Author: Brandon McAuliffe

GAME STORY: Hawley rallies past Anson in thriller to take District 3-2A DI lead

ANSON — When Mitch Ables arrived in Hawley, he was tasked with rebuilding a program that didn’t have a history of sustained success.

After benefitting from four years of quarterback Quay Stokes, followed by the stellar career of running back Colton Marshall, Ables may have found his new workhorse in another young stud.

Sophomore running back Austin Cumpton had 32 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown and took countless bruising hits in a physical game as the Bearcats took the lead in the District 3-2A Division I championship race with a thrilling 21-20 win over Jones County rival Anson at Tiger Stadium on Friday night.

Hawley’s defense also rose to the occasion with a second half shutout.

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GAME STORY: Santo punches Albany early, but Lions rally for win

SANTO — The sixth-ranked Albany Lions entered Thursday night’s District 8-2A Division II matchup at W.A. Lewis Field with Santo having posted four consecutive shutouts, including three to open district play.

The Wildcats, however, were not intimidated and punched the Lions in the mouth en route to a 14-0 lead.

The perennial power Lions eventually found their footing, however, and roared back for a 34-14 win to set up a showdown with Cross Plains next week for the district championship.

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GAME STORY: Lubbock Cooper claims 4-5A lead with sweep of Wylie

Wylie volleyball coach Shay Cox has plenty of experience leading teams in multiple sports — including a lengthy tenure as the softball coach at Abilene High.

On Tuesday night, Cox saw her volleyball squad struggle on the second service rotation in each set — much as a pitcher might do on the diamond — as the Lady Bulldogs were swept by Lubbock Cooper 25-17, 25-23, 25-18 in District 4-5A play at Bulldog Gymnasium.

The win allowed the Lady Pirates to take sole possession of the district lead at 3-0 while Wylie fell into a second place tie with city rival Cooper and Lubbock Coronado at 2-1.

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GAME STORY: Cross Plains defense dominates in 27-14 win over Santo

CROSS PLAINS — Friday night’s clash between Cross Plains and Santo was destined to be a District 8-2A Division II semifinal of sorts with the winner being in good position for a showdown against Albany later this year for the district championship.

Coach Daniel Purvis’ Buffaloes squad was up to the challenge, forcing eight turnovers on its way to a 27-14 win at Buffalo Stadium.

With the win, Cross Plains improved to 6-1 on the year and 2-0 in district play. Santo, meanwhile, fell to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in district.

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GAME STORY: Midland Lee sweeps Abilene High in 2-6A volleyball

Playing without first-year head coach Devron Shepherd, who missed the match for undisclosed reasons, the Abilene High volleyball team was swept by Midland Lee 25-18, 25-10, 25-13 in a District 2-6A matchTuesday at Eagle Gymnasium.

The Lady Eagles were able to trade shots early in each set with the Lady Rebels before Lee would come back with a quick run to take AHS out of the set.

AHS fell to 3-5 overall and 1-2 in district with the loss, while Lee improved to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in district.

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GAME STORY: Stephenville’s Philips stings Brownwood in 59-34 win

BROWNWOOD — 30 first downs. 663 yards of offense. 350 yards rushing. 313 yards passing — 204 in the first quarter alone.

No matter how you slice it, the Stephenville offense put up video game numbers as the Yellow Jackets opened District 5-4A Division I play with a 59-34 win over rival Brownwood on Friday night at Gordon Wood Stadium.

Then there was also the play of senior running back Kason Philips, who tied a school record with six rushing touchdowns as part of a night in which he accounted for 339 yards of offense — 265 rushing and 74 receiving.

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GAME STORY: Clyde sweeps Jim Ned in District 6-3A volleyball tilt

CLYDE — The Clyde volleyball team picked up a big win on Tuesday night at Bulldog Gym, sweeping Jim Ned 25-13, 25-16, 25-16 to take the lead in District 6-3A.

The Lady Bulldogs got off to a quick start in each set, scoring at least the first three points of each one, and trailed for only a single point in the match (5-4 in the second set) as they improved to 13-6 on the year and 3-0 in league play.

Jim Ned, meanwhile, fell to 14-2 and 2-1 with the loss.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High opens season with loss to Amarillo Tascosa

For 47 minutes, the Abilene High football team went toe-to-toe with Class 5A Division I No. 10 Amarillo Tascosa on Friday night in both teams’ season opener at Shotwell Stadium.

A disastrous final minute of the first half, however, was the difference as the Rebels picked up a 26-20 win over the Eagles, who were being led by interim head coach Jeff Rhoads while Mike Fullen battles cancer.

Tascosa scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 25 seconds of the first half to turn what had been a tie game to that point into a 13-point advantage at halftime.

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GAME STORY: Clyde breaks into win column with rout of Riesel

DUBLIN — The first two weeks of the season saw the Clyde Bulldogs get ambushed by Cisco and Idalou.

Saturday, the Bulldogs dished out a beating of their own as they hammered Riesel early and often and rolled to a 52-14 win over the Indians at Dublin’s Bob and Norma Cervetto Field.

Clyde coach Scott Campbell was quick to credit the play of his offensive line — one that features five seniors — which set the tone to allow his squad to run for 287 yards.

Austin Hastings was the biggest benefactor as he ran for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just a dozen carries.

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GAME STORY: Bluecats rally for homecoming win over Brady

COLEMAN — Missed point-after tries can force some tough coaching decisions, but that’s the position Brady’s Shay Easterwood found himself in on Friday night at Coleman’s Hufford Field.

And his decision to chase points would haunt him later as the Bluecats rallied for a 15-12 homecoming win over Easterwood’s Bulldogs.

JD Ibarra’s 63-yard fumble return for a touchdown had put Brady up 12-0 midway through the second quarter, and Easterwood made the call to go for a two-point conversion. The Bulldogs fumbled on that play, and Dylan Mickler took it the other way for a defensive two-point conversion cutting Brady’s lead to 12-2.

That wild swing of momentum and emotion proved to be a catalyst for John Elder’s Coleman squad.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Abilene High, Cooper and Wylie open practice (61 images)

After spending the past couple of weeks watching their counterparts from Classes 1A through 4A getting to practice and play games, Abilene’s three local programs got to get their fall officially started on Monday.

Cooper took to the practice fields at 7 a.m. under third-year coach Aaron Roan, while Abilene High and Wylie got rolling at 9 a.m.

The Eagles are being led on an interim basis by Jeff Rhoads while head coach Mike Fullen is out for medical reasons. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are being led by longtime defensive coordinator Clay Martin, who was promoted to head coach during the offseason.

The teams are allowed to start their seasons later this month. Cooper opens at Odessa Permian on Sept. 24. The next day AHS will host Amarillo Tascosa while Wylie heads to Brownwood in what will be the Lions’ fifth game of the year.

FEATURE: COVID-19 leads to roller coaster week for Sweetwater, McGehee

Monday and Tuesday were normal days for the Sweetwater football team as it prepared for Friday night’s scheduled game against Jim Ned.

That all changed around 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon when Indians coach Matt Fanning notified Sweetwater coach Ben McGehee of a positive COVID-19 case on his team resulting in a cancellation of their game.

The phone call from Fanning set off a wild 48 hours for the Mustangs and their coach.

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GAME STORY: Second-half surge lifts Wall past Cisco

WALL — The Wall Hawks offensive line saw plenty of positives in the first half and, despite being down by a score to Cisco at halftime, had plenty of ideas of changes to make.

Coach Houston Guy’s squad adapted to what the Loboes were giving them and pulled away for a 35-14 win at Hawk Stadium on Friday night in a game between teams that were both ranked No. 4 in their respective classes.

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GAME STORY: Albany volleyball sweeps Woodson in nondistrict action

ALBANY — With Tuesday’s storms rattling the walls of Albany’s Lion Gymnasium, the AHS volleyball team brought its own thunder in a nondistrict sweep of Class 1A Woodson.

The Lady Lions claimed a 25-9, 25-7, 25-13 win over the Lady Longhorns, dominating the match from beginning to end and showing why they’re ranked No. 9 in the state in Class 2A.

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GAME STORY: Dublin christens Cervetto Field with win over De Leon

DUBLIN — Friday night was a big night for both the Dublin and De Leon football teams as high school athletics resumed for the first time since mid-March for both schools following the COVID-19 shutdown by the University Interscholastic League.

“Our world, as we know it, came to a screeching halt,” De Leon coach Andrew Dickson said. “In small towns like ours, there’s not much going on besides high school sports. We need it. Our kids need it, our community needs it and it’s scary.”

In the end, it was Dublin that came out with a 33-7 come-from-behind win to open Bob and Norma Cervetto Field. The field is named after Dublin’s current head coach and his wife, both longtime educators.

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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.

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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.