Category: Area football

EVAN REN’S 2022 TRUE GRIT TEAM: The toughest, most coachable players in the Big Country

Most high school football teams have that one player acknowledged by the coaching staff as the prime example of what a teammate should be. 

He’s the guy who seldom misses any practice time and is a regular in the weight room. He’s early to arrive. He’s late to leave and takes pride in being coachable, though he seldom needs direction. 

He always sets the right example for younger players. He doesn’t complain and, above all else, he’s tough enough to make all the aforementioned traits consistently possible. 

This is the only Big Country media source that honors them. 

Welcome to the “True Grit” team — a collection of area players nominated by their head coaches who exemplify the character traits football mentors want throughout their roster. 

Not all of them are great players. In fact, many of them will never play a down of college football. But every single one of them is making the most of their high school football experience and has helped those around them do the same.

We are absolutely honored to present these young men to you — the toughest football players the Big Country had to offer, gathered in our 2022 — listed in no particular order, with their coaches describing them in their own words. Enjoy! 

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All Big Country Preps Superlatives: Cumpton, Long, Harris take the top spots, while Faith and Ables share Coach of the Year

Here are our superlative award winners for the 2022 All-Big Country Preps football team. For the rest of this year’s selections, click the links below.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS RISING STARS TEAM: The top football under classmen in the Big Country for 2022.

Here are our selections for the 2022 All-Big Country Preps Rising Stars Team — an honor reserved for the area’s top freshman and sophomore football players. For the rest of this year’s selections, click the links below.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Even without fairytale ending, Brock’s 2022 season a great story

For large portions of Thursday’s Class 3A Division I state championship game Thursday, it appeared the contest would serve as a microcosm of Brock’s season.

The Eagles missed some opportunities early and fell behind before halftime only to claw their way back into the game and give themselves a chance at the ultimate prize at the end.

Unfortunately for BHS, this story didn’t have a fairytale ending.

After rallying twice to tie Franklin at 7 and 14, the Eagles watched Lions kicker Cort Lowry drill a 20-yard field goal as time expired to give his team a 17-14 win. Instead of coming all the way back from an 0-4 start to close the season with 12 straight wins and a state championship, Brock had to settle for a second consecutive state runner-up finish.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Hawley’s Cumpton, Bearcat teammates turned last year’s heartbreak into triumph

No one had to tell Hawley running back Austin Cumpton what he missed last year when he was unable to play in the Bearcats’ first-ever state championship game.

In street clothes for that one after fracturing a pair of vertebrae a few weeks earlier, the then-junior witnessed it firsthand as his teammates fell 47-12 to Shiner.

To say that experience was a motivator a year later — for both Cumpton and the Bearcats — might be an understatement. And healthy as a senior, Hawley’s 6-foot-1, 225-pound bowling ball back and his brothers made good on their mission of returning to AT&T Stadium and finishing the job this time.

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GAME STORY: Brock’s run ends with state championship loss to Franklin

ARLINGTON — A handful of costly Brock mistakes was enough to tip the balance in Franklin’s favor on Thursday night as the Lions won the 3A Division I state championship and their second straight title overall, 17-14 at AT&T Stadium. 

Jayden Jackson rushed for 148 yards and one score to lead Franklin (16-0), which took advantage of a 3-1 turnover ratio to win its 32nd straight game over a two-year span. This includes the 3A DII title a year ago.

With the score knotted at 14-14 with 5:54 left to play, the Lions pushed 65 yards in 15 plays to the Brock 3 yard-line where Cort Lowry booted a 20-yard field goal as time expired to lift Franklin to the win. 

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SIDEBAR: Jones, Shackelford counties show up in support of each other

ARLINGTON — When Hawley played for its first football state championship in school history on Dec. 15, 2021, Mitch Ables was focused on the action on the field.

Fast forward exactly one year.

Back at AT&T Stadium on Thursday, Ables had a different plan — but it was one that he had been working on for far longer than just one day.

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GAME STORY: Hawley routs Refugio to capture first football state title in school history

ARLINGTON — Whatever doubts some people may have had about Hawley’s ability to overcome Refugio in Thursday’s Class 2A Division I state title game, they were answered by the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. 

Opening the game with 28 unanswered points, the Bearcats raced to a 34-7 halftime lead and were never seriously threatened beyond that point in a 54-28 win.

Offensive MVP Austin Cumpton rushed for 151 yards and four scores and Rodey Hooper threw for 279 yards and three more TDs to lift Hawley, which finished a perfect 16-0 while grabbing the first-ever football state championship for HHS. 

The Bearcats avenged last season’s title loss to Shiner with the win.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Albany players were determined to get Faith first state title

ARLINGTON — When you’ve coached in the same place for 41 years and had the success Denney Faith has in Albany, you tend to garner broad support.

And when the only thing missing from your legendary career is the ultimate prize — a Texas state championship — summiting that mountain can become a community effort.

Such was certainly the case Wednesday for Faith, whose Lions routed favored Mart 41-21 at AT&T Stadium for the Class 2A Division II crown. And as one might expect in such a situation, a key piece of the Albany players’ motivation was getting their longtime coach a ring.

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GAME STORY: Albany dominates Mart as Faith earns his first state championship

ARLINGTON — It took 35 years and five championship game appearances, but long-time Albany coach Denney Faith finally chalked up what had eluded him for so long on Wednesday: a state title. 

Coy Lefevre rushed for 65 yards and four touchdowns and Cole Chapman rushed for 129 yards and another score to lead Albany (14-2) to a 41-21 win over perennial power Mart at AT&T Stadium. 

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GAME STORY: Westbrook mauls Abbott in repeating as state champions

ARLINGTON — In 2021, the Westbrook Wildcats had to withstand an instant replay at the end of the Class 1A Division I state championship game to find out if May had completed a Hail Mary to win.

That replay went the Wildcats way in allowing them to claim the first state championship in school history.

Wednesday afternoon, Westbrook repeated as state champions with a 69-24 win over Abbott at AT&T Stadium in a game that coach Homer Matlock said was just as stressful as the previous title as the team didn’t want to change its style of play.

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GAME STORY: Benjamin dominates Loraine for first title in school history

ARLINGTON — The Benjamin Mustangs used an efficient, quick strike offense and claimed the first state championship in school history with a 68-20 win over Loraine in the Class 1A Division II title game at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Benjamin ran just 17 plays on offense but gained 363 yards behind the legs of Offensive MVP Grayson Rigdon as the Mustangs held the ball for just 5:22 of the game that ended in the third quarter on the 45-point rule.

Rigdon ran for 255 yards and five scores on just 10 carries while completing both of his passes for 88 yards and a pair of scores.

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Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel vs. Twitter Polls (Week 17)

Each week here at Big Country Preps, we’ll post our picks for all of that week’s 11-man games and select six-man games, in addition to the results of Evan Ren’s Twitter polls for each matchup.

For those interested in voting, polls go up on Monday night each week.

Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS STATE CHAMPIONSHIP FORECAST: Six area teams head to Arlington

LAST WEEK: 3-0, 1.000
SEASON TOTAL: 540-120, .818

Far be it from me to point out that this column has been absolutely on fire throughout postseason play. 

Actually, I will point it out. 

Over the last three weeks alone, pick accuracy has seen marks of 11-1, 8-0 and 3-0 for an overall pick record of 22-1 (.956) during that span. And with six-man teams returning from a one-week hiatus, there are five state championship games involving six teams from our coverage area left to pick.

Albany, Hawley, Brock, Westbrook, Benjamin and Loraine have all retained a pulse into Week 17. Not too shabby. 

It’s been a great year, a lot of fun and it’s difficult to believe it all ends this week. 

Here’s the final forecast for the 2022 season: 

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Ables’ tenure at longsuffering Hawley the stuff of legend

When Mitch Ables took over the Hawley football program in 2014, the Bearcats had posted more winless campaigns (eight) than winning seasons (six) in their history.

Despite fielding a team for 46 years to that point and being led by 15 different coaches, Hawley had managed only three playoff appearances — all since 2005 — and the Bearcats had never won a playoff game until the year before Ables arrived, when Brad Schoonmaker led them to a bi-district win over Alpine on the way to a 6-6 record.

So for HHS to be spoken about now among the Big Country’s elite, in the same breath as perennial small-school powers Albany and Cisco, is no small feat. In fact, it’s the product of a coaching effort that has been nothing short of legendary — and deserves to be viewed as such.

Continue reading “DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Ables’ tenure at longsuffering Hawley the stuff of legend”

BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Munday’s Bowman takes our final accolade of the year

NOTE: This will be our final Player of the Week column for 2022. It will return on Monday, Jan. 9. 

It’s always a significant accomplishment to chart a double-double. But when one averages a double-double over the course of five straight games, you begin to put a blip on the area radar screen.

Munday senior Jaxon Bowman did precisely that last week, helping the Moguls to a 5-0 record and the tournament championship at Blackwell. Aside from averaging 11.2 points per game, the senior grabbed a whopping 13 boards per contest to along with a combined 12 steals as Munday improved to 12-2.

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EVAN REN: Faith’s program is the very essence of why we have high school athletics

Albany football coach Denney Faith watches his team warm up prior to the Class 2A DII state semifinal with New Home on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 in Sweetwater.

ALBANY — A conversation with Albany football coach Denney Faith is almost like traveling back in time — a time when the people we admired most were hard-working, humble and willing let their work speak for itself. 

Faith isn’t going to volunteer that he’s now the fourth-winningest coach in Texas high school football history with 344 victories. He’s not going to advertise that he’s about to make his fifth career appearance in a state championship game. And you won’t hear that his teams have won 10 or more games in a season 17 times since he took the job at AHS in 1987.

His 19 district titles? A non-subject. His current string of 21 consecutive winning seasons? Don’t hold your breath. 

The truth of the matter is, Faith probably isn’t even aware of these things until someone like me points them out. Nor does he care about them. 

It’s not why he got into the business. 

Continue reading “EVAN REN: Faith’s program is the very essence of why we have high school athletics”

GAME STORY: Cumpton’s four-TD night lifts Hawley to win over Crawford, return to Arlington

MINERAL WELLS — After having a back injury cost him a chance to play in Hawley’s first state championship game last season, senior running back Austin Cumpton took the challenge of leading the Bearcats back to Arlington personally in Thursday’s Class 2A Division I state semifinal matchup with Crawford.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound bruiser, who missed the final three games of last year’s run with a pair of fractured vertebrae, was nothing short of dazzling against CHS, pounding the previously unbeaten Pirates for 175 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-20 win at Ram Stadium.

That performance, which came in a strong all-around effort by the Bearcats, earned Hawley (15-0) a return trip to AT&T Stadium, where it will face off with fellow state power Refugio next week for the 2A DI state championship.

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GAME STORY: Albany advances to state with rout of New Home

SWEETWATER — Denney Faith has earned another chance. 

With four trips to the state championship game already under his belt in 37 seasons at Albany, Faith earned trip No. 5 on Thursday as his Lions dominated New Home 53-25 at the Mustang Bowl. 

Adam Hill and Coy Lefevre combined for 211 yards rushing and three scores to lead the Lions (13-2), who advance to face Mart (15-0) in the Class 2A DII state title game on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. 

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GAME STORY: Watkins’ big night fuels Brock past Malakoff, back to state title game

FRISCO — Running back Reid Watkins slashed and dashed for 136 yards and two touchdowns and made a late-game interception on defense to lead Brock to a 21-10 win over Malakoff in a Class 3A Division I state semifinal game Thursday night at the Ford Center.

En route, the game’s primary hero also led the Eagles back toward Arlington, where they will play for a state championship for the second year in a row next week, against defending state champion Franklin, which throttled Edna 41-13.

“Primary” is the key word in the preceding paragraph. Watkins’ stellar performance off the bench was one of many offensive highlights for Brock, which won for the 11th straight time after starting the season 0-4. The Eagles’ starter at running back, Brett Tutter, added 81 rushing yards, and steady quarterback Tyler Moody completed six of 11 passes for 55 yards and ran for the Eagles’ other touchdown.

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Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel vs. Twitter Polls (Week 16)

Each week here at Big Country Preps, we’ll post our picks for all of that week’s 11-man games and select six-man games, in addition to the results of Evan Ren’s Twitter polls for each matchup.

For those interested in voting, polls go up on Monday night each week.

Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYOFF FORECAST: Albany, Hawley, Brock one win away from trip to Arlington

LAST WEEK: 8-0, 1.000
SEASON TOTAL: 537-120, .817

The Big Country Preps coverage area took a few hits last week, with Wylie, Wall and Cisco all seeing their seasons end in the regional championship round. 

However, six of our teams remain active heading into this week, half of which are six-man teams (Loraine, Benjamin and Westbrook) that have already qualified for state and are taking this week off. 

The other half are 3A DI Brock, 2A DI Hawley and 2A DII Albany, all of which advanced to this week’s state semifinals. 

As for pick accuracy, the column is on fire, going 8-0 last week and 11-1 the week before for a 19-1 mark (.950) over a two-week span.

Alright, enough said, let’s dive in. 

Here’s this week’s forecast: 

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Comanche standout Glasgow takes top spot

Consistency and versatility always score big in our Big Country Preps Player of the Week column. 

Add a few extras to your stat sheet and play well over several games and you’ll generally end up at or near the top of our weekly list. 

That is precisely why Comanche sophomore guard Kinsey Glasgow has earned our Player of the Week award for the Week ending December 3.

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GAME REPORT: Wall’s run comes to an end with regional final loss to Canadian

Photos by David Erickson, PressPassSports.com 

LUBBOCK — Entering Friday’s Region I-3A Division II title game on a 10-game winning streak, the Wall Hawks were optimistic about their chances against panhandle powerhouse Canadian. 

Three hours and three turnovers later, Wall was eliminated by the Wildcats 45-10, ending the Hawks’ season at 11-2. 

Camren Cavalier threw for 224 yards, rushed for 100 and accounted for six touchdowns to lead Canadian (12-2), which will face Gunter (13-0) in the state semifinals.

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GAME STORY: Hawley dominates Cisco, advances to 2A DI state semifinals

ABILENE — It was not only billed as a rematch of a superb Big Country Preps Game of the Week from Week 11, but also of a nail-biting Region I-2A Division I title game last year.  Cisco and Hawley had produced back-to-back classics and the entire Big Country was expecting to see another one.

Unfortunately, Hawley never received the memo. 

Rather than producing another dogfight, Hawley dominated the Loboes on Friday, handing Cisco a 40-7 loss at Wildcat Stadium. 

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GAME STORY: Explosive, balanced offense leads Albany into state semifinals

MINERAL WELLS — Cole Chapman threw for 318 yards and five touchdowns as the Albany offense amassed 648 total yards in a 66-34 win over Collinsville in the Region II-2A Division II final at Ram Stadium on Friday night.

Chapman completed 15-of-19 passes, four different receivers caught scoring strikes and three players ran for scores, including two by the senior quarterback as the Lions (12-2) advanced to their sixth state semifinal in the past 10 years.

Two of those trips have seen the Lions advance to play for a state title, which only the 1960 and 1961 squads accomplished.

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GAME STORY: Brock rallies past Whitesboro again, advances to Class 3A DI state semifinals

DENTON — Brock was down three to its fiercest District 4-3A Division I rival, Whitesboro, with just under seven minutes left in Thursday’s Region I-3A DI championship game. Prior to that point, the Eagles had mustered all of seven rushing yards in the first half, fumbled away a second-quarter, fourth-down try and winced agonizingly as an errant snap sailed 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage to thwart a promising first-half possession.

Meanwhile, Whitesboro had just taken the lead when receiver Jace Sanders sneaked his way to the sideline uncovered on a fourth and goal play — from the 22-yard line, no less — to seize momentum and threaten to avenge a 39-35 loss to the Eagles earlier this season.

In other words, Brock had the Bearcats right where it wanted them.

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FEATURE: Benjamin sophomore leading Mustangs to historic season

Main photo courtesy of Naomi Skinner

Grayson Rigdon makes playing six-man football look about as easy as anyone can.  

While defenders labor to chase him, the Benjamin sophomore glides around the field. Rigdon even occasionally slows down before hitting the turbo button and zooming past helpless pursuers.  

After leading Strawn to a state title as a freshman, Rigdon’s on track to do the same thing at Benjamin as the Mustangs are in the state semifinals for the first time in 45 years. They’ll play Whitharral at 3 p.m. Saturday with a chance to make history.  

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Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel vs. Twitter Polls (Week 15)

Each week here at Big Country Preps, we’ll post our picks for all of that week’s 11-man games and select six-man games, in addition to the results of Evan Ren’s Twitter polls for each matchup.

For those interested in voting, polls go up on Monday night each week.

Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.

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