Here are the Big Country’s receiving leaders through Week 9:
Coming into Friday’s game against Odessa Permian at 0-3 and needing a win to avoid an 0-2 start to District 2-6A play, the Abilene High football team had its mettle tested early and often by a favored Panthers squad.
But any questions about the Eagles’ mental state or resiliency were answered definitively in a gritty 27-25 win at Shotwell Stadium.
Trailing 25-21 at halftime, AHS (1-3 overall, 1-1 in District 2-6A) took the lead on a pair of Anthony Ramirez field goals, and the Eagle defense made it hold up, shutting out the Panthers over the final two quarters to secure the win. Sophomore safety Noah Hatcher made the play of the night, coming up with a late interception in the end zone to thwart a potential go-ahead drive by Permian and allow the Eagles to seal the upset victory with a single first down.
As a junior in 2019, Jeshari Houston made his presence felt for the Abilene High football team, catching 36 passes for 443 yards to lead the Eagle offense in both categories.
But in averaging 12.3 yards per catch and hauling in one touchdown pass, the speedy receiver was only scratching the surface of his potential.
Now in his final high school season, Houston has taken a significant step forward, progressing from the leading pass-catcher for a struggling offense into a true No. 1 receiver. With 11 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns through AHS’ first three games, the senior is on pace to dwarf last year’s production. And the scary part is, Eagles coach Mike Fullen said the wideout is just getting started.
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.”
SAN ANGELO — Mike Fullen made his return to the Abilene High sideline after missing his team’s first two games while undergoing cancer treatment, but the Eagles were unable to make his return a winning one in their District 2-6A opener against San Angelo Central.
AHS (0-3, 0-1) fell behind early and was never able to slow the Bobcat passing attack in a 53-32 loss Friday at San Angelo Stadium.
Central quarterback Malachi Brown passed for 336 yards and a school record-tying five touchdown passes as the Bobcats (1-3, 1-0) raced out to a 29-12 halftime lead and cruised from there to the three-score victory.
ABILENE HIGH (0-2, 0-3) AT SAN ANGELO CENTRAL (0-3, 0-0)
7 p.m. Friday at San Angelo Stadium, San Angelo
Abilene High outside linebacker Nathan Guzman is the type program success story that interim Eagles coach Jeff Rhoads just loves.
A hard-working, team-first kid who has paid his dues and waited his turn, Guzman is finally getting his chance to shine this season as a senior. And in his first year as a starter after playing sparingly behind a talented group of backers last year, he is definitely making the most of it.
Through two games, Guzman leads the Eagles with 25 total tackles (18 solo) and two tackles for loss. And his two forced fumbles are second on the team behind only fellow senior Joseph Woodyard (3).
While that level of production has come as a surprise to some, including Guzman himself, Rhoads said it’s the culmination of years of hard work and should serve as an example to younger players of what can happen when one stays the course.
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.
Playing without star running back Noah Garcia, who was unavailable for Friday’s Crosstown Showdown, the Cooper Cougars would need a complete team effort to get past Abilene High.
Fortunately for CHS coach Aaron Roan, he got just that from his squad, which outscored AHS 17-6 over the final two quarters to claim a 30-20 victory in the 60th playing of the crosstown rivalry.
Quarterback Aidan Thompson gave the Coogs (1-1) their first lead of the game with a 1-yard sneak in the final minute of the third quarter, and linebacker Jacob Deax put the game on ice with a 53-yard fumble return touchdown with 47 seconds remaining in the game.
There’s been nothing gradual or incremental about Abel Ramirez’s introduction to varsity football.
Through a unique set of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the Abilene High junior quarterback has had to do his learning on the fly.
Called up from junior varsity for the final game of the 2019 season due to injuries, Ramirez has made two career starts — against Class 6A power Euless Trinity last year and against Class 5A No. 9 Amarillo Tascosa last week. And though he’s yet to lead the Eagles to a win, he’s shown a level of toughness and maturity that has impressed his coaches and teammates.
And with another stiff test forthcoming in his third start — against Crosstown rival Cooper on Friday — Ramirez is hoping the next lesson in his varsity education ends with his first victory.
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.
It’s been a turbulent year for the Abilene High football program — even by 2020 standards.
Joining all Class 5A and 6A programs in having spring football wiped out and their season threatened and then delayed a month by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eagles got an extra gut punch when it was announced in August that second-year head coach Mike Fullen had been diagnosed with colon cancer and would be taking a leave of absence to seek treatment.
That left co-offensive coordinator Jeff Rhoads in a unique position as the Eagles’ interim head coach and the AHS players in a unique mental state as they tried to balance their excitement for an upcoming season with concern for their beloved coach.
Following a successful surgery and a positive response to chemotherapy, Fullen is convinced he’ll be back on the sideline in weeks, not months. But regardless of when he returns, both Rhoads and the Eagles players are determined to do their part to ensure that he finds the program in the same state he left it, if not better.
LAST WEEK: 36-12, .750
SEASON TOTAL: 152-47, .763
I have not been to Bangs for a Game of the Week since 2013 — the last time the Dragons posted more than six wins in a season and the last winning record they had prior to last year’s 6-5 mark.
That drought ends tomorrow, when I travel to BHS for an interesting showdown between the Dragons (3-0) and Class 2A Division I power Hawley (3-1).
Bangs has the better overall numbers, but Hawley has faced a slightly tougher overall schedule, making this pick a perplexing one.
The senior-laden Cooper volleyball team showed its maturity Tuesday, sweeping crosstown rival Abilene High on its home floor to stay perfect at 4-0.
The Lady Cougars, who have yet to drop a set this season, got off a to a dominant start, winning Game 1 by a 25-9 margin before grinding out a couple of 25-23 wins in the final two games to close out the match in three.
After being overwhelmed in the early going, the much younger Lady Eagles (1-3) rebounded to challenge CHS, but each time the Lady Coogs needed a point, they got it — a trend coach Nora Campbell attributed to her team’s experience.
Big Country Preps will publish area volleyball statistical leaders each Tuesday at 7 p.m.
This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.
Teams that do not submit their statistics in a given week will not be listed when our stats are posted, but will be added to the lists below as they are received in the coming days.