Author: Evan Ren

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Gonzales’ breakout season halted by virus

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

With the Big Spring Lady Steers losing a number of key performers in 2020, a number of question marks existed about whether coach Chelsey Jordan’s team could find enough players to pull up the slack. 

Junior utility Jocelyn Gonzales answered many of them on her own. 

Gonzales, who entered the COVID-19 lockdown with a .500 batting average through 18 games, was well on her way to establishing herself as one of the top players in the Big Country.  

“Last year she was hitting in the sixth or seventh hole for us,” Jordan said. “But she was clearly our four-hole hitter this year. … She just steps up. She’s very clutch and if you have people on base, she’s going to score them. 

“We were just dying for someone to be a leader and we pulled her aside. She said, ‘Gotcha coach’ and ran with it.” 

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EVAN REN: We can all use some good news and football can provide some of it

In a world that has seemingly gone mad, I’ll take any dose of good news that I can find — even if it’s mundane.

The stock market inched up a half point? I’ll take it. We can go back to worrying about COVID-19? I’m all-in. The buildings in Abilene are still standing? That’s a check mark in the plus column. 

So how do we get there? 

How do we reestablish normality? 

Aside from the obvious fact that we need to stop the ongoing mayhem that is plaguing our society, getting back to common things we all hold dear will set the foundation for healing. And I’m talking about the simplest of pleasures, from peaceful walks in the park, shopping in a mall, going to the movies or attending a sporting event. 

In Texas, the latter cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to football. 

Continue reading “EVAN REN: We can all use some good news and football can provide some of it”

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Eastland football coach/AD James Morton talks about dealing with the lockdown

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

While preparing for his fifth season as the head football coach/athletic director at Eastland, James Morton was anticipating a productive overall spring from the EHS athletic program.

That is, until the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent cancellation of all spring sports was imposed by the University Interscholastic League as a safety measure.

Morton, who has guided the Mavericks to a 34-14 record and four straight postseason appearances during his tenure, has since found himself stuck in wait-and-see mode with every other coach in Texas.

He has, however, been able to reflect on the pandemic, while drawing upon 28 seasons of head coaching experience to get him through it. He now sits with Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren to speak about his approach.

Here are a few excerpts from that conversation: 

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EVAN REN: 10 things I’ll take away from the COVID-19 pandemic

I’ve always held to a personal axiom that perspective is everything. True or not, how we view a situation becomes the truth in our minds.
There’s no escaping it and every one of us has our own perspective

Well, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have changed my perspective in several ways on several different things. And for a middle-aged guy who is pretty well set in my ways, this is like the planets aligning.

I’ve managed to list my top 10 takeaways from lockdown, as they pertain to this website and what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Let’s dive in: 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Loaded Clyde softball team halted in the midst of promising season

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

“Be Legendary.”

That’s the motto that Reagan Sewell’s Clyde softball program latched onto a couple years ago, cementing their legacy by winning a program-best 30 games.

This year’s Lady Bulldogs were prepared to make their own history. Led by seniors Kaitlyn Turner and Peyton Lee, Clyde was off to a 12-3-1 start against quality competition and highly ranked in the TGCA Class 3A poll.

Did the COVID-19 outbreak cost the Lady Bulldogs a trip to state? Clyde was certainly a Region I-3A favorite along with the likes of Brock and Bushland. 

“We had already accomplished so many goals personally and as a team,” Turner said. “Our chemistry on and off the field this year was astonishing. I believe we had the momentum and determination to be legendary this year.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Brownwood senior heartbroken over loss of his final golf season

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Maci Reagan

While answering questions for his “What might have been” feature, Brownwood senior golfer Caden Reagan eventually broke down and became emotional. 

His dream of reaching the state tournament, all of the work he put in and all of the sacrifices he had made were wiped out in one fell swoop when the University Interscholastic League canceled all spring sports as a safety measure against the COVID-19 pandemic last month. 

Reagan, 18, isn’t alone in this. He is simply one of thousands of high school athletes across the country who saw their senior seasons ended by a virus that has now killed more than 340,000 people globally, including more than 96,000 in the US. 

For Reagan, however, there is an additional element of sadness, having battled with Perthes Disease since he was 10 years old. Few people have had more to overcome in order to simply compete, much less to have a shot at state. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Breckenridge standout sees a winter of rehab go to waste

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Since tearing the ACL in his right knee in a Sept. 6 football game at Comanche, Breckenridge senior Kooper Shook has been diligently working on rehabbing the injury in preparation for baseball. 

That has often involved three 130-mile trips per week to Southlake for physical therapy while patiently waiting for his doctor’s approval for him to suit up and get on a baseball diamond. 

Finally, the nod from his physician was only days away in March. The work he had put in would, at last, pay dividends. 

Then it happened.

Shook, along with every other high school athlete in Texas was sidelined indefinitely by the University Interscholastic League’s COVID-19 lockdown. By April 17, the lockdown had evolved into an outright cancellation of spring sports across the state as a safety measure, leaving Shook with no opportunity to compete as a high school player ever again. 

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EVAN REN: UIL announcement promising, but are we out of the woods just yet?

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”
— Elbert Hubbard

 In a Tweet released earlier today, the University Interscholastic League announced that it is actively working to allow schools to begin limited summer strength and conditioning and marching band activities on June 8. 

The mere sight of this announcement had me on the verge of challenging my 55-year-old frame to do a cartwheel for which it is ill-prepared to attempt. Because frankly, Texas without high school pigskin is like Texas without oxygen. 

The thought of its absence has been too bitter to contemplate. And in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve allowed myself to go down one rabbit hole after another — trying to discern information from disinformation, and political rhetoric from that which is concrete. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: De Leon softball may have broken new ground in 2020

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

While the De Leon softball program has developed a solid reputation in recent years as one of the Big Country’s consistent winners, the 2020 season may have represented a high-water mark. 

We’ll never know. 

In the wake of the University Interscholastic League’s COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent cancellation of all high school spring sports in the state of Texas, the Lady Cats will be left wondering what heights they may have reached this year for the rest of their lives.

With a talented corps of seniors — Micaela Miller, Kylea DeLaTorre, Coral Sparger and Brooke Stelter — and considerable early-season momentum, De Leon pushed through a difficult early season with a 9-4 overall record and a 2-0 start in District 9-2A. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Ballinger senior saw dreams of state evaporate

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos courtesy of Ballinger ISD

Nearly every high school in America has at least one of them — an athlete with dreams of competing for a district, regional or state title that have come to a grinding halt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ballinger is no different. 

Tucked away in the southwestern corner of the Big Country, some 56 miles south/southwest of Abilene, this quiet community of roughly 3,700 had high hopes for a productive athletic spring. 

Senior track standout Elyssa Korn-Flores was one of the top reasons why. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Stamford’s Price missed his chance at attendance perfection

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Those who follow Big Country high school athletics are likely familiar with the name of Trace Price — first as a Baird High School multi-sport standout. Then, as a starting quarterback and All-Big Country Preps basketball player as a senior at Stamford this school year. 

They will soon know him as a tight end on the Abilene Christian University football team when he suits up for the Wildcats this fall. 

Behind the scenes, however, Price was quietly on course to do something remarkable when the COVID-19 lockdown was implemented in March by the UIL. From pre-kindergarten to the point of the lockdown, he had never missed a single day of school — not one. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Highly productive Cisco spring halted for first-year football coach

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

New Cisco football coach Kevin Stennett.

As if it weren’t tough enough for first-year Cisco football coach Kevin Stennett, he now has to sit patiently, waiting to be given the green light to get his players back into their offseason program. 

Since the COVID-19 lockdown imposed by the University Interscholastic League in March and subsequent cancellation of all spring sporting events announced last month, the man chosen to replace Big Country legend Brent West is stuck with his feet in UIL concrete until further notice. 

As one can imagine, he’s chomping at the bit. 

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EVAN REN: Virus may teach us some appreciation (for a while)

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
— Voltaire 

There’s a barbeque place near my home that I don’t like. In fact, I seldom go there — deliberately bypassing it whenever the BBQ craving hits me in favor of better choices. 

But Friday, after two months of COVID-19 exile, I decided to make a quick run to bring home some brisket for the wife and I and elected to go to the very place I try to avoid because it was convenient. 

Funny how one’s perspective can change while in isolation.

Abilene’s worst barbeque was suddenly good. In fact, it was beyond good. It was like freakin’ nirvana. 

I suspect that’s the way it’s going to be with virtually everything I had taken for granted before the lockdown. And I’m already experiencing some of it.

Continue reading “EVAN REN: Virus may teach us some appreciation (for a while)”

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Price forced to put football and promising spring on back burner

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

For much of his career, 39-year-old Daniel Price had been patiently waiting to get his shot. 

He had long wished to be the man on the headset, manning the sidelines in crucial situations and leading a football program of his very own.

In February, he was given that opportunity when Early ISD named him to replace athletic director and head football coach Blake Sandford, who resigned in December.

All the pieces were in place. All that was needed was to develop a plan and implement it.

Then it happened — a statewide lockdown of all high school spring sports implemented in by the University Interscholastic League in March as a safety measure against the COVID-19 outbreak. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Lady Pirates were prepping for run at state title

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

A year after finishing second at the University Interscholastic League girls Class 1A state golf tournament last year, the Eula Lady Pirates were looking ahead to 2020 with an eye on a possible state championship. 

And with good reason. 

Coach Darren Carson’s team had graduated only one player, its top golfers were coming back and the Lady Pirates were introducing a talented freshman to the team. 

At the time of the COVID-19 lockdown imposed by the UIL last month, Eula had already broken the school record for the lowest team round (345), which made the state tournament record of 351 an inviting target to shoot for. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Cisco, Adams had lofty goals in 2020

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Coming off an 18-6 season that saw them capture the District 6-3A title, the Cisco Loboes and coach Mark Adams had high hopes heading into the 2020 campaign and were equipped to pursue them. 

That is, until the rug was pulled out from under them by the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown and cancellation of all spring sporting events by the University Interscholastic League as a safety measure. 

In the process, four Cisco seniors — Gibson Hearne, Stanley Callahan, Cam Nichols and Dawson White — have seen their high school athletic careers forever placed on a speculative shelf, with no way to confirm the potential many saw in them.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Was this the best Eastland softball team ever? We will never know

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

For four years, Eastland softball coach Tera Davis has been quietly cultivating a powerhouse.

This year was to be the culmination of her hard work, with a roster loaded with talented seniors and one of the top pitchers in the Big Country, coming off a 29-6 season that saw them reach the Region I-3A quarterfinals.

If Eastland softball was ever to go to the state tournament, 2020 in the minds of many, would have represented the best opportunity the Lady Mavericks had seen in decades. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Stamford’s Gutierrez was expected to become Big Country ace

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

At age 15, virtually ever key stat produced by Stamford sophomore pitcher Citlaly Gutierrez exhibits potential. 

While most Division I college pitchers are pegging the radar gun between 64-68 mph, Gutierrez has already topped out at 67 before her third year of high school. While many high school pitchers would be happy to strikeout 382 batters in their varsity career, Gutierrez did it in a single season — as a freshman. And while many coaches would be content to have a pitcher with an ERA under 3.00, Gutierrez charted a 1.51 last season, and was at 0.69 this year before the University Interscholastic League cancelled all spring sports last week due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With a career varsity record of 30-2, Gutierrez was, in the view of many, the top pitching prospect in the Big Country at the time of the shutdown. This season, if all went well, was to be the year every softball fan in the Big Country would learn exactly who she is. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Bartley’s hopes for Buckaroos dashed with final announcement

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Throughout the statewide COVID-19 interscholastic lockdown, Breckenridge baseball coach Kevin Bartley quietly waited and tried to maintain a positive frame of mind. 

It was important for him to do so, in order for him to convince his players to do the exact same thing. 

Then the other shoe dropped. 

With Friday’s announcement by the University Interscholastic League that all spring sports seasons have been cancelled due to the pandemic, Bartley was faced with the fact that what may have been the best Breckenridge baseball team in 30 years would never have the chance to prove it. 

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BREAKING: UIL cancels the remainder of spring sports seasons

The official notice, released by the UIL on Friday: 

With the announcement from Governor Greg Abbott that all Texas schools are to remain closed to in-person learning for the remainder of this school year, and in an effort to help protect the health and safety of Texans, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) is canceling all remaining 2019-2020 spring activities and state championships.

“Our staff had been working hard on plans to resume activities this spring, but without schools in session, interscholastic activities cannot continue,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “Our highest priority during this challenging time is ensuring the health and safety of our students and communities and making progress in the containment of COVID-19 in Texas. We are now turning our attention to the 2020-2021 school year.”

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: C-City, Kern had banner season interrupted

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.

Coming off a freshman season that saw her earn first-team All-Big Country Preps honors, Colorado City’s Mallory Kern was expected to earn a considerable amount of the area spotlight in 2020. 

And she was well on her way to doing it — helping the Lady Wolves to a 12-4 start before the COVID-19 lockdown that saw the University Interscholastic League postpone all sanctioned activities indefinitely. But Kern being unable to showcase her ability is just one of the disappointments for a burgeoning team that is now filled with them. 

That has left coach Kara Leleux in the position of trying to get her club to think positively while her players wait out the frustration with every other athlete in the state. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Hawley was poised for deep playoff run before pandemic

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.

Despite a modest 5-4 nondistrict record, the Hawley baseball team was positioning itself for another serious run at an elusive UIL state tournament berth. That is, until the coronavirus pandemic suspended UIL sports indefinitely.

The Bearcats last year won playoff series against Miles, Ozona and Stamford before falling 2-1 in a regional semifinal series against New Deal. All three games against New Deal were decided by one run. Hawley ended the season with a 23-13-1 record, which is why veteran coach Jamie Seago wasn’t concerned with the Class 2A Bearcats’ 5-4 start this season.

“Every school we had played was bigger than we are. We hadn’t played any other 2A teams yet,” said Seago, Hawley’s eighth-year coach who had seven returning starters for this season. “Our record is never an indicator of what kind of team we have.

“We’re never going to be that team that’s 36-0. It’s not about the wins and losses to us. If we’re playing well at the end of the season, our overall record doesn’t matter.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Jim Ned softballers, new coach felt Lady Indians were turning corner

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.

Aside from winning, first-year Jim Ned softball coach Erica Jones is well known for her over-the-top enthusiasm and her efforts to bring her teams into the same mindset.

Most recently, Jones, who has had successful stints at Clyde and Anson that included deep playoff runs at CHS, seemed on the verge of a breakthrough in Tuscola. That is, before the COVID-19 outbreak forced the UIL to suspend all athletic activity statewide.

She is now sitting things out with every other coach in Texas, hoping to hear that an all-clear has been given, allowing her and her players to return to work. But for Jones, who isn’t bashful about wearing her emotions on her sleeve, talking about the effect the crisis is having on her team brings her to tears.

“Once our basketball players came in, all the pieces to the puzzle were in place,” said Jones, who had guided Jim Ned program to a 10-5 mark at the time of the lockdown. “We weren’t very many games in (to the season) but we were rolling.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Forsan’s Smith was on the verge of breakout season

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.

Photos courtesy of  Jodi Mims 

Tucked away in a quiet corner of West Texas, roughly 14 miles southwest of Big Spring, an unheralded Forsan sophomore was poised to make a splash. 

At age 16, Aubrie Smith remains relatively unknown in Big Country circles. But at the time of the COVID-19 lockdown, her 2.64 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 42 innings were beginning to make a sizable blip on the area radar. 

“This year we were better,” coach Shanna Taylor said. “Our record was 12-3-1 and we were beating some bigger schools. And honestly, Aubrie was one of the top pitchers that I’ve seen this season. 

“It was looking like we were going to have a really good year, so this is extremely frustrating for us on all fronts.” 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: State title-contending Haskell 800 relay team can only hope for the best

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.

With a torrent of scary numbers being reported by the media and rumors running rampant on the internet, Haskell girls track coach Missy Burson is doing her best to keep a positive frame of mind during the COVID-19 lock down. 

She would prefer to see her athletes do the same thing. 

But with 379,965 confirmed cases and 11,851 dead in the United States as of this writing, the challenge of remaining upbeat grows on a daily basis. And nowhere in the Haskell girls track program is there a bigger potential loss than with its 800-meter relay team. 

The Haskell quartet of sophomores Tyreonia Amos and Lanayah Green, along with seniors Kara Stout and Kobie Walker had returned after earning bronze at the state meet a year ago. They were considered a strong threat for a Class 2A state title in 2020 prior to the lockdown, and with good reason. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Freeman, Comanche softball see breakout season halted by virus

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.

Tucked away in their homes in Comanche County, a group of teenagers and their coach are waiting to see if they’ll have the chance to finish something special. 

The Comanche softball team (15-2), off to its best start since its 2015 state semifinalist club, is sidelined with every other program in Texas by the COVID-19 lockdown until further notice. 

The objective in the Comanche camp is to remain positive. But the numbers aren’t making that easy, with 226,374 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide and 5,316 deaths at the time of this writing. 

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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 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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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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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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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. 

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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 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: 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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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Clyde’s Turner takes top spot with two perfectos

In a week that saw a ton of noteworthy performances, Clyde’s Kaitlyn Turner earned the top on our list. 

Aside from a sterling effort at the plate that saw the senior pitcher finish 9 of 15 with three home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs scored, she saved her top efforts for the circle.

There, she charted two perfect games, the first of which occurred in a 14-0 win over Lubbock High on Feb. 28. A day later, she delivered another in a 10-0 win over Brownwood. 

She struck out 23 batters in just 10 innings of work during the no-nos, both of which ended in the run rule. 

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GIRLS BASKETBALL REGIONAL ROUNDUP: Eula tops Saltillo, Gruver stops Stamford

MANSFIELD — The Eula girls outscored Saltillo 11-7 in the first quarter Friday and added to their lead in each of the next two periods to secure a 42-34 win in the Region III-1A semifinals and earn a spot in Saturday’s title game against No. 3 Lipan.

 Coach Jamie Masonheimer’s squad led 19-14 at halftime, before increasing its lead to eight with a 9-6 run through the third quarter.

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned, Brock girls fall in regional (two box scores included)

PLAINVIEW — It wasn’t the Big Country’s night at Wayland Baptist University on Friday as Brock and Jim Ned were both eliminated in the Region I-3A semifinals in the Hutcherson Center. 

The evening opened with Idalou eliminating Brock 44-28, after which Jim Ned fell 47-40 to Shallowater in the nightcap. 

Both area clubs were plagued by cold shooting in the early going and neither recovered. 

Shallowater (34-2) will meet Idalou (32-7) for the regional title Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Hutcherson Center, with the winner advancing to the state tournament.

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FEATURE: Sophomore nucleus helps Haskell reach regional tournament

Landry Hanson (3)

HASKELL — If the Haskell Maidens are to reach the Class 2A state tournament in San Antonio this season, they will do it with a sprinkling of experience and a heavy dose of young talent. 

Only one senior, Landry Hanson (15. 1 points, 6.6 boards per game), is on the roster, while three sophomores — Delaney Hanson, Emma Roewe and Melody Martinez — collectively contribute a large block of the team’s production. 

The Maidens (31-3) will take their youthful act on the road to Levelland Friday night, where they will meet Panhandle (30-5) in the Region I-2A semifinals at South Plains College at 6:30 p.m. 

The winner will take on either Stamford (26-7) or Gruver (30-2) in the regional title game set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Levelland. 

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