Author: Mike Lee, Special to Big Country Preps

FEATURE: Cross Plains qualifies six relays for state – again

Photos courtesy of Cross Plains High School 

The Cross Plains boys’ and girls’ track teams have qualified all six of their relay teams for the Class 1A UIL State Track and Field Meet at Austin on Saturday. The Buffaloes and Lady Buffs accomplished the same feat last year, but they have received more recognition this year since they won all six relays at regional.

The relays’ sweep helped the Buffaloes and Lady Buffs both win Region II-1A team championships April 29-30 in San Angelo.

Last year at state, the Cross Plains boys finished second in the 400-meter relay, third in the 800-meter relay and fifth in the 1600-meter relay. The girls won the 400 relay, ran second in the 800 relay and finished fifth in the 1600 relay.

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FEATURE: Aspermont softball makes successful return after 13-year hiatus

By Mike Lee, special to Big Country Preps 
Photos by Mark Martinez of the Double Mountain Chronicle

Back in February, Aspermont High School hadn’t fielded a softball team in 13 years. The Lady Hornets’ coach was going to be the ag teacher, and she was finishing up a maternity leave of absence.

But here we are in May, and the Lady Hornets are 9-2 with a playoff win to their credit as they face Van Horn in the Class 1A regional quarterfinals Thursday afternoon in Odessa. The Aspermont-Van Horn winner will advance to play the Eula-Marfa winner in the regional semifinals.

About 20-25 Aspermont girls signed a petition to restart softball in 2022, and it was approved by the superintendent and school board. Kelsey Myers, the school’s third-year agricultural teacher and FFA sponsor, agreed to coach the team.

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FEATURE: Merkel’s Holloway finds home in 400 and helping relays

Photos courtesy of Rachael Holloway 

It became obvious after her sophomore track season in 2021 that Avery Holloway needed to find another individual event to replace the 100-meter hurdles.

“She was solid in the 100 hurdles, but she wasn’t going to get to state,” Merkel girls’ track coach Tracy Damiano said. “We needed to find her another individual event. She’s the ultimate team player and has always run on whatever relays we needed her to run. She always ran well in the 4×400 relay, so we tried her in the open 400.

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FEATURE: Sprinters lead Breck boys’ track to first district title in 22 years

Photos courtesy of Breckenridge boys’ track coach Mark Young

It’s not unusual for one sprinter to lead the area in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Breckenridge has two such sprinters in juniors Sean Cooksey and Adrian Ruiz.

Cooksey leads the Big Country in the 100 with his fastest time of 10.75 seconds. Ruiz leads the Big Country in the 200 with his 22.38.

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FEATURE: Stephenville’s Tori Cameron loves soccer, but she’s a state champion sprinter

Photos by Stephenville girls’ track coach Jeremiah Butchee

Victoria (Tori) Cameron is a soccer player blessed with sprinter’s speed for track and field.

The Stephenville High School junior just completed the 2022 soccer season as a forward for the Honeybees, who finished 21-1-2 after a 1-0 loss to Midlothian Heritage on Friday in the Class 4A regional semifinals. It was Stephenville only loss all season. The Honeybees were ranked fifth in the state and allowed only five goals all season.

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FEATURE: Snyder’s 1600 Relay … No stars. No depth. Just determination.

Photo by Snyder boys’ track coach Desmond Ayala.

 The Snyder boys’ Big Country-leading 1600-meter relay suffered its first loss Saturday in five track meets this spring, finishing second to Lubbock Coronado’s 3:23 at the Lubbock Invitational. But veteran track coach Desmond Ayala accomplished a key goal with the Tigers’ runner-up finish in 3 minutes, 26.27 seconds.

“We wanted to run against some tough competition that would push us,” Ayala said of his Class 4A Tigers. “We had to run for our lives today. We were in fourth place at one point. Jeremiah Rodriguez (the third leg) got us back in the race. Then on the anchor leg, Jay Castillo got hit on his heel and stumbled and almost fell.

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FEATURE: An Unusual Mix — Senior-laden Eagles are led by a freshman

The Goldthwaite boys’ basketball team lists seven seniors on its roster, yet the Eagles’ leading scorer is freshman Luke Sanderson.

A 5-foot-10 guard, Sanderson leads Goldthwaite in scoring at 16.6 points per game, assists at 2.9 per game, steals at 2.1 per game, and free-throw shooting at 74 percent. He also ranks second on the team in rebounds at 6.1 per game and in field goal shooting at 48 percent.

This on a playoff-bound team that has seven seniors in guards Jackson Patrick, Seth Gardner and Saul Vaquera; forwards Cason Guthrie, Bryson Keel and Cole Hermesmeyer; and center Kody Roberts.

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FEATURE: Early’s 6-5 Vic Cooper learns to deal with collapsing defenses

Photos by Mike Jones of MJ Photography and Shayla Kirby

Early High School’s Vic Cooper was a good basketball player last season, when he averaged 16.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game as a junior. But second-year Early coach Eric Davis said Cooper is even better this season as a senior.

“The biggest improvements are in his strength and toughness,” Davis said of the 6-foot-5, 195-pound Cooper. “He’s also improved his ball-handling skills, shooting touch and court vision to make himself a more versatile player. He’s not as raw as he was last year, and he was pretty good last year.”

Another big difference in Cooper this season is his handling of opposing defenses that collapse on him in the paint.

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GAME STORY: Goldthwaite girls see their season end in 38-34 loss to Three Rivers

DRIPPING SPRINGS – The Three Rivers Lady Bulldogs rallied from a nine-point deficit in the third quarter and beat the Goldthwaite Lady Eagles 38-34 Thursday night in a Class 2A girls’ area playoff basketball game.

Guard Andrea Valdez made a 3-point shot that gave Three Rivers a 36-34 lead with 34 seconds left to play. After a Goldthwaite turnover, Three Rivers missed two free throws, but Amie Valdez grabbed the rebound. The Lady Eagles were forced to foul, and Mayah Brogdon made two free throws that extended the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to 38-34 with 18 seconds left.

Three Rivers (26-8) advanced to play the winner of Friday’s Mason-Port Aransas game. Goldthwaite (22-13) finished fourth in District 29-2A this season and was hoping for a rematch with Mason in the regional quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.

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FEATURE: San Saba’s Mejia plays multiple sports, but loves basketball

Reagan Mejia participates in football, basketball, baseball, golf and tennis for Class 2A San Saba High School. But the Armadillos’ senior loves basketball.

“He has such a high basketball IQ because he loves the game,” San Saba boys’ coach Mark Kyle said of the 5-foot-10 guard. “He loves competing in all those sports, but he’s special in basketball. You don’t see many football players that are gym rats like he is. It’s not a burden for him to take 300 extra shots a day. He loves it.”

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FEATURE: At 25 points and 9 rebounds per game, Hico’s Booth drawing flattering comparisons

HICO — As Grace Booth nears the halfway point of her high school basketball career, the Hico sophomore can’t help but draw comparisons to Marissa Warren, the previous Lady Tigers’ star player.

“Oh yeah, you can compare them. They’re actually very similar,” longtime Hico girls’ coach Brad Stegall said. “Grace is a little stronger, especially going to the basket and rebounding. Marissa was a little better ball handler. They both can take over a game if they need to.”

Warren, who played at 5-foot-8, was a two-time all-state point guard and three-time district MVP. Anybody objective fan from an opposing town or school that saw Warren play knew she was hands-down the best player in the district from 2016-2018.

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FEATURE: Parker’s faster tempo agreeing with 18-7 Lions so far

The Brownwood Lions’ basketball team has hit to court running – literally – this season under new head coach Will Parker.

Brownwood is 18-7 overall and 2-0 in District 6-4A after league wins over Gatesville, 91-66 on Tuesday, and at Stephenville, 67-59 on Friday. This week the road gets tougher as Brownwood plays at Tuesday at Glen Rose (17-5, 1-1) and hosts Lampasas (19-10, 2-0) on Friday.

“It should be a dog fight for the playoff seedings,” Parker said of the District 6-4A race. “We had a good battle with Stephenville and beat them by eight points. Gatesville beat Stephenville by two, and Lampasas beat Glen Rose by three.

“Our game at Stephenville was physical and loud. It was a rivalry game, and they had a big crowd. Our seniors stepped up. We knew we had to outrebound them to limit their second-chance points, and we outrebounded them 49-44. And we two fewer turnovers than they had.”

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FEATURE: Brownwood’s Goodwin prefers team wins over individual stats

Tessa Goodwin’s individual statistics aren’t as impressive as last season when the Brownwood forward made all-state, but the Class 4A Lady Lions are enjoying a better season and are in line to return to the playoffs.

And that’s just fine with Goodwin.

“I realized this year that other teams were going to have two or three players doubling up on me inside,” the 5-foot-10 senior said. “We’ve got some veteran 3-point shooters this year like Mady Pyle and Kassidy Wooten and Naysa Leach. If their doubling up on me, our 3-point shooters are open. That’s less of a hassle for me, and it helps the team.”

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GAME STORY: Goldthwaite boys remain undefeated in District 29-2A

GOLDTHWAITE — The Goldthwaite Eagles can’t be labeled as offensively challenged as long as they keep shooting 3-point shots the way they did this week.

Goldthwaite beat the Harper Longhorns 61-33 in District 29-2A Friday night, and for the second game in a row, the Eagles made 12 3-point shots. On Friday, senior guard Jackson Patrick made five 3-pointers – every field goal he made was a trey – and freshman guard Luke Sanderson added four 3-point shots. Brothers Collin and Seth Gardner combined to make the other three treys.

Patrick and Sanderson each scored 18 points as Goldthwaite (12-10 overall) improved to 4-0 in district and set up a showdown Tuesday against San Saba (12-7, 4-0) for the 29-2A lead. San Saba is the two-time defending district champion, and Goldthwaite finished second last year.

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FEATURE: Hermleigh adjusts to changes, posts 10-0 regular-season record

Photos by Sasha Duck, Hermleigh school photographer

Sam Winters is in the first season of his second stint as Hermleigh’s head coach.

The Hermleigh Cardinals completed a 10-0 regular season Oct. 29 by beating preseason favorite Ira 66-48 for the District 7-1A Division I football championship. With a bye Nov. 5, the Cardinals could sit back and soak up the spoils of victory.

Or maybe not.

“It was like ‘Congratulations, you’re the district champions. As a reward, you get to play the state champions in bidistrict,’ ” Hermleigh head coach Sam Winters said.

Sterling City won the Class 1A Division I state championship last year. But the Eagles were upset by Westbrook this year and finished second in District 8-1A DI, creating the bidistrict matchup with Hermleigh. It’s a rematch of last year’s bidistrict game won 61-12 by Sterling City.

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FEATURE: Wall volleyball aiming to win district, get beyond area round of playoffs

Photos by Kristie Williams

The Wall Lady Hawks volleyball team has made the playoffs in all six seasons with Robynn Jones as head coach. But like with most successful sports teams, the Lady Hawks want more.

They are seeking to beat Clyde for the District 6-3A championship and advance beyond the area round of the Class 2A playoffs.

“Every year since Clyde has been in our district, we hadn’t beaten them until this year,” Jones said Tuesday. “We beat them earlier this year in a tournament, and we stole one from them in district. We actually split (two matches) in district.”

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FEATURE: Clyde lineman beats cancer, returns to play football

Portrait and hospital photo by Brad Schowengerdt.  Game photos by Toni Brockway.

Wes Schowengerdt

The Clyde Bulldogs have lost seven of eight games as they finish a tough rebuilding football season. But the Bulldogs also have witnessed an inspiring miracle with the return of Wes Schowengerdt.

The senior offensive tackle has returned to play in Clyde’s last two games, including the Bulldogs’ only win against San Angelo TLCA. He returned after a 10-month battle with cancer, including seven months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He also was diagnosed with COVID during the middle of treatments, leading Schowengerdt to spend a month in the hospital at one point.

The 230-pound offensive tackle weighs about 50 pounds less than before all the treatments, but No. 56 just wanted a chance to finish what he started.

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FEATURE: De Leon volleyball poised for another playoff run after slow start

Photos courtesy of Tayla Rainwater and Rob Mendez

Team photo by De Leon student Tayla Rainwater.

A 6-7 start by the De Leon volleyball team was somewhat understandable despite last year’s unprecedented run to the Class 2A regional semifinals in what was the Lady Cats’ best season on record.

“We lost three really good seniors off last year’s team, so we had some big shoes to fill,” fourth-year De Leon head coach Kinsey Garcia said Tuesday. “Plus we were fitting in a talented newcomer to the team (in sophomore Genesis Mendez). We didn’t play any tournaments last year because of COVID, so we had to get used to playing multiple matches in a day.”

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FOLLOW UP: Wolves end 26-game skid with ‘crazy, nutty’ finish

Game photos courtesy of Joel Ashby, Amy Raschke and Carrie Gutierrez. 

Dan Gainey

Dan Gainey had to collect his thoughts when asked the feeling at the end of the Colorado City Wolves at Haskell Indians football game Friday at Haskell.

“There are a lot of adjectives to describe it – crazy, nutty. Some things just don’t make any sense at all,” said Gainey, ninth-year head coach at Colorado City.

The finish — which involved two interceptions, a safety, the return of a squib kick for a touchdown and two attempts at the winning extra point – was unbelievable enough. But consider also that Colorado City’s 28-27 win over Haskell ended the Wolves’ 26-game losing streak that dated to 2018.

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FEATURE: Comanche senior Carr learns role of the busy libero

Portrait by Sutherland Photography of Goldthwaite. Action photos by Santos Gomez. 

The role of libero requires a mentally tough leader determined to get to every ball to flip the game from defense to offense with the dig, pass, set and kill sequence for her volleyball team.

When Comanche needed a new starting libero this season, senior Makenna Carr was a natural choice.

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FEATURE: Rasberry emerges as dangerous weapon in loaded Dublin passing game

The Dublin Lions have four players with more than 300 yards receiving halfway through the regular season, with junior Dalan Rasberry emerging as the receptions leader.

Rasberry has a team-high 24 receptions for 353 yards and three touchdowns as Dublin (4-1) prepares for its District 5-3A Division II opener Friday at Comanche. The Lions’ stable of receivers also includes Tyler Harrell, who has 18 catches for 325 yards and two TDs; Christian Ramirez (17-375-5) and Cooper Hubble (9-323-5).

All four Dublin receivers are ranked in the top 10 of the bigcountrypreps.com leaders.

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FEATURE: ACS junior Beard recovers from knee surgery to play on both rows

Photos courtesy of Kelsey Aycock of Copper and Pearl Photo & Video

Despite a season-ending ACL knee injury last year, Campbell Beard become an inspiration as the 2020 Abilene Christian School volleyball team advanced to the TAPPS Class 2A regional final.

“I was set to help the team try to get to state, but that wasn’t part of the plan,” Beard said of 2020. “So I wanted to be there for my teammates. It was hard at times to put a smile on my face, but it allowed me to see a different perspective as a cheerleader and encourager for the team.”

ACS coach Arnett McClure said, “I can’t imagine how depressing it was for Campbell, but she was at every practice and game yelling for the team, talking to the players and picking people up.

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FEATURE: Breck libero Thompson an ace at keeping the ball alive

Photos courtesy of Calvin Best, Breckenridge ISD

Haigan Thompson’s Big Country-leading 10.9 digs per set begins with studying video of opponents with first-year Breckenridge coach Paula Taylor.

“The very first thing is we try to study our opponents’ tendencies – especially where they like to hit the ball and where certain players like to hit the ball,” Taylor said Monday. “We talk to our assistant coaches during the matches about where they’re hitting the ball, and we listen to Haigan about what spots they’re hitting to.”

Thompson, a 5-foot-4 junior libero, also reads and reacts based on keys from the opponents’ hitters during matches.

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FEATURE: Anderson is Brownwood’s latest bell-cow running back

Konlyn Anderson has exceeded expectations through four games this season as Brownwood’s latest bell-cow running back, a crucial role in Lions head coach Sammy Burnett’s run-first offensive scheme.

“I honestly believe that if we can move the ball on the ground, we can control the clock and control the opponents’ possessions,” Burnett said Saturday. “If we can run, that opens up our RPOs (run-pass options), our play-action passes and our vertical passing game.”

Burnett’s belief in the running game comes from his football roots. He played the 1985 season at Brownwood for legendary coach Gordon Wood and the 1986 and 1987 seasons for Randy Allen, two of the four winningest coaches in Texas high school football history. Both Wood and Allen utilized the run-first Wing-T offense.

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FEATURE: Talented Potts lifts up Sweetwater volleyball team

Portrait by Brandi Dent Photography in Sweetwater.  Action photo by Will McClure

There’s no denying the impact of versatile senior Jazzane Potts on the Sweetwater volleyball team. The Lady Mustangs opened this season 1-12 while Potts was undergoing treatment on both her knees, but Sweetwater is 6-5 since her return.

Sweetwater (7-17) had won five consecutive matches entering Tuesday’s nondistrict match at Wall.

“We were sending her to three different doctors,” third-year Sweetwater coach Mitzi Bell said Monday. “We kept asking Jazzane, ‘Are you cleared yet? Are you cleared yet?’”

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FEATURE: Cisco star Hearne doesn’t mind doing the dirty work.

There was no doubt what play Cisco football coach Kevin Stennett wanted to call when he made the decision to go for two extra points while trailing Breckenridge 27-26 in overtime last Friday night.

“I wanted my quarterback, Hunter Long, to carry the ball, and I wanted him to run behind (tight end) Dawson Hearne,” Stennett said. “We even moved Dawson from one side of the formation to the other side so Hunter could follow him. Those are two people I trust. That’s the best I can do to get in the end zone right there.”

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GOLDTHWAITE FEATURE: Eagles’ Patrick has enjoyed success, but wants more wins in football

GOLDTHWAITE — Jackson Patrick has played on a state championship golf team and a state runner-up golf team. He has qualified for state in track and field in the pole vault. He has been the best 3-point shooter on a playoff basketball team.

But there’s one glaring omission from the athletic resume of the Goldthwaite High School senior: a winning season in football.

Patrick has started for the Eagles in football since he was a freshman, when he was leading the team in receiving, scoring, and tackles before his season was cut short because of a broken leg. Goldthwaite finished 1-9.

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2021 GOLDTHWAITE PREVIEW: Timing may be right for Virdell’s third season

GOLDTHWAITE — The timing may be right for the Goldthwaite Eagles to end their longest losing skid in 45 years.

Third years are often when circumstances improve for new coaches tasked with rebuilding football programs. Third-year Goldthwaite head coach Keith Virdell just completed his first full offseason with his players, and he has 12 seniors that won back-to-back district championships in middle school but have struggled so far in high school.

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FEATURE: Hawley baseball: From 2-13 to the regional quarterfinals

Photos courtesy of Taylor Seago

The rebuilding Hawley Bearcats were 2-13 in nondistrict baseball games this season. A 5-5 record in District 8-2A, combined with a lost coin flip with Stamford, left Hawley as a No. 4 seed entering the Class 2A playoffs.

But since the postseason began, Hawley has won four of five games, including a two-game sweep of state-ranked De Leon and a marathon three-game series with Eldorado.

So as Hawley (11-19) prepares for its 2A regional quarterfinals best-of-three series against Albany, the answer everyone wants to know is: What happened to the Bearcats once the playoffs began?

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FEATURE: Goldthwaite’s Bartek is not a typical three-sport state qualifier

Photos by Brandon Bartek and Ashley Spradley 

If one high school has one male that qualified for state in three different sports — all within the same academic year — most people would expect the guy to be 6 feet and 180 pounds.

Meet Goldthwaite sophomore Connor Bartek, a state qualifier in cross country last fall, plus track and golf this spring. He stands 5 feet tall and weighs just under 100 pounds. In cross country last fall, Bartek qualified for state for the second consecutive year and finished 11th individually in Class 2A.

In track, Bartek finished fourth in the 2A 3,200 meters Friday, May 7, and his time of 10 minutes, 12.77 seconds broke a 35-year-old Goldthwaite school record.

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GAME STORY: Hawley softball cools Miles’ win streak and hot bats

Photos by Seth LaRue 

BROWNWOOD — Saturday’s Class 2A softball area playoff game between Hawley and Miles seemed more like two games. There was the first inning, which Hawley fell behind 3-0. Then there was the rest of the game, which the Lady Cats dominated with a dozen unanswered runs.

The Hawley Lady Cats completed a best-of-three series sweep of the Miles Lady Bulldogs with Saturday’s 12-3 decision as freshman pitcher ShayLynn Bailey settled down after a rough first inning and finished with a complete-game four-hitter.

Hawley (12-4) advanced to play the Anson-McCamey winner in next week’s regional quarterfinals. If it’s Anson, Hawley squeezed out a pair of one-run wins during their District 7-2A games earlier this season.

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FEATURE: Wylie’s Aguilar perseveres through injuries to break vaulting records

Two-plus years of effectively handling adversity and injuries paid off in a big way for Wylie senior Kylor Aguilar at the recent Region I-5A track and field meet.

Completely healthy for the first time since his freshman season in 2018, Aguilar cleared 16 feet, 3 inches on April 23 in Lubbock. His vault broke the Region I-5A meet record, the Wylie school record and Aguilar’s personal record.

“To be honest, no, I didn’t sense something like that was going to happen,” Aguilar said of his record-setting day. “There was supposed to be some bad crosswinds, so going in, I was just trying to qualify for state.”

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FEATURE: Dublin coaches forget about Kevin Patton’s hip disease because he never mentions it

Dublin freshman Kevin Patton handles his hip disease so discreetly, his coaches sometimes forget about it.

“I knew about it, but until you asked me about it, I had completely forgotten about it,” said Scott Mitchell, the Dublin Lions’ second-year baseball coach. “His hip issue has not hindered him as an athlete. He’s a competitor. He’s a starter on our baseball team as a freshman.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Kevin doing whatever he wants to do.”

Patton began this baseball season on the Dublin JV, but was quickly called up to the varsity. Over the last half of the regular season, he has started at second base for the young, rebuilding Lions, who were 6-19 overall and 2-10 in District 8-3A through last week’s games.

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FEATURE: Hitting machine Arellano changes positions again — this time to pitcher and third base

Photos by Calvin Best, Breckenridge ISD journalism teacher.

Taking on a new role this season is nothing new for Jonas Arellano. The Breckenridge senior has played almost every position a baseball player can during his high school career.

After playing on Breckenridge teams loaded with upperclassmen the last two years, Arellano is now the Buckaroos’ most experienced player and one of just three seniors in 2021.

“We lost 11 seniors last year, so we basically called up our 2020 JV to start this season,” third-year Breckenridge coach Kevin Bartley said. “Jonas is our heart and soul. He was a part of our 31-4 team in 2019 that made the regional semifinals. He’s our only player with deep playoff experience. He understands team chemistry and keeps everybody moving in the right direction.”

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FEATURE: May’s Reese Chambers seeking return to state in sprints

The present and the future will intersect this week for Reese Chambers.

The May senior will compete in the sprint races at the Region II-1A track and field meet at San Angelo. This is the week in which Chambers can qualify for next month’s UIL state meet after finishing fifth in the 100 meters and ninth as a member of the 400-meter relay at state as a sophomore in 2019.

The top two finishers in each event at regional guarantee themselves a spot in the UIL Class 1A state meet on May 8 in Austin.

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FEATURE: De Leon left-hander Lane Powledge is throwing smoke again

Photos by Melissa Sones

Lane Powledge’s elbow issues of 2020 were left in 2020.

Through last week’s baseball games, the De Leon senior left-handed pitcher was 5-1 with a 1.75 earned run average. He also is the Big Country leader with 71 strikeouts in 28 innings.

“This year he’s off to an all-state start,” De Leon head coach Ricky Barrett said. “We’re a different team when he’s on the mound. He’s pitching lights out. He’s ready to go all the time.”

After going 9-2 with a 1.15 ERA as a sophomore in 2019, Powledge was just starting his pitching comeback from an elbow injury in mid-March last year. He threw 42 strikes in 48 pitches in his first appearance of 2020, and followed with a five-inning one-hitter to beat Santo.

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FEATURE: With focus solely on track, Brock’s Torrye Tyler now a threat in the 800 and 400

Photos by Tommy Hays Photography in Brock

Eleventh-year Brock girls’ track coach Keith Shoush always wanted to see what Torrye Tyler could do in the 800 meters.

“Torrye was a Division I recruit in basketball, and the team was always making a deep run in the playoffs,” Shoush said. “I never had her for longer than spring break to the district meet as far as choosing events. We didn’t try the 800 because we didn’t have time to get her in shape for it.”

Until this year.

Tyler, a senior, made a tough decision to stop playing basketball and focus solely on track. With more time to train, Tyler leads the Big Country in all classifications in the 800 meters with a best time of 2 minutes, 19.75 seconds.

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FEATURE: Albany’s Chapman on track despite loss of 2020 season

Photos courtesy of Albany High School student Elia Hebel

No 2020 track and field season. No problem in 2021 for Albany sophomore Cole Chapman.

Some athletes feel like they lost a year’s development after COVID-19 prematurely shut down the 2020 spring sports season. But Chapman appears to be on schedule. His top triple jump mark of 43 feet, 7 inches led the Big Country through last week’s track meets, and his best of 21-7 in the long jump ranked No. 2.

He contributes a lot of his success this spring to working on Saturdays with Albany assistant coach Ryder Peacock, a former state champion high jumper from Woodson who also competed collegiately.

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FEATURE: Second-ranked Jim Ned loaded with pitching

Choose the best answer to complete the following statement:

The undefeated and No. 2-ranked Jim Ned Indians possess so much pitching depth this season that

  1. two of their starters have pitched perfect games while another has pitched a no-hitter.
  2. they actually enjoyed the tournament season, when most teams exhaust their pitching depth.
  3. third-year coach Ryan Lewis said, “Some of our pitchers don’t have as many innings as they’d like because there’s only one mound.”
  4. all of the above.
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FEATURE: Wall’s Tate Williams set tone for final track season with record day

Wall senior Tate Williams had been eyeing the school record in the shot put since his freshman year. So when the time finally came earlier this spring, he didn’t just break the 52-year-old mark, he surpassed it three times in one day.

The record-setting day came Feb. 25 in a dual meet with Christoval. Just out of basketball season, Williams had practiced throwing the shot put for only two days before breaking the school record of 55 feet, 1¼ inches set in 1969 by Glen Dierschke.

Williams’ second throw of the day was 55-1½, surpassing Dierschke’s record by one-fourth of an inch. Williams’ third throw was 55-6½, improving his brand new school record. His fourth throw was 57-8½, establishing a new Wall record by more than 2 feet.

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FEATURE: New coach, new team, new challenges for Abilene High volleyball

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.”

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FEATURE: Wylie volleyball rebounds from COVID-19 quarantine

Photos courtesy of Kerr Broadstreet, WylieSports.com

A 5-1 start hardly tells the story of the Wylie volleyball season so far.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, less than an hour before Wylie was scheduled to host Wichita Falls Rider and Midland High in a nondistrict dual match, the Lady Bulldogs were informed they had to be quarantined until further notice because of a positive COVID-19 test of two staff members within the program.

The Wylie varsity and two JV teams were exposed to the positive testers during a bus trip to play at Aledo on Sept. 19.

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FEATURE: Bluekatts, Allen grow into district leaders in three years

Photos courtesy of ColemanToday.com

Abbi Allen laughs when asked about her initial motivation for joining the fledgling Coleman High School volleyball program three years ago. After all, she had played basketball since age 7 and already was an accomplished player. Why try a new sport you’ve never played?

“If you want to know the truth, if you don’t play volleyball at Coleman in the fall, you have to run cross country. And cross country just isn’t my cup of tea,” said Allen, now a third-year starter for the Coleman Bluekatts volleyball team.

“I always thought volleyball could be fun, and it has been. So that made it like a double bonus.”

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FEATURE: From a novice to a natural: Clyde’s Underwood never comes off the volleyball court

Photos by Stan West, Rachel Laughlin and Toni Brockway

Liz Underwood was focused on basketball as a sixth-grader at Clyde. That is, until new Clyde High School volleyball coach Laura Carr asked her to join a traveling club team.

“She wanted to play on a traveling volleyball team with girls in the grade above me,” Underwood said. “She said she needed a middle blocker. I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t even know what a middle blocker is.’ But she’s the coach, and she asked me so I said, ‘Yes.’ ”

At her first practice, Underwood realized that volleyball was truly a team sport in which players relied on each other’s skills.

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FEATURE: Lions push through game without coach and radio crew, courtesy of COVID-19

BROWNWOOD — The replacements surrounding the tradition-rich Brownwood Lions’ football program all succeeded with winning colors Friday night.

COVID-19 sidelined Brownwood’s head coach and entire four-person radio crew, including legendary broadcaster Dallas Huston, for Friday’s high school game against the Midland Greenwood Rangers. On the field, defensive coordinator David Jones filled in for missing head coach Sammy Burnett, and the Lions never trailed in beating the Rangers 35-15.

“Coach Jones did a fine job,” said Burnett, who watched a livestream of Friday’s game. “He’s an experienced coach, and he knows what he’s doing. I had no concerns with Coach Jones because I trust him wholeheartedly. He’s very loyal.”

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

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

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

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

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2020 GOLDTHWAITE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Goldthwaite hopes improvement means more wins

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

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

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

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: COVID-19 cost former Eastland star his first chance at the NFL

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.

The sports cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just affect high school athletes from the Big Country. Brant Bailey, who grew up in Eastland and became a four-year starting tight end at Tarleton State University, lost his initial chance to sign with a NFL team as an undrafted free agent

Now back home stocking shelves and serving as a cashier at Brookshire’s Food & Pharmacy in Eastland, Bailey likely will need a Kurt Warner stroke of good fortune to get a chance in the NFL.

The COVID-19 pandemic first canceled the pro day at Tarleton scheduled for March 23. APEC, the Fort Worth fitness center where Bailey was training with other NFL prospects this past spring, had scheduled its own pro day March 20.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: After historic 2019 season, Clyde golfers were poised for more this spring  

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.

Fred Wendlick played golf for Clyde, where he graduated from high school in 1985, and has coached golf at his alma mater for the last 20 years. But last year was special.

The Clyde boys’ golf team qualified for state for the first time in school history.

“It’s all about the kids,” Wendlick said. “It was an incredible year. We had a great time down there (in Austin) at the state tournament. We played hard, and we improved the second day.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Goldthwaite’s Medina, Jernigan made the most of their final track races

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 Brennan Medina, Anne Jernigan and Ashley Spradley

Goldthwaite seniors Callie Jernigan and Kylee Medina heard what seemed like a bizarre message from their coach prior to running the 300-meter hurdles and 1600 meters, respectively, March 12 at the Llano track meet.

“I jokingly — more or less — told them this could be their final races. I never thought at the time that it really would be,” said Blake Ashmore, Goldthwaite’s first-year head girls’ track coach.

“We knew the NCAA had just canceled their basketball tournaments (because of the COVID-19 pandemic). We thought the season might get pushed back a little, but I don’t think any of us knew the heaviness of the situation at that moment,” Ashmore said.

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