Author: Brandon McAuliffe

2020 SIX-MAN DIVISION I PREVIEW: May and Ira enter as Top-10 squads

As strong as the Big Country is in Class 1A Division II, the area lacks for strength at the top of the Division I ranks.

Seventh-ranked May and No. 10 Ira are the lone squads in the top 20 of the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football/Associated Press state rankings entering the season.

Those two are expected to be the front runners this fall, but if you’re looking for a team that could turn brackets upside down, look no further than District 3-1A Division I with Knox City.

Read on to see how BigCountryPreps.com sees the area district races playing out this season.

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2020 SIX-MAN DIVISION II PREVIEW: Four teams vie to carry the flag

After dominating the field all year, the Big Country was surprisingly shut out of a trip to Arlington’s AT&T Stadium at the six-man level in 2019.

This fall seems to be shaping up for that to be a one-year aberration as Jayton, Blackwell, Strawn and Gordon enter the season ranked fifth through eighth, respectively, in the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football/Associated Press top 10 for Class 1A Division II.

Jayton and Strawn are perennial powerhouses that saw their 2019 seasons end with losses to eventual state champion Richland Springs, while Blackwell and Gordon had resurgences last fall before losing in the regional finals.

Who is this year’s surprise? BigCountryPreps.com is looking at the area districts to help you identify who that could be.

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FEATURE: Local coaches relish getting back with student-athletes

“It won’t be totally normal but we can get back to playing Friday night football, which is the goal. If we are playing Friday night football, all the other sports are going to be playing too. The main goal is to get to the fall.”

Those words came directly from the mouth of Abilene High football coach Mike Fullen on Monday afternoon after the Eagles wrapped up their first full day of strength and conditioning workouts earlier in the day following the state mandated shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’ve been playing, they’ve been swimming and they’ve been slamming up against each other, but we’ve got certain things that we have to adhere to,” Fullen said. “That’s their personal deal but if we don’t adhere (to guidelines), we could get shut down.”

The University Interscholastic League allowed schools to begin strength and conditioning workouts on June 8 and Wylie took full advantage of that opportunity. Meanwhile, Abilene High and Cooper each used two days last week as orientation to train student-athletes for how to enter campus.

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BREAKING: Baker leaving Baird after two seasons

Joel Baker announced his resignation as the head coach and athletic director at Baird High School on Wednesday after accepting a job as the associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Springlake-Earth earlier in the day.

The decision to leave the Bears, who won the independent six-man state championship last fall, did not come easy for Baker. The veteran coach did say that he was making the move for his family, though.

Continue reading “BREAKING: Baker leaving Baird after two seasons”

BREAKING: 2020 FCA All-Star Festival canceled

The Big Country chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes made the decision on Thursday morning to officially cancel its 2020 All-Star Festival in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is with heavy disappointment due to continued risks and uncertainties associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that the Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff has made the difficult decision to cancel the Big Country Chevy Dealers 21st annual FCA All-Star Festival scheduled for the week of June 7-13, 2020,” the organization said in a press release.

There was brief talk of postponing to a later date, but ultimately the organization decided that cancellation was best in the current climate, said FCA Area Director Andy Penney.

Continue reading “BREAKING: 2020 FCA All-Star Festival canceled”

BREAKING: Wylie honors Sandifer with renaming of stadium

The Wylie ISD school board voted Monday night to rename Bulldog Stadium after former football coach and athletic director Hugh Sandifer.

The stadium, which hosts football and soccer for the school, will now be known as Hugh Sandifer Stadium.

Sandifer, who coached at the school for 41 years, announced his retirement in early January. In his career, he compiled a 285-127-4 record with 27 playoff berths, four state championship game appearances and the 2004 state championship.

Continue reading “BREAKING: Wylie honors Sandifer with renaming of stadium”

BREAKING: Ramsey leaving Merkel for Morton

The Merkel football team will have its third head coach in as many seasons after Brian Ramsey resigned his post on Monday.

Ramsey was then named the athletic director and head coach at Morton, later in the day.

Ramsey tweeted “Wish the Badgers nothing but the best,” on Monday morning. When reached by BigCountryPreps.com on Tuesday evening, he said he had no comment on his departure.

In his lone season at Merkel, the veteran coach went 2-8 after replacing John Cornelius in June. He had previously served as the head coach at Cross Plains (2010-11), Ranger (2013-16) and Electra (2017-18).

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Coaching change shifts Winters’ philosophy

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume.  If you have a suggested story for the “What might have been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

This was not how Derek Dallas and Brady Keane saw their first season with the Winters baseball team going.

Last year, Dallas was an assistant in Snyder before becoming the head baseball coach for the Blizzards this year. Keane, his assistant, was a sportswriter with the Denton Record-Chronicle covering high school athletics.

The duo spent this season working on reinvigorating the Blizzards baseball team and changing the mentality of the program.

To say that they were successful after 10 games, before the UIL shut down games due to the Coronavirus, would be a gross understatement.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS Q&A: FCA Area Director Andy Penney provides updates on All-Star Festival

The Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes is like everyone else in the sports world these days.

With the Big Country All-Star Festival scheduled for early June, the FCA is not sure if, or when, it will be able to host the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has the entire country at a standstill.

The FCA is stuck in a holding pattern due to the uncertainty of what the University Interscholastic League is going to do. Currently the UIL has stopped all activity for athletics and fine arts through the first weekend of May.

Sunday afternoon, Andy Penney of the Big Country FCA chapter took some time to discuss the evolving situation with BigCountryPreps.com and talked about how the local group is proceeding during this unprecedented time.

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2019-20 Jayton boys

GAME STORY: Scogin’s surge lifts Jayton over Irion County, into II-1A final

In 2019, a driving layup at the buzzer by Tye Scogin sent the Jayton boys basketball team to the Class 1A state championship at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Friday night, with the Jaybirds locked in a nail-biter with Irion County at McMurry’s Kimbrell Arena, the senior took over the final 10 minutes and led eighth-ranked Jayton to a 43-31 win in a Region II-1A semifinal.

The Jaybirds will face seventh-ranked Paducah on Saturday afternoon with another state tournament berth on the line.

Continue reading “GAME STORY: Scogin’s surge lifts Jayton over Irion County, into II-1A final”

GAME STORY: Cold shooting dooms Brownwood boys in loss to WF Hirschi

BRECKENRIDGE — The first couple of minutes of Brownwood’s Region I-4A area-round matchup with Wichita Falls Hirschi went exactly how coach Nadir Dalleh had hoped they would.

But after jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead over the Huskies, the Lions lost their shooting touch.

Brownwood was held without a field goal in the second quarter — the first time in at least four years that has happened according to Dalleh — and the Huskies got red-hot during the period to seize control on their way to a 72-40 win.

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GAME STORY: Stamford girls advance to first regional tournament

Describing how she felt was hard for Stamford girls basketball coach Missy Dutchover on Tuesday night after her squad earned its first ever regional tournament berth with a 49-39 win over Albany at Hardin-Simmons University’s Mabee Complex.

“It’s a little surreal right now,” Dutchover said. “I’m really proud of my kids. We talked really big about taking advantage of your opportunities because you don’t know when you’re going to get them again.”

Sophomore guard Tylee Jo Bevel had a game-high 16 points for the Lady Bulldogs and was equally speechless as Stamford gets ready to face No. 3 Gruver in Friday’s Region I-2A semifinals at 8 p.m. at South Plains College in Levelland.

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GAME STORY: Third-quarter surge sends Haskell past Forsan in bi-district

HERMLEIGH — The Haskell boys basketball team has thrived for years at home in the Tee Pee and closed out the venerable gymnasium last week with a win to head into the postseason on a high note.

Monday night, the Indians had to feel like they were right back in the Tee Pee as a boisterous crowd buoyed a 14-0 run to start the second half in a 60-43 win over Forsan in a Region I-2A bi-district game.

The advantage Haskell received on its home court this season was something coach Josh Webb saw pay dividends to open the postseason.

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GAME STORY: Cooper boys claim 4-5A’s third seed with another win over Wylie

It might have been Abilene High’s Eagle Gym, but on Friday night, Noah Garcia took ownership for Cooper.

The junior had a game-high 27 points — 20 in the first half — as the Cougars knocked off Wylie for the third time this season with a 62-50 win, claiming the third seed from District 4-5A.

“We are going to go best-of-seven,” Cooper coach Bryan Conover said, jokingly. “It just worked out that way (to play) four times in a year. They’re really good and we didn’t have to spend much time scouting. We knew what we were getting into, and the kids came out and played well.”

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GAME STORY: Westbrook girls withstand cold quarter to knock off Hamlin

MERKEL — The Westbrook girls basketball team might have earned a bi-district win in 2019, but this postseason they plan to enjoy everything a little bit differently.

After picking up a 51-42 win over Hamlin in a Region II-1A bi-district game at Merkel’s Badger Gymnasium, coach Jeff Bontrager gave simple instructions to his squad on how to properly cut down the nets from the rim.

“We won last year in bi-district, but we didn’t do this,” Bontrager said of cutting down the nets. “We are going to celebrate everything, every victory, especially in the playoffs. Some teams might wait a little longer, but we are going to show them how fun it can be and hopefully put a run together.”

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GAME STORY: Cisco withstands Coahoma rally, foul trouble to advance

MERKEL — The Cisco girls basketball team started off on fire from the field, saw Coahoma put together a second-quarter rally and then hit a barrage of fourth-quarter free throws to earn a 68-56 Region I-3A bi-district win Monday night at Merkel’s Badger Gymnasium.

Landry Edgar led three Lady Loboes in double-digits with 20 points, while Sophie Hurtado had 16 points before fouling out and Savannah Dycus added 10.

Makynlee Overton had a game-high 24 points for the Bulldogettes, while Caitlyn Corley, the subject of a weekend feature, added 16 points.

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GAME STORY: Cisco sweeps Eastland in District 6-3A basketball twinbill

CISCO — The Cisco girls basketball team clinched at least a share of the District 6-3A championship with a 38-31 come-from-behind win over rival Eastland on Tuesday night.

The Lady Loboes moved to 12-0 in district with the win, taking a two-game lead with two games left in the regular season. Cisco needs just two more wins to finish off its third consecutive undefeated district campaign.

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Mary Mosley

BREAKING: Eula honors an icon, renames Pirate Gymnasium

It was a secret that was kept for three months and in the end, Mary Mosley was caught completely off-guard with a homecoming surprise that will never be forgotten.

With two brothers, a sister, her daughter, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren in attendance, Eula’s longtime bookkeeper was surprised by Eula boys basketball coach and athletic director Josh Fostel pulling off a stunner for the ages.

Fostel honored Mosley, who has kept Eula’s scorebook for the past 41 seasons, by having Pirate Gymnasium renamed Mary Mosley Gymnasium on Friday night between games of the Pirates’ District 20-1A doubleheader against Ranger.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High boys hold off Euless Trinity in District 3-6A action

Abilene High boys basketball coach Justin Reese believes Eagle Gym provides his squad one of the greatest home court advantages in the state.

A second-quarter 3-pointer by D.J. Modest sent the gym into a frenzy after cutting Euless Trinity’s lead to 15-14, and that set the tone for the rest of the game as the Eagles finished the first half of District 3-6A play at 6-0 with a thrilling 56-50 win Tuesday night.

“We are so grateful as a program because our crowd has been awesome since last year,” Reese said. “They give us a really big home-court advantage, which is how it used to be in the 80s and 90s, and so we are kind of getting that back. We are a hard out in Eagle Gym because our crowd gives us great energy and our kids play really hard.”

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BREAKING: Big Country FCA All-Star Festival coaches announced

The coaches for the annual Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes were announced on Monday morning with the revelation that for the first time the event will include a three-day golf tournament in Eastland.

The inaugural golf tournament will run from Sunday, June 7, through Tuesday, June 9, on the Kingdom Course of the Solid Rock Camp near Lake Leon.

The seventh annual baseball and softball games will be played on June 12 at Angelo State University and then the festival winds up with a smorgasbord of events on June 13.

The eighth annual men’s and 12th annual women’s basketball games will be at the Brownwood Coliseum, the eighth annual volleyball game at Wylie High School’s Bulldog Gym and then the week-long event culminates for the 21st time at Shotwell Stadium with the Myrle Greathouse All-Star Football Classic. Continue reading “BREAKING: Big Country FCA All-Star Festival coaches announced”

GAME STORY: Ballinger sweeps Brady in District 4-3A play

BALLINGER — The Ballinger basketball teams had no issues in sweeping Brady on Tuesday night at Joe A. Forester Gymnasium.

The Lady Bearcats came away with a 60-28 win to remain tied for the district lead with Wall, while the boys team jumped out to a fast start and never looked back on its way to a 56-30 win.

Continue reading “GAME STORY: Ballinger sweeps Brady in District 4-3A play”

GAME STORY: Jim Ned dominates Merkel in District 5-3A action

TUSCOLA — The Jim Ned girls basketball team will head into the Christmas break on a high note after dominating Merkel 66-21 in a key District 5-3A game Friday at Bill Thornton Arena.

Brooke Galvin had 24 points to lead a group of four Lady Indians in double digits. Claire Graham added 15 points, while Ashton Garner scored 11 and Ashlynn Galvin had 10 to help fourth-ranked Jim Ned improve to 17-2 on the season and 2-0 in district.