Author: Brandon McAuliffe

GAME STORY: Merkel boys, Jim Ned girls claim wins in key District 6-3A doubleheader

MERKEL — Merkel’s Ryder Hoyle had perhaps the play of the game Tuesday night against district rival Jim Ned, and it wasn’t even one that added points to the scoreboard.

Instead, his rotation from the backside allowed him to make a thunderous block on a second-quarter dunk attempt and propelled the Badgers to a 42-37 win over the Indians in a thrilling District 6-3A matchup on Tuesday night.

After the game, Merkel coach B.C. Lee gushed over Hoyle and his block, which helped move MHS into at least a three-way tie for the district lead after two weeks.

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned sweeps Wall in District 6-3A action

TUSCOLA — The Jim Ned boys basketball team held Wall scoreless for almost the first six minutes of the second half as part of a 21-4 run as the Indians took down the Hawks 55-49 in District 6-3A play Friday at Bill Thornton Arena.

Ben Eshelman had a game-high 19 points for the Indians, who won their first matchup against the Hawks under first-year head coach Blake Allen.

A Jim Ned graduate who has played in the rivalry and was an assistant coach under Eric Phelps prior to this year, Allen said being the one roaming the sidelines was a different feeling than he’s had before.

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GAME STORY: Fast start lifts Cooper past AHS in boys hoops

For the second time in a week, the Cooper boys basketball team got off to a red-hot start in a game against crosstown rival Abilene High.

Unlike last week’s matchup in the Catclaw Classic, this time the Cougars were able to withstand multiple comeback attempts by the Eagles as Cooper knocked off AHS 56-46 on Friday night at Cougar Gym.

Jalen Cherry had a game-high 21 points for Cooper as the Cougars raced out to a 13-0 lead, never letting the Eagles get closer than six points the rest of the way. Cooper moved to 8-5 on the season with the win and avenged a tough one-point loss from last weekend.

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GAME STORY: Brooks brothers lift Shiner past Hawley in 2A DI state title game

ARLINGTON — Making their state championship debut, the Hawley Bearcats knew they would have to play near-flawless football in all three phases of the game to pull off a stunner against the defending state champion Shiner Comanches.

For one half Wednesday, it looked like the Bearcats might have the magic needed to do that, but a punishing Shiner running game and multiple second-half turnovers led to a 47-12 win for the Comanches in the Class 2A Division I championship game at AT&T Stadium.

Despite the loss, Hawley coach Mitch Ables was proud of his squad, which closed the greatest season in program history at 15-1.

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GAME STORY: Strawn rolls Motley County for state title

ARLINGTON — After falling a few yards short of a state championship appearance in 2020, the Strawn Greyhounds left no doubt that they were the better team on Wednesday afternoon in a 73-28 throttling of Matador Motley County at AT&T Stadium for the Class 1A Division II championship.

The redemption tour saw Strawn win all five playoff games on the 45-point mercy rule, an absolutely dominating run through the postseason.

Strawn scored at least 61 points in all of its playoff games en route to its third title in five years and fifth in school history.

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GAME STORY: Westbrook rides Ware’s legs to first state title

ARLINGTON — Entering Wednesday’s Class 1A Division I state championship game at AT&T Stadium, the Westbrook Wildcats had the 10th-ranked scoring defense in the state, giving up just 28.1 points per game.

On the other hand, May entered with the second-highest scoring offense in the state at 66.7 points per game.

Despite May’s offense having an average day by it’s standards, it was Westbrook’s defense that came up with the biggest play when it mattered most as the Wildcats won the first state title in school history in a 72-66 thriller.

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McAuliffe: Big Country fans have potential history to look forward to this week

There are 12 games left in the 2021 Texas high school football season, meaning just 24 teams have a shot at ending their season with the ultimate prize: a state championship.

Of those 24 teams, six of them are in the Big Country Preps coverage area — a pool from which five championships could be claimed.

That’s a significant shift from years past as the area has won a combined total of four titles in the past six years. Prior to that, the Big Country had a run of 10 championships from 2009-2014. The banner year during that stretch came in 2012 when Throckmorton, Stamford, Munday and Stephenville were all crowned as champions.

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Area coaches react to passing of Texas icon Dave Campbell

Cover photo courtesy of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.

On Friday, legendary media icon Dave Campbell passed away in Waco at the age of 96.

He founded Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine in 1960 and still served as its editor-in-chief up until his death.

On Saturday, coaches across the Big Country shared their memories of Campbell.

Continue reading “Area coaches react to passing of Texas icon Dave Campbell”

GAME STORY: Suffocating defense has Hawley headed to first state championship game

WEATHERFORD — Hawley’s football team has been making history on a regular basis since Mitch Ables took over as the head coach in 2014.

After Thursday night’s 19-12 win over Marlin in the Class 2A Division I state semifinals, the Bearcats have another historical milestone: their first championship game appearance.

The fifth-ranked Bearcats will face No. 2 Shiner for the state championship at 7 p.m. Wednesday at AT&T Stadium, completing a tripleheader of Big Country games on the opening day of the 2021 state championships.

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BREAKING: Realignment takes its second step and impact to be felt across the Big Country

It may not be February, but the second part of the University Interscholastic League’s bi-annual realignment plan came out on Wednesday as the high school governing body released the cutoff numbers for each classification.

The impact will be felt across the Big Country as the area’s lone 6A representative, Abilene High, found out that it will be dropping to Class 5A Division I for football and should be in a district with Cooper and Wylie for all non-football sports.

Cooper, meanwhile, saw its enrollment cause it to drop into Class 5A Division II along with the Bulldogs meaning the annual Southside Showdown is now expected to be a district game.

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GAME STORY: No. 1 May survives Abbott in state semifinal thriller

DUBLIN — After falling short of a championship with a 68-22 loss to Sterling City in the 2020 state title game, the May Tigers spent this year looking for redemption.

The road to a return trip to AT&T Stadium in Arlington wasn’t a cakewalk for the top-ranked Tigers, who saw playoff games against No. 2 Jonesboro and No. 4 Water Valley leading into their Class 1A Division I state semifinal matchup with third-ranked Abbott.

Having not been involved in a close game, May needed a fourth-down touchdown run from Avery Williford late in the fourth quarter to retake the lead for good as the Tigers edged the Panthers in a 50-48 thriller Saturday at Bob and Norma Cervetto Field.

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GAME STORY: Kirbo’s interception, Eakin’s big plays lead Stephenville to state semis

BEDFORD — The second-ranked Stephenville Yellow Jackets needed a late rally to beat defending state champion Argyle in last week’s regional semifinal, but with a berth in the final four on the line, coach Sterling Doty’s squad left no doubt in Friday’s Region II-4A semifinal matchup with No. 4 Melissa.

Behind quarterback Ryder Lambert and wide receiver Coy Eakin, the Yellow Jackets punched their ticket to the state semifinals with a thrilling 24-21 win over the Cardinals at Pennington Field.

Eakin had three second-half catches for 173 yards and a pair of scores to help the Yellow Jackets turn a 7-0 halftime deficit into a 24-7 lead by the fourth quarter as SHS advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in four years.

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FEATURE: TLCA-Abilene exchange student Walliser adapting to life in West Texas

Carlos Walliser is a long ways from home, more than 5,000 miles away to be precise.

But the foreign exchange student from Madrid, Spain, has found a home at TLCA-Abilene and with his host family, Jeremy and Meagan Kirk.

Coming to Abilene has been quite the adjustment for Walliser, who moved from a city with 3.4 million residents to one with 124,710 according to the 2020 census.

Some of the biggest adjustments that Walliser has had to make are ones that many in the area take for granted.

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GAME STORY: Hawley wins physical battle with Coleman

With over 8,000 fans in attendance, the Region I-2A Division I semifinal between Hawley and Coleman lived up to the expectation of a street fight and the associated hype as a matchup of unbeaten teams.

Austin Cumpton ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns, including one on which he flipped over the pile and landed on his head, to fuel the Bearcats to a 21-7 win Friday night at Wylie’s Hugh Sandifer Stadium.

Hawley coach Mitch Ables knew his squad was going to be in for a fight and was looking forward to watching the game film to see how hard both defenses were hitting.

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GAME STORY: Aubrey’s triple-option attack too much for Sweetwater

STEPHENVILLE — Friday night’s Region I-4A Division II area championship could not have started any better for the Sweetwater Mustangs at Tarleton Memorial Stadium against Aubrey.

The Mustangs recovered a surprise onside kick to open the game and scored five plays later but after that it was all Chaparrals as Aubrey rolled to a 42-7 win.

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GAME STORY: Stingy defense, ‘Boss Baby’ lead Snyder past Graham

Hunter Stewart may not have the strongest arm, and at 5-foot-8 he stands eye to chest with some of the linemen in front of him, but Snyder’s football team looks up to the senior quarterback they affectionately call “Boss Baby.”

On a night where the Tigers defense shut down the Graham offense, Stewart did enough to lead Snyder to a 14-3 win over the Steers in a Region I-4A Division II area round game Thursday night at Shotwell Stadium.

Stewart completed 14 of 19 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 36 yards and another score as the Tigers improved to 9-3 on the year.

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GAME STORY: Cisco blitzes Haskell in first quarter, rolls to win

CLYDE — The Haskell Indians knew it would take a near perfect game to beat Cisco in a Region I-2A Division I bi-district playoff game at Clyde’s Bulldog Stadium on Friday night.

The Loboes, however, were the ones that were perfect for the first 12:04 as they rattled off the first 41 points of the game on their way to a 55-28 win over the Indians.

Even more impressive was the fact that Cisco scored 13 points in the first 31 seconds of the game, which saw Hunter Long throw four touchdown passes to Dawson Hearne.

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GAME STORY: Wilson, Brock run past Wall in playoff opener

CLYDE — Kutter Wilson ran for 269 yards and three touchdowns while Tyler Moody threw for three scores as Brock opened the Class 3A Division I playoffs with a 40-6 win over Wall Thursday night at Clyde’s Bulldog Stadium.

Wilson had scoring runs of eight, 27 and 72 yards, while Moody connected with Elijah Potts for two scores and hit Minnesota commit Nathan Jones for his other score as the Eagles amassed 561 yards of offense, 297 of which came in the first half.

Starting the playoffs with a bang was something first-year Brock coach Billy Mathis was excited about.

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GAME STORY: Cooper punches playoff ticket with win over Crowley

The Cooper football team entered Friday night’s District 3-5A Division I game against Crowley knowing that anything other than a max points loss would put the Coogs in the postseason for the 15th consecutive season.

Mission accomplished.

Cooper held the ball for over 25 minutes on Friday night and beat the Eagles 28-13 at Shotwell Stadium, clinching the final playoff berth in the district.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High offense fires on all cylinders in rout of Central

With the regular season coming to a close for the Abilene High football team on Thursday night at Shotwell Stadium, Eagles running back Da’King Thomas only had one thing on his mind — erasing the memory of AHS’ last two matchups with San Angelo Central.

“I knew coming into the game that I wanted vengeance,” the standout senior said. “Sophomore year we lost, junior year we lost and I could not go out (my) senior year losing to them again. We came in on a mission, a real big mission, and we accomplished it.”

That mission for the Eagles was to secure their first win over the Bobcats since October 2015, and a big first half helped AHS do just that with a 49-14 victory to close out District 2-6A play.

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GAME STORY: Steers fall to Fort Stockton in heartbreaking fashion

BIG SPRING — Gunning for their first district championship since 1990, the Big Spring Steers had the ball in senior quarterback Gabriel Baeza’s hands with 1:44 to play and 99 yards to cover for the game-winning touchdown Friday against Fort Stockton.

Baeza, who started the night with a school-record 18 consecutive completions, did everything in his power to will his team to victory. He started the drive with 34 yards rushing and 21 yards passing to put the Steers in position for a potential game-winning Hail Mary.

With eight seconds to go and facing fourth down at the Fort Stockton 49, Baeza rolled left and avoided two sacks while waiting on a receiver to get open. He then uncorked a deep bomb off his back foot for Sa’quan Fizer, who had gotten behind the Panthers secondary.

The ball glanced off Fizer’s fingertips and fell to the turf as time expired, allowing Fort Stockton to escape with a 29-28 win at Memorial Stadium in a key District 2-4A Division I matchup.

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GAME STORY: Defense lifts AHS past Odessa High on homecoming

Points are crucial in a one-possession game, and missed field goals can cause momentum swings in those situations.

Abilene High faced this scenario early in its homecoming game against Odessa High, when Anthony Ramirez missed a 36-yard field goal attempt off the with the Bronchos leading 7-0 in a District 2-6A game at Shotwell Stadium.

As it would turn out, though, the missed kick would be the springboard the Eagles needed on their way to a 42-7 win that was propelled by an opportunistic defense.

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GAME STORY: Cooper nabs 400th win in school history with rout of Saginaw

With starting quarterback Chris Warren sidelined with an injury, the Cooper football team turned the offensive keys over to freshman Keegan Anderson as the program searched for the 400th win in its history on Thursday night at Shotwell Stadium.

Armed with a potent rushing attack and a big-play offense, Anderson led the Cougars to the milestone win, knocking off Saginaw 44-13 in District 3-5A Division I play.

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GAME STORY: De Leon volleyball wraps up district title with thrilling win at Coleman

COLEMAN — With wild momentum swings like crazy in the fourth set, the De Leon volleyball team closed out its second straight District 8-2A title with a 25-13, 23-25, 25-15, 27-25 win over rival Coleman on Tuesday night.

It wasn’t easy for the Lady Cats as the Bluekatts fought tooth-and-nail in clinging to their hopes of being co-district champions.

The fourth set saw Coleman rally from being down 13-6 to tie the match at 18-18. The two sides then alternated the next 14 points before a pair of hitting errors on the Bluekatts sealed the win for De Leon.

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GAME STORY: No. 10 Forsan overcomes slow start to pound Anson

ANSON — Anson had all the momentum with a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter when Forsan’s snap rolled back to quarterback Major Stockton.

Stockton, who struggled to pick the football up off the ground, then turned things around with a 71-yard scoring run after finding the grip and rallied the Buffaloes to a 50-27 win at Tiger Stadium on Friday night in a key District 3-2A Division I game.

It marked the first time that a Jason Phillips-led team had won a game in Anson.

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned volleyball uses fast starts to defeat San Angelo TLCA

TUSCOLA — The Jim Ned volleyball had no problem putting together sustained rallies and quick starts in a District 8-3A match with San Angelo TLCA on Tuesday at Bill Thornton Arena.

Those starts and rallies allowed the Lady Indians to pick up a key 25-17, 25-20, 26-24 win to improve to 17-10 overall and 5-2 in district.

Despite the sweep, Jim Ned coach Miranda Garcia saw plenty of things for her squad to improve on for the second half of district play as they look to keep pace with Clyde and Wall in challenging for a district championship.

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GAME STORY: Sweetwater outlasts Snyder for thrilling 42-37 win

SWEETWATER — Leo Holsey accounted for five touchdowns and the Sweetwater football team outlasted Snyder 42-37 in the District 1-4A Division II opener Friday night at the Mustang Bowl.

Holsey ran for three scores and threw for two more as the Mustangs improved to 4-3 overall and 1-0 in district in coach Russell Lucas’ debut season.

Snyder, which got 235 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Jorge Martinez, dropped to 5-2 on the year and 0-1 in district.

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GAME STORY: Cooper defense has near historical night in win over Arlington Heights

The Cooper football team has played 677 games in its 62-year history, and Thursday night against Fort Worth Arlington Heights the Cougars had the opportunity to break a school record that had stood since the third year of the program’s existence.

Cooper’s defense was two plays away from breaking the school record of fewest yards allowed (31 by Sweetwater in 1962) before allowing 15 yards on Brian Furch runs to put the Yellow Jackets to a grand total of 46 yards for the game.

The dominant effort led to a 43-0 win in a District 3-5A Division I game at Shotwell Stadium, leaving the Cougars one win shy of the 400th in program history.

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