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EARLY — When Clyde football coach Scott Campbell arrived at Longhorn Stadium on Friday and saw the flags whipping in a fierce north wind, he knew immediately what he was going to do if his Bulldogs happened to win the coin toss.
They did. And his subsequent decision to defer and force Early to drive into that wind may very well have been the difference in a 33-20 Clyde win in the Big Country Preps Game of the Week.
Dylan Neuman threw for 224 yards, rushed for 41 and accounted for four scores to lift Clyde (4-4, 3-0 District 3-3A DI), which remains in contention for the league title with the win.
Early (4-4, 1-2) was led by Jaxyn Price, who threw for 111 yards, rushed for 25 and had a direct hand in all three EHS scores.
ANSON — When Mitch Ables arrived in Hawley, he was tasked with rebuilding a program that didn’t have a history of sustained success.
After benefitting from four years of quarterback Quay Stokes, followed by the stellar career of running back Colton Marshall, Ables may have found his new workhorse in another young stud.
Sophomore running back Austin Cumpton had 32 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown and took countless bruising hits in a physical game as the Bearcats took the lead in the District 3-2A Division I championship race with a thrilling 21-20 win over Jones County rival Anson at Tiger Stadium on Friday night.
Hawley’s defense also rose to the occasion with a second half shutout.
GRANBURY — Cooper quarterback Aidan Thompson had himself a night Friday in a 69-7 win over Granbury, completing 14 of 20 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns to push the Cougars to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in District 3-5A Division I.
The senior also added a 15-yard rushing touchdown as CHS built a 45-0 halftime lead it would increase to 62 points before the Pirates finally got on the board in the fourth quarter.
Coming into Friday’s game against Odessa Permian at 0-3 and needing a win to avoid an 0-2 start to District 2-6A play, the Abilene High football team had its mettle tested early and often by a favored Panthers squad.
But any questions about the Eagles’ mental state or resiliency were answered definitively in a gritty 27-25 win at Shotwell Stadium.
Trailing 25-21 at halftime, AHS (1-3 overall, 1-1 in District 2-6A) took the lead on a pair of Anthony Ramirez field goals, and the Eagle defense made it hold up, shutting out the Panthers over the final two quarters to secure the win. Sophomore safety Noah Hatcher made the play of the night, coming up with a late interception in the end zone to thwart a potential go-ahead drive by Permian and allow the Eagles to seal the upset victory with a single first down.
Bangs 48, Sonora 14 — Ethan Cortez had one of his best nights as a first-year move-in, throwing for 243 yards and three scores and rushing for 97 yards and two more TDs to keep the Dragons (7-0, 3-0) in district title contention.
Forsan 56, Haskell 14 — The Buffaloes pounded out 361 rushing yards and had eight rushing touchdowns to defeat Haskell on the road.
Chris Mendez rushed for 173 yards and three scores and Nate Hernandez rushed for 62 more and three scores to lead Forsan (4-3, 2-1).
Fort Stockton 28, Big Spring 7 — Trailing the Steers 7-0 after three quarters, the Panthers exploded for four touchdowns in the fourth to rally for a big district win.
Fort Stockton, now 3-5 overall and 2-0 in league play, rushed for more than 300 yards on its way to 415 total yards. The Panthers got nice rushing games from quarterback Dominic Aguilar (16-118), Jaydrien Ramirez (6-76) and Pedro Vasquez (9-75) and a pick-six from Isaiah Garcia in the victory.
Big Spring, which fell to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in district, was led by quarterback Gabriel Baeza, who passed for 222 yards and rushed for 54. Receiver Pablito Dehoyos was Baeza’s favorite target, catching nine passes for 138 yards and the Steers’ lone touchdown in the first quarter.
Eastland 55, Jacksboro 20 — An improving Eastland defense forced five turnovers to give the Mavericks (5-3, 3-0) a stranglehold on the district title.
Behren Morton threw for 236 yards and three scores to lead Eastland, which would have to fall to both Dublin and Merkel over the final two weeks of the season in order to lose the league championship.
Jim Ned 75, TLCA 0 — The Indians (6-1, 3-0) had an easy time with winless TLCA, building a 61-0 halftime lead before coasting home.
Xavier Wishert had 115 yards rushing and two scores on only three carries on a night that saw five different Indians score rushing touchdowns.
Coahoma 60, Reagan County 0 — Brysen Kerby rushed for 182 yards and four scores and Colt Redden threw for 203 yards and three touchdowns in one of Coahoma’s biggest offensive nights of the season.
The Bulldogs closed with 519 yards, striking a balance with 264 yards rushing and 255 passing.
Hico 17, Meridian 0 — The Tigers picked up a huge win for their playoff hopes, shutting out the Yellowjackets to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Putting together one scoring drive in each of the first three quarters, Hico (2-7, 1-3) increased a 14-0 halftime lead to 17 points by the start of the fourth quarter and closed things out from there.
Brock 49, Boyd 14 — Playing the previously unbeaten Yellowjackets for sole possession of the district lead, the top-ranked Eagles dominated from start to finish, outgaining Boyd 452-228 in a blowout win.
Cash Jones rushed for 305 yards and four touchdowns to lead Brock (8-0, 5-0), while Kutter Wilson added 75 yards and a TD on five carries and Myles Semas had 55 yards and a score on seven rush attempts.
Defensively, the Eagles bottled dual-threat quarterback Rendyn Lamance, limiting the standout to 12 passing yards with two interceptions and 28 rushing yards on 15 carries. The loss dropped Boyd to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in league play.
Midland Greenwood 17, Snyder 14 (OT) — The Rangers outlasted the Tigers in overtime, rallying from a 14-0 second-quarter deficit to force the extra period, before winning the game on a19-yard field goal by Rance Purser.
Greenwood (5-3, 3-1) got 200 yards and two touchdowns rushing from standout back Trey Cross, who scored late in the second quarter to pull his team within seven at halftime and late in the third quarter to tie the game.
Snyder (2-5, 0-2), meanwhile, got its touchdowns on a 6-yard run by Jorge Martinez and an 11-yard pass from Hunter Stewart to Cayden Hurtado.
Brownwood 47, Alvarado 14 — Playing their first game since Oct. 2 due to COVID issues, the Lions shook off the rust quickly in a blowout win over the Indians.
Royshad Henderson rushed for 170 yards and four touchdowns, while Blaize Espinoza passed for 206 yards and a score to help Brownwood (3-4, 1-1) take control of the game early.
Brownwood led 21-0 after a quarter and 40-7 at halftime in dropping Alvarado to 2-7 overall and 0-4 in district play.
Ralls 76, Roscoe 6 — One of several games played on Thursday, this one was decided early, as the Jack Rabbits raced out to a 48-6 halftime lead and cruised from there to the lopsided victory.
Ralls (5-3, 1-1) took advantage of six Roscoe turnovers and used a strong running game to grind down the Plowboys (0-8,0-2). The Jack Rabbits finished with 295 rushing yards, getting solid production from Abraham Van Gundy (9-82, 1 TD rushing; 1 pick-six), Benjamin Njenga (6-67, 2 TDs) and Sergio Salinas (5-53, 2 TDs).
Roscoe’s only touchdown came late in the first quarter on a run that trimmed Ralls’ lead to 24-6.
Football coaches are by nature, organized, disciplined people. They have to be, or they’d never be able to compete with their peers, who are also organized, disciplined people.
Because of that, they are ready to deal with every contingency. Or at least, every contingency that has existed before the year 2020.
How to handle a rash of injuries? Check.
How to deal with a discipline issue? Check.
How to play a game in the mud? Check.
How to deal with a worldwide pandemic? Hmmm … We’re a little fuzzy on that one. And even the most experienced coaches in the Big Country are learning on the fly when it comes to dealing with it.
There’s been no lack of frustration for coaches all over the area. But at this juncture, no area team has more to lose, or more reason to go completely bananas over this subject than the second-ranked Hamlin Pied Pipers, who are once again a strong state title contender in Class 2A Division II.
COOPER (2-1, 1-0) AT GRANBURY (2-2, 1-0)
7 p.m. Friday at Pirate Stadium, Granbury
As a junior in 2019, Jeshari Houston made his presence felt for the Abilene High football team, catching 36 passes for 443 yards to lead the Eagle offense in both categories.
But in averaging 12.3 yards per catch and hauling in one touchdown pass, the speedy receiver was only scratching the surface of his potential.
Now in his final high school season, Houston has taken a significant step forward, progressing from the leading pass-catcher for a struggling offense into a true No. 1 receiver. With 11 catches for 245 yards and a touchdown through AHS’ first three games, the senior is on pace to dwarf last year’s production. And the scary part is, Eagles coach Mike Fullen said the wideout is just getting started.
SANTO — The sixth-ranked Albany Lions entered Thursday night’s District 8-2A Division II matchup at W.A. Lewis Field with Santo having posted four consecutive shutouts, including three to open district play.
The Wildcats, however, were not intimidated and punched the Lions in the mouth en route to a 14-0 lead.
The perennial power Lions eventually found their footing, however, and roared back for a 34-14 win to set up a showdown with Cross Plains next week for the district championship.
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 season, in Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year Dillon Davis and then-junior Brady Miller, the Cooper Cougars had one of the best cornerback tandems in the state.
That left some big shoes to fill when Davis graduated last spring and moved on to Midwestern State University and Miller was shifted to safety this fall out of necessity.
But through Cooper’s first three games — a road loss to Odessa Permian (47-35) and home wins over Abilene High (30-20) and Justin Northwest (54-21) — an inexperienced group of corners has more than held its own for coach Aaron Roan and Cougars. And while those guys aren’t putting up the eye-popping interception numbers that Davis and Miller did, their steady play has quickly earned them the respect and confidence of their teammates and coaches.
LAST WEEK: 32-2, .941
OVERALL: 282-64, .815
With two straight weeks of hitting over 90 percent on my picks, I’m feeling ready for the home stretch. But our Big Country Preps Game of the Week and at least three other area games, are virtual tossups. So keeping this pace up will be a challenge.
Our spotlight game: Clyde (3-4, 2-0) facing Early (4-3, 1-1) in a game that in the end, may decide the No. 3 playoff seed.
But this game offers a bit more than that.
The Early Longhorns haven’t reached the playoffs since 2008 — 12 straight years of sitting at home in late November. But a win here would nearly lock up a playoff spot, assuming the Longhorns defeat winless San Angelo TLCA on Oct. 30.
If you had told Clay Martin in January that his team would be undefeated four weeks into his first season as a head football coach, he’d likely have happily accepted that outcome.
If you had told him all of the challenges he’d face to get there, he likely wouldn’t have believed you.
Hired to replace longtime Wylie head coach Hugh Sandifer on Jan. 31 after spending more than a quarter-century on the Bulldogs staff, Martin has been tasked with navigating one of the most unique seasons in Texas high school football history. And with his team in the middle of what’s likely to be its third consecutive week off due to COVID-19 cancellations/postponements, he’s adopted an age-old coaching cliché as his guiding philosophy.
VIDEO PODCAST NO. 9: Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood chat with Jim Ned head coach Matt Fanning about last week’s win over Wall and his Indians’ strong play all season
Other games discussed from last week: Abilene High at San Angelo Central, Justin Northwest at Cooper, Eastland at Comanche, Early at Breckenridge, Sweetwater at Pecos and Anson at Forsan. From this week: Odessa Permian at Abilene High, Cooper at Granbury, Clyde at Early, Hawley at Anson, Bangs at Sonora, Jacksboro at Eastland, Coleman at Cisco and Brock at Boyd.
Coleman continued its rampage in District 8-2A Tuesday night, beating Zephyr 25-13, 25-16, 25-11 to secure the Co-District championship at the Coleman Gym.
Abbi Allen had eight kills and Aislyn Cox charted two kills and two aces to lead the Bluekatts, who improved their record to 16-7 on the season and 13-2 in district.
Wylie volleyball coach Shay Cox has plenty of experience leading teams in multiple sports — including a lengthy tenure as the softball coach at Abilene High.
On Tuesday night, Cox saw her volleyball squad struggle on the second service rotation in each set — much as a pitcher might do on the diamond — as the Lady Bulldogs were swept by Lubbock Cooper 25-17, 25-23, 25-18 in District 4-5A play at Bulldog Gymnasium.
The win allowed the Lady Pirates to take sole possession of the district lead at 3-0 while Wylie fell into a second place tie with city rival Cooper and Lubbock Coronado at 2-1.
The Cooper volleyball team took care of business Tuesday, cruising to a workmanlike 25-19, 25-14, 15-17 sweep of Lubbock High at Cougar Gym.
Needing a win to stay within a match of Tuesday’s Lubbock Cooper-Wylie winner in the District 4-5A standings, the Lady Cougars took control early and never relinquished it in improving to 8-5 overall and 2-1 in league play.
Big Country Preps is publishing area volleyball statistical leaders each Tuesday at 7 p.m.
This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.
Teams that send in their statistics after deadline will be added to the lists below as we continually update the database.
Imagine taking over for a popular, 24-year head coach. Then imagine inheriting a young team that has started 3-6 overall and 1-3 in District 2-6A. Oh yeah, your team also is currently sitting out for a two-week COVID-19 quarantine.
If there’s a first-year head coach who can put those challenges in perspective, it might be Devron Shepherd, who was promoted to head volleyball coach at Abilene High in May after serving three seasons as an assistant for Didi Pierce. Pierce won more than 500 matches in 24 years as the Eagles’ head coach.
“Didi is a great lady,” Shepherd said this week. “She paved the way so that it wasn’t hard for me to take over. She was organized in terms of the program in place and supportive of me.”
When I hear about someone having a direct hand in nine touchdowns, my first thought is: which six-man team does he play for?
But Sweetwater junior Leo Holsey managed it at the Class 4A level, on the road in a crucial 62-39 win at Pecos that clinched the District 1-4A DII championship.
Is he our Capital Farm Credit/Big Country Preps Player of the Week?
Uh … yeah.
Holsey, who hit 11 of 15 throws for 283 yards and five touchdowns, was nearly as devastating with his feet, rushing for 233 yards and four more scores on only 11 carries.
In what many people are calling one of the worst years in United States history, 2020 did offer us a sprinkling of bright spots, one of which was high school football.
In Texas, we’re playing it.
We’re masked up. We’re socially distanced. We’re crossing our fingers. And in the process, we’re seeing our share of gridiron surprises — big surprises throughout the Big Country.
Though it isn’t over yet, I’ve catalogued the things that have stunned me the most on area football fields, limiting my list to a top 10.
Let’s dive (or stumble) in, shall we?