 56 yards and two more touchdowns, giving him 338 total yards and a direct hand in six scores.
In doing so, he takes our first Big Country Preps Player of the Week for the 2020-21 school year. It was the first season-opening win for the Steers since a 58-56 win over Kerrville Tivy on Aug. 30, 2014.
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TUSCOLA — The season’s first Big Country Preps Game of the Week lived up to its billing on Friday, with Ballinger needing a late touchdown to knock off Jim Ned 20-14 in a matchup of two teams expecting to do postseason damage.
Reserve quarterback Carter Arrott led a game-winning touchdown drive and capped it with a 19-yard touchdown run with 3:42 to play to lead Ballinger (1-0), which held Jim Ned to just 219 total yards.
Jim Ned (0-1), which got 100 yards rushing and two scores from Xavier Wishert, led from the 6:31 mark of the second quarter until Arrott’s TD.
SWEETWATER — As expected, there were offensive fireworks aplenty Friday at the Mustang Bowl. But the 11th-ranked Stephenville Yellow Jackets were simply too much for Sweetwater in a 58-32 season-opening victory over the Mustangs.
Kason Philips rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Gavin Rountree ran for three TDs and passed for another to lead SHS to an impressive road victory in their debut.
The Jackets ended up with 509 total yards as the first-team offense ended each of Stephenville’s first eight possessions with points.
DUBLIN — Friday night was a big night for both the Dublin and De Leon football teams as high school athletics resumed for the first time since mid-March for both schools following the COVID-19 shutdown by the University Interscholastic League.
“Our world, as we know it, came to a screeching halt,” De Leon coach Andrew Dickson said. “In small towns like ours, there’s not much going on besides high school sports. We need it. Our kids need it, our community needs it and it’s scary.”
In the end, it was Dublin that came out with a 33-7 come-from-behind win to open Bob and Norma Cervetto Field. The field is named after Dublin’s current head coach and his wife, both longtime educators.
Slaton 20, Snyder 14 — In a clash of SHS Tigers, Slaton came up with one more play than Snyder, scoring the winning touchdown with just 14 seconds left to win a hard-fought season opener.
Receiver Matthew Vigil led the victors, catching nine passes for 124 yards, including a 40-yard TD reception to break a 14-11 tie in the waning seconds.
Cisco 39, Clyde 14 — The Loboes helped first-year coach Kevin Stennett chalk up the first win of his career behind 450 yards in total offense.
Hunter Long rushed for 316 yards and three scores and threw for 36 yards and another TD to lead the Loboes (1-0).
Albany 47, Colorado City 0 — Barrett Beal passed for 164 yards and a touchdown, while Jaheim Newton rushed for 157 yards and three scores to fuel the Lions to a blowout win over the Wolves.
After outscoring C-City 12-0 in the first quarter, Albany took complete control in the second, scoring three more touchdowns to take a 34-0 lead into halftime.
Hamlin 34, Stamford 0 — The defending state runner-up Pied Pipers were dominant after a slow start Friday, outscoring the Bulldogs 27-0 in the second half of a shutout win.
A long touchdown pass by Braydin Warner early in the first quarter accounted for all of the first-half scoring, but Hamlin got untracked with a pair of touchdowns in each of the final two quarters.
Big Spring 36, Vernon 14 — Junior quarterback Gabriel Baeza passed for 270 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 47 yards and two more scores to lead the Steers to a comfortable win in their season opener.
Leading 18-14 at halftime, Big Spring outscored the Lions 18-0 over the final two quarters to pull away. The Steers outgained Vernon 406-241 for the game, including a 307-65 advantage through the air, and won the turnover battle 4-1.
Lampasas 55, Brownwood 23 — Blaize Espinoza passed for 184 yards and two touchdowns and Royshad Henderson rushed for 107 yards, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Lions watched the No. 3 Badgers pull away in the second half for a lopsided win.
After going to halftime down 35-20, Brownwood was outscored 20-3 over the final two quarters of the season-opening loss.
Bangs 28, Early 0 — Bangs outgained the Longhorns 323-135 on a night that saw quarterback Ethan Cortez throw for 131 yards and three and rush for 38 more.
Brayton Wedeman was on the receiving end of two of those TD passes, finishing with three catches for 81 yards.
Jacksboro 13, Breckenridge 0 — Breckenridge limited its host to just 222 total yards, but failed to generate enough offense to take advantage of it.
The Bucks were held to just 103 yards in total offense, of which 84 were on the ground.
Brock 55, Bushland 7 — The Eagles showed why they’re the top-ranked team in Class 3A Division I on Friday, dominating No. 15 Bushland from start to finish in their season-opener at Iowa Park.
Brock, which outgained the Falcons 659-223, scored the game’s first six touchdowns, taking a 42-0 lead with 10:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Comanche 14, Mason 0 — A veteran Comanche club pulled off a major upset of fourth-ranked Mason by forcing two turnovers.
Comanche led 6-0 at the break and was able to extend that lead to two scores by the end of the third quarter to chart its first-ever win over Mason.
Hawley 61, Roscoe 7 — Austin Cumpton rushed for 148 yards and five touchdowns and Xavier Rodela threw for 116 and two scores to lead Hawley to a win over Roscoe in its opener.
Aeneas Segura, Chandlin Myers and Will Scott all hauled in touchdown passes from Rodela by night’s end.
The Bearcats raced out to a 42-7 lead by halftime and never looked back.
Merkel 46, Reagan County 14 — Merkel rolled up 270 rushing yards to win the debut of first-year coach Britt Hart.
Isaac Sebastian had a huge night, rushing for 228 yards and four scores on only 12 carries.
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, polls go up on Monday night each week and close Thursday morning.
Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.
LAST WEEK: 0-0, .000
SEASON TOTAL: 0-0, .000
After picking a career-high 83 percent a year ago, I was feeling quite self-assured and self-important at the close of last football season.
Little did I realize that a year later, I’d be happy to just to have games to pick and not care about what the percentage is.
In short, the world has dealt me a serious dose of perspective.
We have football, ladies and gents. Let’s hope a sense of normality returns with it.
At any rate, let’s take quick look at this week’s area contests.
I’ll see you on the road.
After a week of highlighting area playmakers, we wrap up our eight-part preseason position rankings series with the Big Country’s best signal callers.
To complete our look at the area’s top players, we’ve ranked our top 10 quarterbacks with a list of others to watch in 2020.
We hope you enjoy this list and that you’ve enjoyed our position rankings as we get set to kickoff a new season.
As we wind down our eight-part preseason position rankings series, we arrive finally at the Big Country’s top rushers.
After breaking down this year’s crop of receivers and tight ends Monday, we move now to the area’s top backs, ranking our top 10 with a list of others to watch in 2020. Don’t forget to check in Wednesday night when we conclude our series with the top 10 area quarterbacks.
We hope you enjoy tonight’s list and encourage you to check out the other position groups, which are linked below.
We’re approaching the final stretch of 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 guys up front, we now shift our attention to the playmakers on the perimeter, ranking our top 10 wide receivers/tight ends with a list of others to watch in 2019.
We hope you enjoy our list and encourage you to check out the other position groups, which are linked below.
With the defensive and special teams rankings in the rear view, it’s time to look at the area’s offensive standouts. And we’ll start with the foundation of any productive offense: the offensive line.
For the fifth 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 2020.
We hope you enjoy reading through our rankings
After recognizing the top defensive players throughout the Big Country over the past three days, it’s time to honor the specialists.
We continue our eight-part preseason position rankings series by naming our top 10 kickers and top three punters 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 2020 season.
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 2020.
We hope you enjoy our list.
After taking a look at the Big Country’s top defensive linemen on Wednesday, it’s now time to examine those who will backing them in 2020.
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.
We hope you enjoy our list.
With the start of football season less than two weeks away, it’s time to take a look at the players who will be making the biggest impact in 2020.
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. We hope you enjoy reading through them.
Without further ado it is time for us to make our Big Country predictions, district-by-district.
This is the culmination of several weeks of research and two solid months of summertime labor, so we’re more than ready to post it.
Every year, for the past several years, I have looked ahead at the season schedule to create a menu of sorts — a menu for Big Country football connoisseurs to choose some Friday night pigskin in the area.
History has proven that this isn’t an exact science, and the further out we go from Week 1, the more difficult this endeavor becomes. Nonetheless, I cannot resist a peek at my crystal ball — smudged as it may be.
I must emphasize, that the entire list you’re about to read is subject to change. This is not a concrete list of Big Country Preps Games of the Week. It’s closer to an educated guess, contingent upon about 10,000 different variables.
With almost 1,200 career rushing yards on less than 200 carries, Abilene High’s Phonzo Dotson is well past the point of proving that he’s a dynamic running back.
But after having each of his first two varsity seasons derailed by a series of nagging injuries that have limited his playing time and impact, he’s ready to prove as a senior that he can stay on the field enough to maximize his considerable talents.
A victim of bad luck more than anything else, Dotson was limited by a concussion and high ankle sprain to just 69 carries as a sophomore. And last year as a junior, more lower leg issues kept him from having the breakout campaign he was on pace early to have.
Now fully healthy and well rested, thanks in part to a pandemic that shut down all spring sports, Dotson is looking to have a season to remember this fall.
Three seasons have now passed since the last time the Abilene High Eagles last reached the playoffs. And if you ask those on the North Abilene campus, that’s three seasons too many.
Falling one win short of the postseason in each of those three campaigns, the Eagles have had their fill of near misses. And they’re hoping a move back into the Little Southwest Conference with their traditional rivals out west will mark a return to the tradition of success that saw AHS reach the playoffs 17 times in 18 seasons from 1999 to 2016.
With just 24 of 63 lettermen back from last season’s 3-7 squad, including five offensive and three defensive starters, the Eagles will have some holes to fill in Mike Fullen’s second season as the AHS head coach. But the Warbirds are setting their sights high nonetheless, hoping to extend this pandemic-delayed season well into December.
Playing across from the Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, Cooper cornerback Brady Miller was overshadowed at times by his record-setting counterpart Dylon Davis.
But all who dismissed him as “Cooper’s other corner” did so at their own peril.
With 13 interceptions through his first two years as a varsity starter, Miller has built quite a resume of his own. And as the lone holdover from one of the state’s stingiest secondaries and now undisputed leader of the Cooper defensive backfield, he’ll be casting the shadow this fall.
Coming off an 11-2 season in which they outscored their opponents by a 512-321 margin, the Cooper Cougars will have to do some reloading in 2020. But despite losing 36 of of their 52 lettermen from last year’s team, coach Aaron Roan insists the Coogs’ expectations remain the same.
A new district, an abridged offseason and a delayed start to the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic all present unique challenges on top of Cooper’s graduation losses, but Roan feels his team has enough talent and experience in key positions to maintain a high level of play.
It’s not easy to get on the field as a sophomore at Wylie. So the fact that Jahzair George was able to speaks to his talent level.
But after spending most of his first two seasons slowed by one injury or another, the senior cornerback is still waiting to show what he can do when healthy.
After playing through a stress fracture in his toe as a sophomore and torn ligament in his thumb as a junior, George enters his senior year as healthy as he’s ever been. And with plans for 2020 that include a foray onto the offensive side of the ball, he’s determined to make his final high school season his best.
Replacing his longtime boss as the Wylie head coach, Clay Martin doesn’t plan on bringing sweeping changes to the program he helped Hugh Sandifer build. But the former Bulldog defensive coordinator has every intention of getting WHS back on track after a rocky start to the Class 5A era.
Inheriting a team that went 2-8 last year after an 0-10 campaign in 2018, Martin sees brighter things on the horizon. And after a chaotic start to his head coaching tenure thanks to a once-in-a-century pandemic, he’s eager to get on the field with his team and focus on football.
Because of the University Interscholastic League’s decision to postpone the Class 5A and 6A seasons by a month, that won’t happen officially until Sept. 7. But Martin saw enough during summer strength and conditioning and sport-specific workouts to convince him that his team will hit the ground running when it does.
STEPHENVILLE — Of all the high school football programs in Texas, few produce more electricity among their fan base than the Stephenville Yellow Jackets.
It’s just a given.
SHS is among the most-storied, most obsessed-over programs in the state, posting five state championships and 17 double-digit-win seasons since 1990 .
So what would the impact have been had the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked the Yellow Jackets’ season? This is still a possibility, of course. But perhaps no Texas community would have mourned the loss of pigskin more than this ranching town of 21,000 located in Erath County, where the game has taken on an almost religious status.
A long-standing tradition of success should continue at Stephenville in 2020, courtesy of 20 returning lettermen and six starters back on both sides of the football.
A bone-jarring schedule and a lack of varsity experience at quarterback will be two of the big challenges for the Yellow Jackets to overcome. But the talent level in the SHS camp is notable enough for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine to rank them No. 11 in Class 4A DI.
“We have a lot of football players who have that Friday-night experience under their belt,” Stephenville coach Sterling Doty said. “We’ve got a good corps group of guys.”
BROWNWOOD — Under normal circumstances, when a 16-year-old high school junior suffers an injury that forces him to miss an entire football season, that realization can be emotionally shattering.
In the case of Brownwood’s Uriah King, however, he’s a bit too preoccupied to be devastated.
On the contrary, he’s quite fortunate to be alive.
The good news for Brownwood and third-year coach Sammy Burnett is that the Lions will field a large, physical team, backed with talented, albeit, green skill people.
The bad news is, they’ll have to demonstrate it in what many believe is Texas’ toughest 4A district.
The Lions, as fate would have it, are stuck in District 5-4A DI — which by many coaching accounts is a league that borders on ridiculous in terms of difficulty.
Few quarterbacks in the state had a tougher assignment last year than Big Spring’s Gabriel Baeza.
Thrust into the starting position less than a year removed from a season on the freshman squad, the then-sophomore signal caller had to lead a rebuilding program in its first year under coach Cannon McWilliams against a schedule that was nothing short of brutal.
While the results weren’t always pretty — the Steers averaged 13.8 points per game on their way to a 2-9 record — Baeza’s growth against that backdrop earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches. And heading into his second year as starter, expectations are considerably higher for the 6-foot, 180-pound junior.
Cannon McWilliams’ first year as Big Spring’s head coach could best be described as a learning experience, both for him and his young Steers squad.
But with a good group back and that 2-9 season behind them, both are expecting bigger things this fall.
In a four-team district once again, the Steers have already locked up a spot in the Class 4A Division I playoffs. But they’re more concerned with continuing their growth track and building on the foundation laid last season.
SWEETWATER — Two years ago, Sweetwater’s Leo Holsey was plenty nervous and with good reason.
Out of necessity he had been named as Sweetwater’s starting quarterback as a skinny, 5-foot-8 145-pound freshman, who was a year removed from playing middle school football.
The leap was enormous, both in terms of speed and sophistication. But Holsey was thrown into the fire, surrounded by several teammates who were either freshman or sophomores.
After an amazing run from 2014 through 2017 that saw them post a combined 48-7 record, the Sweetwater Mustangs have been forced to rearm, reload and wait for one of the youngest teams in the Big Country to mature.
That day has arrived.
Entering the 2020 campaign with the best numbers it has seen in years, Sweetwater could be on the verge of re-entering the spotlight.