Author: Evan Ren

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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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. 

Continue reading “2020 BALLINGER FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Bearcat numbers the best in years”

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: Yeager returns to De Leon as its new offensive coordinator and brings back an old stand-by

DE LEON — He is credited for guiding the De Leon football program to its greatest heights since its glory days under Jack Waggoner and Grady West in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. 

So when former DHS coach David Yeager departed prior to last season to allow him to watch his son, Kevin, play at Incarnate Word University in San Antonio, there was a tangible amount of sadness in the De Leon community. 

Yeager, however, never fully left De Leon, keeping a home there locally. And this year, courtesy of second-year coach Andrew Dickson (a former Yeager player and assistant), the Bearcats’ old mentor will be returning to DHS as its offensive coordinator. His return, however, won’t mean that the Bearcats will be spreading the field and throwing the football as they did during his last four years in De Leon. 

On the contrary, De Leon will be making a subtle shift from the wing-T that Dickson introduced last season, to the slot-T (a close cousin of the wing-T) which Yeager had success with early on at DHS.  For Dickson and Yeager, it’s all about tailoring your offense to best suit the talent you have on hand. 

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2020 DE LEON FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Young Bearcats heading into difficult new district

Second-year De Leon coach Andrew Dickson accepted the challenge of retooling the DHS football program last year in the wake of a massive talent exodus.

Graduation had claimed multiple All-Big Country Preps players in quarterback Kevin Yeager, receiver Chris Cox, linebackers Tony Evans and Bray Tovar and defensive back Eli Gilmore, among others. 

Nonetheless, Dickson led his club to a 4-8 finish under a new wing-T system — overcoming a 1-4 start to push two rounds deep into the playoffs. 

The 2020 season, however, will offer its own set of challenges. The biggest of these will be a serious lack of experience, with only seven lettermen back after 12 seniors were handed their diplomas. 

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FEATURE: Cisco’s Hearne could have a breakout season in 2020

CISCO — He closed the 2019 season with 91 tackles as a 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore linebacker.

Since then, Cisco’s Dawson Hearne has hit a growth spurt that could help him become one of the top small-school juniors in the Big Country.  And not just at linebacker. 

Now standing in at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Hearne will still occupy his middle linebacker spot in the Cisco 4-3 defensive scheme. But he will also see plenty of time at tight end and wide receiver (among other things), creating a very difficult matchup for most Class 2A DI clubs.

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2020 CISCO FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Young Loboes should keep winning tradition alive in Class 2A DI

Tasked with replacing a legend, first-year Cisco coach Kevin Stennett is well-versed in his predecessor, Brent West, for whom he played and served as an assistant. 

So perhaps no one is better prepared to keep the Cisco ship headed in the same direction that West captained to five state championship game appearances and one state title (2013) during his tenure from 2001-2019. 

Stennett admits he may tweak a few things based on personnel in 2020, but the system that saw Cisco post double-digit wins 12 times in 19 seasons is still intact. 

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FEATURE: Thompson, Willeford spearhead Hawley offensive line

HAWLEY — Perhaps no team in the recent history of the Big Country has been more characterized by its offensive line than the 2019 Hawley Bearcats.

While posting a 13-1 record that ended with a trip to the Region I-2A DI title game, the Bearcats pounded out 4,898 combined yards on the ground and 47 points per game. 

All-state running back Colton Marshall rushed for more than 3,000 of those yards while earning AP Offensive Player of the Year for Class 2A. But it was a sizeable offensive line creating a consistent push that made Marshall’s season possible, and the Bearcats’ offensive front didn’t operate in obscurity. 

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2020 HAWLEY FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Bearcats a bit smaller and quicker, but still plenty good

Coach Mitch Ables and his Hawley Bearcats made a living on power football throughout the 2019 season, pushing all the way to the Region I-2A Division I title game and finishing with a program-best 13-1 record. 

The Bearcats, of course, had the tools to do it — an offensive line that averaged 244 pounds across the board, with bruising 210-pound running back Colton Marshall (3,501 yards rushing, 46 TDs) running behind it. 

In 2020, however, Hawley may sport a slightly different look with three of its five starting offensive linemen having graduated, along with Marshall. 

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FEATURE: From the Ukraine to Haskell, Artem Brendle is soaking it all in

HASKELL — He is 6,000 miles, one culture, one language and one sport away from his home in the Ukraine. 

But for 17-year-old Haskell junior Artem Brendle, the wide open spaces and simple living offered by Texas’ Big Country region has him feeling more at home than he ever dreamed.  He’s even playing football, as a reserve linebacker for the Indians and in the process, is providing coach Brian Hodnett and his teammates with anecdotes they will likely keep for a lifetime. 

Moved to a Ukrainian orphanage due to family issues at the age of 10, Artem was adopted by Chad and April Brendle of Midland when he was 15.  A year later, the family moved to Haskell where Artem quickly stood out and became popular — earning the nickname of “Drago” (of Rocky IV fame) from his schoolmates due his Ukrainian accent.  

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2020 HASKELL FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Indians still young, but have good numbers

There is reason for optimism in Haskell these days, largely because of numbers — eight returning starters on both sides of the ball among 18 lettermen and an expected roster size of 25 players. 

That’s a solid prospectus at the Class 2A level, which leaves fourth-year coach Brian Hodnett hoping for improvement over last year’s 3-8 mark — despite being moved up a division by realignment. 

Heading into 2020, the Indians find themselves in District 3-2A DI, with Hawley, Colorado City, Forsan, Anson and Stamford — a challenging league with two teams (C-City and Anson) that have both been moved down from 3A DII. 

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FEATURE: Don’t tell Anson coach Chris Hagler that the drop to Class 2A DI will make things easier

ANSON — As a general rule of thumb, things get easier when you move down a class following realignment. But with every rule, there are exceptions. 

In the case of the Anson Tigers, a drop to Class 2A DI from Class 3A DII doesn’t mean a lighter district load — at least not in 2020. On the contrary, the Tigers’ new digs are about as difficult as one can expect in class 2A. And when one expands it to an overall regional view, the road to Arlington from Region I-2A DI is exceptionally difficult. 

“There’s a lot of similarities,” coach Chris Hagler said when asked to compare District 3-2A DI with his former league, District 4-3A DII. “I don’t know if they’re too different as far as competition.”

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2020 ANSON FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Youthful Tigers searching for an identity

It has been a while since Anson football coach Chris Hagler had to cultivate a new group of quarterbacks and make a decision on who gets the starting job. 

For the last four years, his son Drew (now at West Texas A&M) started behind center, helping the Tigers to four straight playoff appearances in that span. 

Heading into 2020, the Tigers have a modest 11 of 22 starting jobs occupied by returning starters with 14 lettermen from last year’s 7-4 club.

With Drew’s graduation, however, the Tigers have a rather large void to fill — one that has produced 5,971 yards passing and 3,484 yards rushing over the last four seasons.

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FEATURE: Hico’s Cooper Roach expected to make huge impact following knee surgery

HICO — Through the final eight games of 2019, Hico running back-linebacker Cooper Roach was stuck on the sidelines with an injured knee, watching his shorthanded teammates struggle through what was left of an 0-10 season.

Lost for the season in Week 2 against area rival Hamilton, Roach had injured his MCL and meniscus, forcing him into surgery and months of arduous rehabilitation. 

His injury was doubly crippling for the Tigers, who not only lost one of their top offensive weapons, but one of their best tacklers as well — effectively costing them two key players instead of one. 

The 16-year-old was hoping to be a major contributor last year, but never got the opportunity. He now enters his third varsity season with hopes of making up for lost time and helping the Tigers to snag their first playoff spot since 2017.

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2020 HICO FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Tigers believe they can take a step forward

The 2019 campaign was a difficult one for the Hico Tigers, who labored through an 0-10 record short on overall numbers and short on experience.

However, there are multiple reasons to believe HHS can take a step forward this fall, not the least of which was realignment, which dropped the Tigers to District 8-2A DII for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Numerically things are looking up as well, as long as the Tigers are fortunate enough to avoid the medical tent. 

Coach Randy Thornton has 11 of 22 positions occupied by returning starters, with 12 lettermen back from his 2019 club. This includes some capable skill people in running backs Jaydon Qualls and Reese Polk (5-10, 155), along with receiver Angel Gonzales (5-8, 145). 

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FEATURE: Albany’s Faith, the dean of Big Country coaches, looked at COVID crisis as his biggest challenge

ALBANY — With the retirement of Wylie’s Hugh Sandifer during the offseason, Albany’s Denney Faith became the dean of Big Country football coaches, with 33 years, 307 victories, 16 district titles and four trips to state championship games on his résumé. 

There are very few challenges he hasn’t seen during his storied career and been able to overcome. Yet a virus from far-off China known as COVID-19 has proven to be the single most perplexing hurdle he has faced in more than three decades of coaching.

“It is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that’s invisible,” Faith said. “As a coach, you can see all the other stuff. You can see your opponent, you have to deal with the weather and while they may be tough to deal with, you can see all of it coming. 

“But (COVID) was out of the blue and it’s an invisible opponent. You really don’t know how to handle it. … As far as I know, to this extent, (we’ve) never had to face a challenge like this. So this was new for everybody.”  

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2020 ALBANY FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Lions could resemble Albany teams of old in 2020

With its successful transition to more of a spread look in recent years, the Albany football team and coach Denny Faith haven proven adaptable in the face of changing personnel.

The Lions were smaller and quicker, so Faith did what he felt was necessary: shelving his traditional I-formation in favor of shotgun sets with multiple wide receivers.

All along, however, the base offense at Albany has remained the “I” — a formation Faith had steadily won with for more than two decades. And in 2020, you may see the Lions utilize their old standby as personnel changes have evolved in a different direction.

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FEATURE: Hamlin tough guy Ethan Byerly one of the keys to Pipers’ success in 2020

HAMLIN — There is an undercurrent of older football fans who think the modern game has lost some of its edge. 

Today’s game, they say, with its high-tech spread offenses has taken some of the physicality away from football, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. And today’s players simply aren’t required to be as tough as those who played 30 or 40 years ago. 

Hamlin senior defensive lineman Ethan Byerly is a walking contradiction to that argument — a player so tough, so eager to play the game and create contact, that he often doesn’t even realize he’s injured. 

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2020 HAMLIN FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Can the Pipers overcome key losses for a return to Arlington?

The 2019 campaign was nothing short of a dream season for the Pied Pipers, who closed with a 12-3 record and trip to AT&T Stadium in Arlington where they fell in the Class 2A Division II state title game to Mart. 

It was, by all accounts, the best season in Hamlin history. 

The question heading into 2020 is, can the Pied Pipers duplicate that success? According to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine, they can — earning a No. 2 preseason ranking by that publication. 

In our view, however, there are two key question marks that must be answered before the Pied Pipers can pack their bags for Jerry World. 

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COUNTDOWN TO TWO-A-DAYS: Brownwood Lions

Football is fast approaching, and we at BigCountryPreps.com are committed to bringing you the information you need to prepare for your favorite team’s season.

We’ll be releasing our Big Country Preps Preseason Football Preview, the most comprehensive look at the upcoming Big Country football season anywhere, on Friday, Aug. 14. But you won’t have to wait until then to sate your gridiron appetite.

Leading up to the first day of fall football practice on Aug. 3, we’ll be spotlighting each 11-man team in the area and posing some of the key questions they’ll face in 2019 as part of our “Countdown to Two-a-Days” series.

After featuring Big Spring on Wednesday, we move to District 5-4A Division I with the Brownwood Lions. On Friday, we will take a look at the Stephenville Yellow Jackets followed by the Wylie Bulldogs Jackets on Saturday.

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COUNTDOWN TO TWO-A-DAYS: Big Spring Steers

Football is fast approaching, and we at BigCountryPreps.com are committed to bringing you the information you need to prepare for your favorite team’s season.

We’ll be releasing our Big Country Preps Preseason Football Preview, the most comprehensive look at the upcoming Big Country football season anywhere, on Friday, Aug. 14. But you won’t have to wait until then to sate your gridiron appetite.

Leading up to the first day of fall football practice on Aug. 3, we’ll be spotlighting each 11-man team in the area and posing some of the key questions they’ll face in 2019 as part of our “Countdown to Two-a-Days” series.

After featuring Snyder on Tuesday, we move to District 2-4A Division I with the Big Spring Steers. On Thursday, we will take a look at the Brownwood Lions followed by the Stephenville Yellow Jackets on Friday.

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COUNTDOWN TO TWO-A-DAYS: Sweetwater Mustangs

Football is fast approaching, and we at BigCountryPreps.com are committed to bringing you the information you need to prepare for your favorite team’s season.

We’ll be releasing our Big Country Preps Preseason Football Preview, the most comprehensive look at the upcoming Big Country football season anywhere, on Friday, Aug. 14. But you won’t have to wait until then to sate your gridiron appetite.

Leading up to the first day of fall football practice on Aug. 3, we’ll be spotlighting each 11-man team in the area and posing some of the key questions they’ll face in 2019 as part of our “Countdown to Two-a-Days” series.

After featuring Snyder on Monday, we stay in District 1-4A Division II with the Sweetwater Mustangs. On Wednesday, we will take a look at the Big Spring Steers followed by the Brownwood Lions on Thursday.

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