Month: August 2020

2020 DISTRICT PREDICTIONS: Evan and Daniel make their picks

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. 

So dive in and study our take on the upcoming season, along with the more than 80 preseason stories we posted earlier today. Enjoy! We’ll see you on the road. 
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Evan Ren’s top area games to travel to in 2020

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. 

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2020 ABILENE HIGH FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Eagles eager to end playoff drought

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.

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2020 COOPER FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Cooper aims to contend despite heavy graduation losses

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.

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FEATURE: Wylie playmaker George healthy, ready to lead Bulldogs

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.

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2020 WYLIE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Wylie eyes playoff return in Martin’s first season

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.

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EVAN REN: Football-crazy Stephenville would have been hit hard by the lack of pigskin

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.  

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2020 STEPHENVILLE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Jackets should improve, but have difficult road ahead of them

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.” 

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FEATURE: Brownwood junior lucky to be alive after 200-foot fall

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. 

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2020 BROWNWOOD FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Youthful Lions to rely on big offensive line to get them through

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. 

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FEATURE: Big Spring QB Baeza looks to build on promising debut

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.

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2020 BIG SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Steers expecting growth in McWilliams’ second season

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.

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FEATURE: Sweetwater’s Holsey growing into quarterback role

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. 

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2020 SWEETWATER PREVIEW: Mustangs poised for big 2020 campaign

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. 

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FEATURE: Snyder’s Wood believes Tigers may have benefited in some ways from lockdown

SNYDER — As a general rule of thumb, a football coach will often see the largest amount of improvement in his team during his second season. 

The reason for this is simple: Not only will his team have a full year in his system under its belt, but a valuable amount of extra practice time will suddenly become available without the need to constantly explain concepts.

This equates to more reps and quicker-moving, more-efficient practices. When combined with the better on-field decision making a year of experience brings, a second season usually produces a better product in the absence of heavy graduation losses. 

That was to be the case at Snyder, with a large contingent of returning starters (15 of 22) and lettermen (20) back for second-year coach Wes Wood.  With the COVID-19 lockdown, however, SHS found itself dealing with a frustrating athletic stoppage just when they expected to take a step forward. 

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2019 Brownwood Snyder

2020 SNYDER FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Young Tigers could surprise District 1

A slow start, followed by a late surge of momentum saw the Snyder Tigers overcome an 0-4 record to snag a playoff spot last season.

This year, there is reason to believe second-year coach Wes Wood’s crew can continue that momentum, with 20 lettermen back from last year. 

Among them: seven offensive and eight defensive starters, including several key contributors from a year ago. 

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FEATURE: Brock defensive ends Drillette, Washington a disruptive duo

With a scheme designed to disrupt opponents’ timing and force the action, the Brock defense has seldom had trouble putting pressure on opposing offenses.

So to bring back a pair of Division I defensive ends who combined for 18 sacks and 136 tackles for loss a year ago almost seems unfair.

But that’s reality for coach Chad Worrell, who in seniors Brett Drillette (Louisiana-Monroe) and Nace Washington (Texas-San Antonio) has a set of defensive line bookends most schools in the state would envy. And it’s a fine reality, indeed, if you ask him.

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2020 BROCK FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Loaded Brock Eagles expecting another deep run

Picked by Texas Football magazine to win the Class 3A Division I state championship, the Brock Eagles enter the 2020 season with sky-high expectations.

But for a program that has averaged 13.2 wins over the past six seasons, including a state title in 2015 and a runner-up finish in 2017, that’s the case every year.

Coming off back-to-back trips to the state semifinals with 22 lettermen back from last year’s 12-3 squad, the Eagles have all the pieces to make this another season to remember. And with eight offensive and seven starters among those returning, coach Chad Worrell is already seeing the impact of that experience.

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FEATURE: No role too large for two-way Wall standout Morrison

As Wall’s starting middle linebacker each of the past two seasons, senior Drew Morrison has been the quarterback of the Hawk defense for a while now. Last year, when starter Mason Fuchs went down with an injury late in district play, he had to quarterback the offense as well.

Now well established in both roles, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound playmaker is set to enter his first season as his team’s leader on both sides of the ball. And while that may sound like quite a challenge, it’s one both he and his coach feel he’s ready for.

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2020 WALL FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Seasoned Hawks set sights on deep run

Having helped build Wall into one of the most successful Class 3A programs in the state, coach Houston Guy knows better than most what a good football team looks like. And with 16 lettermen back from last year’s 12-1 squad, he’s convinced he’s got another one on his hands.

Boasting a roster with eight offensive and six defensive starters returning, including a number of all-state candidates, the Hawks appear poised once again to do damage in the Class 3A Division I bracket.

And it’s the leadership of a strong senior class, in particular, that has Guy excited to get this season underway.

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FEATURE: Jim Ned’s Zach Henderson jumps from “C” teamer to standout in five years

TUSCOLA — Five years ago, Zach Henderson was struggling to get noticed on Jim Ned’s seventh-grade “C” team — a squad that is listed behind the “A” and “B” teams on the middle school depth chart. 

It is not unheard of for former “C” teamers to eventually work their way onto varsity rosters and contribute. But it is a genuine rarity for them to become standouts.

Henderson, through a combination of hard work and a physical transformation courtesy of genetics, has achieved exactly that. And heading into the 2020 season, a player few believed could ever be productive at the varsity level, now stands as one of the top Class 3A receiving prospects in the Big Country.     

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2020 JIM NED FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Young, talented Indians to contend for district title

Under most circumstances, if a team is returning a modest six offensive and five defensive starters after losing 22 lettermen, a rebuild is often in order.

But at Jim Ned, that may not be the case in 2020.

The Indians, who closed last season at 7-4 in coach Matt Fanning’s second year, may actually produce an equal or better product in 2020. But a monstrous schedule may prevent them from fully demonstrating it.

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FEATURE: Early lineman Morelan blossoming into star for Longhorns

With an unusual path to impact player status that was less gradual than many of his peers, Early lineman Marcus Morelan may be best described as a late bloomer.

A self-described “C-team (player) like all my life,” Moreland experienced a light-bulb moment a year ago as a junior, when a move to defensive tackle resulted in 47 tackles and 10 tackles for loss.

Now, with that year of experience under his belt and the newfound confidence it has unlocked, he’s looking forward to another breakout season and proving to that last year’s emergence was just the beginning of what he’s capable of on a football field.

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2020 EARLY FOOTBALL PREVIEW: New coach Price, Longhorns aim to surprise

With his team returning just 11 lettermen from last year’s 3-7 product, it would be easy to assume that first-year Early head coach Daniel Price is looking at a tough season in his inaugural campaign.

But the former Longhorn defensive coordinator doesn’t view it that way at all.

Taking over for his former boss Blake Sandford, who stepped down over the offseason after five years as Early’s head coach/athletic director, Price is excited about his club’s prospects for 2020. And he’s not ruling out the possibility that his first year in his new post could end with the Longhorns’ first playoff berth since 2008.

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FEATURE: Clyde QB Neuman ready to put young Bulldogs on his back in 2020

As a third-year starting quarterback, Clyde senior Dylan Neuman is on a short list of the Big Country’s most experienced players at his position. But before this season, he’d never really been asked or needed to be “the guy.”

Taking over as the Bulldogs starter a few games into his sophomore season, Neuman was brought along slowly in 2018. And playing opposite an elite defense last fall, he was called on to do more game managing than gun-slinging.

Now in his final high school season, though, all that’s about to change for the strong-armed lefty. With most of last year’s defense lost to graduation, Neuman will not only be asked to be a playmaker, he’ll likely need to excel in that role for his team to achieve its goals.

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, those are demands the veteran signal caller is quite comfortable with. In fact, he welcomes them.

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2020 CLYDE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Young Clyde squad will have to mature quickly

In 2019, the Clyde Bulldogs rode an experienced roster and an elite defense to a resurgent season, winning seven games before bowing out to perennial power Brock in the opening round of the playoffs.

If coach Scott Campbell’s squad hopes to build on that in 2020, it will likely need to do it in a different way. 

Returning just 12 of the 29 players that earned varsity letters a year ago, with only two of those bringing starting experience on defense, the Bulldogs will have a much younger group this fall. And with a third-year starter at quarterback and a veteran offensive line, it will be the offense that’s asked to carry the bulk of the load early.

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FEATURE: Buckaroos buying into Pearce’s tough approach

BRECKENRIDGE — Having graduated from Breckenridge himself in 1993, first-year BHS coach Casey Pearce had a pretty fair idea of what to expect when he was hired to replace the departed Casey Hubble during the offseason. 

And it was for that reason, he believed that his tough-as-nails coaching style would be a good fit at his alma mater, and eventually turn a 1-9 team into a success. 

So far, so good — at least to the extent that his players have bought in to his approach with enough enthusiasm to face a difficult challenge ahead. There will be pressure — there always is at Breckenridge. There will also be an extremely difficult schedule — another BHS tradition.

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2020 BRECKENRIDGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Bucks have shot at the playoffs, but the road will be difficult

A trial by fire is what is in store for a youthful Breckenridge club under first-year coach Casey Pearce.

With few seniors to call upon and a relatively low amount of varsity experience on the roster, Pearce will install his new system while facing an overall schedule that ranks among the most difficult for any Class 3A team in Texas. 

Only 14 lettermen are back from last year’s 1-9 club, including six starters on both sides of the football. They will be tasked with learning Pearce’s pro I/pro spread offense and hybrid 3-4 defense in an effort to secure the playoff spot they missed a year ago. 

“Our strength of schedule is on a par with anybody who plans on trying to contend in the playoffs,” Pearce said. “We expect to try to be a November team.” 

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FEATURE: Merkel likes Ike as a speedy weapon in new hybrid offense

MERKEL — A year ago, Merkel’s Isaac “Ike” Sebastian was lost in the shuffle, happy whenever he got a chance to touch the football and contribute something — anything in a dreary 2-8 campaign.

What a difference a year can make. 

Sebastian, now a senior, has emerged as one of the fastest athletes in the Big Country, with legitimate sub-4.6 speed in the 40, good hands and improving field vision. And, in a possible stroke of good fortune, Sebastian will be perfect fit in Merkel’s new wing-T hybrid offense introduced by first-year coach Britt Hart. 

The combination could (in the hopes of the Merkel staff) create something very explosive. 

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2020 MERKEL FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Badgers shooting for playoff spot while learning new system

Through five seasons at Falls City, Britt Hart knew nothing but success, charting a 58-12 overall record and four district championships during his stint there. 

Now, in his first season at Merkel, Hart is virtually starting from scratch — inheriting a team that finished 2-8 a year ago, with only 13 lettermen returning in 2020. 

Getting the ship righted will be his first challenge, after which there will be a considerable amount of work to be done before the Badgers can begin challenging for their first district championship since 2011. 

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FEATURE: Eastland’s Fielding offers an important physical presence on both sides of the ball

EASTLAND — The first thing many people think of when they hear about the Eastland football team, is an up-tempo, pass-oriented attack guided by Texas Tech-bound quarterback Behren Morton.  

That’s understandable, considering the Red Raider pledge hit 173 of 287 passes for 2,754 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2019.  

But what many people don’t realize, is that the Eastland offense features a very important counterweight to Morton — a 220-pound physical presence by the name of Brandon Fielding who forces defenses to remain honest. 

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2020 EASTLAND FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Rebuilt offensive line will hold the key for Mavericks

Entering the 2020 football season, the most common question surrounding a talent-laden Eastland football team won’t be whether or not the Mavericks will qualify for the playoffs.  The key question will be, how far will they get in postseason play?

The only group of players who can answer that question might be on a rebuilt EHS offensive line, behind which the Mavs will boast one of the top groups of skill players in the Big Country. 

Texas Tech-bound senior quarterback Behren Morton (173-of-287, 2,754 yards, 29 TDs) will return to guide the Eastland spread attack, which has scored more than 900 combined points over the past two seasons. He will be flanked by 225-pound running back Brandon Fielding (1,115 yards rushing, 14 TDs, 20 catches, 176 yards, two TDs), with several capable receivers to choose from, including seniors Dylan Wilson (27 catches, 319 yards, two TDs) and Peyton McClain (12 catches, 344 yards, two TDs). 

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FEATURE: Dublin’s smallish Cervantes leads capable linebacking corps

DUBLIN — Kevin Cervantes is anything but an imposing figure.

The Dublin senior linebacker stands in at only 6-foot-0 and 175 pounds — hardly a Dick Butkus frame. 

Cervantes

He does, however, have an uncanny ability to get to the football, through a combination of quickness, the ability to slip blocks, and an acute awareness of where plays are heading. 

He also has a healthy dose of attitude. 

“People always talk down about my size,” Cervantes said. “So I’m always ready to go and hit somebody out there. I don’t fear getting hit. … I’m ready for anything, I guess you could say.”

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2020 DUBLIN FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Inexperienced Lions on the hunt for leadership

Few teams in the Big Country took a bigger graduation hit over the off season than the Dublin Lions.

While Dublin does return 17 lettermen from last year’s 8-3 team, it lost 19. Among them: eight offensive and nine defensive starters, including standouts Cy Wing (QB), Colten Couch (receiver) and Johnny Jurado (Dublin) among others. 

That leaves 10th-year coach Bob Cervetto with the task of cultivating a group of green players into something cohesive in time for district play. 

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FEATURE: Comanche’s Harrison Kolb overcomes diabetes to play key role for CHS

COMANCHE — Harrison Kolb isn’t a complainer. He’s not an excuse maker.

He’s a doer. 

The 17-year-old Comanche senior could easily sit back and wait for the world to pity him, having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 8. Kolb however, pursues life and pursues goals, as evidenced by his choice to play football with a potentially dangerous ailment. 

“He’s a good student-athlete for us and does things right,” Comanche coach Stephen Hermesmeyer said. “But he’s had some obstacles that not all kids have to face. 

“Some kids may not have wanted to deal with this consistently like he has, but that’s what separates him.” 

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2020 Comanche Preview: Indians should contend for district title, if healthy

Coming off a 5-6 rebuilding season that saw his team fall in the bi-district round, coach Stephen Hermesmeyer’s Indians are poised for what could be a very solid 2020 campaign.

With a whopping 20 lettermen back from last year’s club, including nearly all of its offensive production in the skill department, Comanche is viewed by many as one of the favorites in a newly formed District 5-3A DII with Eastland, Jacksboro, Merkel, Dublin and Millsap. 

The key question, as with many teams at the Class 3A level, will be if the Indians can stay healthy enough for a successful stretch run through district. 

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FEATURE: Coahoma linebackers Gutierrez, Daniels ready to lead Bulldog D

Given what they accomplished last fall, Coahoma seniors Patrick Gutierrez and Colin Daniels would have been leaned on heavily this season under any circumstances.

But take into account that the Bulldogs graduated an 18-player senior class that was instrumental in achieving last year’s 9-3 record, and the two linebackers’ importance to CHS’ 2020 success grows even larger.

Two of just 12 returning lettermen for the Bulldogs this season, Gutierrez and Daniels are hoping to show that last year’s rise to prominence was more than just a radar blip. And both understand the role they’ll play — both as players and leaders — in keeping Coahoma a relevant part of the Region I-3A Division II playoff discussion.

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2020 COAHOMA FOOTBALL PREVIEW: New-look Bulldogs look to maintain momentum

Fresh off their best season in more than 15 years, the Coahoma Bulldogs will have their mettle tested in 2020.

After losing 18 players from last year’s 9-3 team, including two-way standouts Zack Schneider, Keegan Dobbs and Jonathan Schneider, coach Chris Joslin’s squad will be out to prove that the CHS program can continue to compete at a high level through heavy graduation losses.

With 12 lettermen returning, including four offensive and five defensive starters, the Bulldogs will have a foundation from which to build. But Joslin believes his team’s success will ultimately come down to how well his new regulars adapt to their expanded roles.

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FEATURE: Brady playmaker Linnard ready to shoulder heavier load in 2020

At 6-foot-5 and almost 200 pounds, Brady senior Parker Linnard has the look of a big-play receiver. With 25 catches for 700 yards last season, he also has the credentials.

But after producing those numbers alongside or across from graduated twins Caleb and Benjamin Galindo, Linnard will face the new challenge in 2020: proving he can repeat or improve upon that production as the Bulldogs’ go-to guy.

With much of Brady’s skill position talent lost to graduation, Linnard and sophomore running back J.D. Ibarra (78-413, 3 TDs) will be the standard bearers at their respective positions this fall. And as a senior, Linnard will be leaned on particularly heavily — both as a playmaker and leader for coach Shay Easterwood’s squad.

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2020 BRADY FOOTBALL PREVIEW: ‘Dogs hope to maintain momentum despite graduation losses

In winning four of their last five regular-season games to end a two-year playoff drought last fall, the Brady Bulldogs took a big step forward in coach Shay Easterwood’s third year with the program.

The challenge now is to build on that momentum despite losing a large and talented senior class to graduation.

With 13 lettermen back, including five starters on each side of the football, Easterwood will have some talent to work with as his Bulldogs try to get back to the playoffs out of a new district with Ballinger, Bangs, Ingram Moore, San Angelo Grape Creek and Sonora. But he’ll need some contributions from some new faces if he hopes to improve upon last year’s 5-6 finish.

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FEATURE: Bangs’ new Ethan adds another weapon to the Dragons’ arsenal

After spearheading Bangs’ turnaround with his production on both sides of the football, senior Ethan Sanchez would have to be considered the Dragons’ undisputed leader heading into the 2020 season.

But it’s the arrival of a second Ethan to the Bangs backfield that could take coach Kyle Maxfield’s team to a whole new level this fall.

Joining the Dragons roster this offseason when his father took Bangs’ defensive coordinator position, former Big Spring and Farmersville signal caller Ethan Cortez has brought a combination of experience and arm talent to the quarterback position that Maxfield hasn’t often had at his disposal during his lengthy head coaching career.

And with Cortez adding a reliable passing threat to an offense that has already proven it can run effectively, the sky could be the limit for Bangs’ spread attack.

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2020 BANGS FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Dragons poised to take another step forward

In leading the Bangs Dragons to the playoffs for the first time in five years last season, Kyle Maxfield took a big step toward restoring the BHS program to the heights it had achieved and expectation level it had grown accustomed to under former coaches Bo Robinson (61-27 from 1999-2005) and Chuck Lipsey (50-31 from 2008-2014).

With 14 lettermen returning from last year’s 6-5 squad, including eight offensive and seven defensive starters, the former Brownwood and Shallowater head man is hoping to take the next step this fall.

Leading a program that went a combined 9-41 from 2014 to 2018, including a 3-7 mark in his first season on campus, Maxfield has the Dragons believing they can compete. And with some quality talent and experience to go with that belief, he’s expecting big things in 2020.

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FEATURE: Ballinger’s Winn a rare gem, indeed

BALLINGER — Anytime a coach has a junior who earns all-state on the offensive or defensive line, he can feel thankful and look forward to seeing what his standout 11th-grader can do as a senior. 

To have a junior who earns the accolade on both sides of the ball, however, is a genuine rarity. Yet that is precisely what Ballinger’s Adam Winn achieved last season, taking first-team all-state honors both offensively and defensively as a guard and defensive end.

So rare is this achievement, that Ballinger coach Chuck Lipsey, has never seen it happen in a head coaching career that dates back to 2001 with stops at Winters, Whitewright, Bangs and Brady. 

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2020 BALLINGER FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Bearcat numbers the best in years

Through three years of building and a respectable 19-14 overall record, Ballinger coach Chuck Lipsey is at last, getting his program to the level he had hoped for. And the numbers are eyebrow-raising to say the least.

Coming off an 8-3 record a year ago, the Bearcats return nine offensive and eight defensive starters among 18 lettermen, with additional reinforcements being brought up from a 7-3 junior varsity club. 

The 2020 campaign could see as many as 30 players on Ballinger’s varsity — a luxury for many clubs at the 3A DII level. They have experience at quarterback, depth at several positions and multiple skill players who are capable of contributing. 

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FEATURE: Winters QB Alex Salas hoping to break out in Year 2 as starter

After waiting his turn behind standouts Chris Diaz and Jovan Young, Alex Salas’ first year as Winters’ quarterback was something of a growing process.

Rushing for 624 yards, passing for 435 and accounting for 16 total touchdowns, the rangy signal caller flashed his athleticism and potential last fall. But bouts of inconsistency limited the Blizzards to 25.5 points per game and a 5-6 overall record.

Now a senior, with a season of starts under his belt, Salas is hoping to turn the lessons he learned as a junior into a breakout 2020 campaign.  And his coach, sixth-year Winters mentor Matt McCarty, has every faith in his now veteran quarterback to do just that.

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2020 WINTERS FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Blizzards seek to extend playoff streak in tough new district

Coming off three consecutive playoff appearances, coach Matt McCarty and his Winters Blizzards are hoping to continue the progress made during the coach’s first five seasons on campus.

But after being placed in a tough district with perennial contender Cisco and rising power San Saba, the Blizzards will have their work cut out for them if they hope to maintain the momentum built during that run.

With 15 of 22 players back from last year’s 5-6 squad, including five starters on both sides of the football, Winters has the tools to get back to the postseason for a fourth consecutive year. But to do so, the Blizzards will have to a navigate an unforgiving District 4-2A Division I schedule that pits them against No. 4 Cisco and No. 10 San Saba in their first two league games.

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FEATURE: San Saba culture change began in the weight room.

SAN SABA — The clanging of weights and heavy metal music are audible, long before you set foot in the facility.

It is the sound of work. It is also the sound of a changed culture.

The San Saba weight room, an old middle school basketball gym converted into one of the area’s largest high school weight training facilities, is alive with activity by 6:45 a.m. each day. 

The pace is brisk. The noise is loud and the enthusiasm is off the charts.  Through it all, second-year coach Andreas Aguirre and his staff act as drill instructors, making sure wasted time is kept to an absolute minimum. It is a methodology introduced by Aguirre’s predecessor, Jerod Fikac, for whom Aguirre served as an assistant. 

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2020 SAN SABA FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Armadillos seek to demonstrate culture change

Entering his second year as head coach of the San Saba Armadillos, coach Andreas Aguirre is facing a challenge. 

With star players Sean O’Keefe (QB, Tulsa), Eli Salinas (RB, Hardin-Simmons) and Abel Martinez (DE/TE, Mesabi Range JC) having all graduated, the question of whether San Saba can keep its momentum is one Aguirre will try to answer.

It won’t be easy. 

Having posted a 27-2 record over the past two seasons, the Armadillos must now replace the 1,664 yards rushing and 1,381 yards passing charted by O’Keefe, the 2,063 rushing yards piled up by Salinas and the 68 tackles and nine sacks produced by Martinez. San Saba now has the daunting task of finding new faces to step into the roles. 

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FEATURE: Goldthwaite QB Patrick is Eagles’ link to winning mindset

Football coaches looking to rebuild a program often seek leadership from players who have won in other sports. In Goldthwaite, where the once-high flying Eagles enter this season having lost 21 of 24 games, that link is Jackson Patrick.

As a freshman, Patrick helped the Goldthwaite boys’ golf team win the Class 2A state championship as the Eagles’ No. 4 golfer. As a sophomore, he played a big role off the bench for Goldthwaite’s district championship boys’ basketball team.

“Winning is a mindset,” said Patrick, a junior quarterback and defensive back in football. “We talk about winning every rep in every drill in practice, and winning every play in the games. You don’t win football games just on Friday night. You win during practice and conditioning and doing the hard stuff.

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2020 GOLDTHWAITE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Goldthwaite hopes improvement means more wins

The Goldthwaite Eagles should be an improved football team over last year’s 2-8 finish. But turning that improvement into more wins will be tough in District 4-2A Division I, which includes No. 4-ranked Cisco and No.10 San Saba, according to the texasfootball.com preseason rankings.

Cisco appeared in five state championship games from 2002-2013 while in Class 3A, and San Saba is 27-2 over the last two seasons. Goldthwaite’s three other District 4-2A DI opponents — Coleman, De Leon and Winters — beat the Eagles by a combined 89-13 last year.

The Eagles still have a big gap to close on the district leaders.

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