Category: Local football

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Big Country Preps Top 10 Stories for 2020

The year 2020 is finally behind us — a fact I think we can all celebrate as a positive.

A wretched year in so many ways, 2020 presented unique challenges most of us never could have envisioned and brought levels of heartbreak and hardship we may never experience again in our lifetimes. 

But even out of bad years, good stories can arise. And as a website devoted to highlighting the positives in our narrow area of focus, we’re going to revisit some of the best today.

As has become a New Year’s Day custom here at Big Country Preps, it’s time once again to revisit the biggest Big Country sports stories of the past year. And while narrowing and compiling that list is never easy, and always leaves worthy stories unaccounted for, we hope you enjoy looking back at some of the highlights from a tough year.

As we say goodbye to 2020 (thankfully), we turn our attention to the local athletes and coaches who produced some positive memories for area sports fans. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 stories from last year:

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GAME STORY: Shorthanded Eagles fall to Denton Guyer in regional semis

ARLINGTON — Playing after Christmas for the first time in school history, the Abilene High football team saw its season come to an end with a 38-21 loss to Denton Guyer in a Region I-6A Division II semifinal Saturday afternoon at Globe Life Park.

The Eagles were without starting quarterback Abel Ramirez, who was sidelined due to a concussion suffered last week, and turned to receiver Jeshari Houston to direct the offense.

AHS saw its deepest playoff run since 2016 come to an end with the loss and finishes the delayed season at 6-5.

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FEATURE: Abilene High seniors bring calm to stormy season, fuel team’s turnaround

Few teams in the state of Texas have faced the adversity the Abilene High Eagles have this season.

In addition to the COVID pandemic, which has impacted every program in one way or another, the Eagles had to watch their head coach, Mike Fullen, be diagnosed with colon cancer in August, miss the start of the season as a result, and undergo semiweekly chemotherapy treatments once he returned to the team in mid-October.

Add in a 1-4 start against a loaded early-season schedule, and it would have been understandable if an AHS squad that was short on experience to begin with had ended its fourth consecutive season without a playoff berth. 

With the Eagles now sitting at 6-4, following a five-game winning streak that has them preparing for a Region I-6A Division II semifinal matchup with Denton Guyer on Saturday, that’s obviously not how things played out. And while there are a number of factors to which that turnaround can be attributed, Fullen himself cites the steady leadership of his 36 seniors as one of the most important. 

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FEATURE: Abilene officials work hard for state championship games

ARLINGTON — The crowning achievement for anyone involved in high school athletics is competing for, and winning, a state championship.

Last week saw May fall in its quest for the second state championship in school history, while the Jim Ned Indians claimed their first title.

As much of an accomplishment as it was for those two communities to make it to the final game of the year, there was another group from the Big Country that made an appearance at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday night.

Led by referee Edgar Reed, a seven-man crew of officials from Abilene called the thrilling Mart-Windthorst Class 2A Division II state championship.

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GAME STORY: Dominant defensive effort fuels AHS past North Crowley 12-7

STEPHENVILLE — The Abilene High football team’s area-round playoff game against North Crowley on Friday at Tarleton Memorial Stadium couldn’t have been more different than last week’s bi-district win over El Paso Eastwood.

But the result was the same, and the Eagles are moving on to the Region I-6A Division II semifinals as a result.

Just six days after building a 28-point lead and holding on for a 42-35 victory in a shootout against the Troopers, AHS needed a dominant second half to rally past North Crowley for a 12-7 win in a defensive struggle Friday.

And while both games may have added a few gray hairs to coach Mike Fullen’s head, he said he couldn’t be more proud of his team for doing what was necessary to win and extend its season.

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FEATURE: Young Eagles’ success a product of steady growth process

Starting the season with just eight total starters and 24 lettermen back from last year’s 3-7 team, Mike Fullen knew his second year as Abilene High’s head football coach would be a growing process.

And that was before even factoring in a pandemic that would cost his team its spring, a personal cancer battle that would sideline him for much of he summer and the first three games of the season, and a front-loaded schedule that would push the youthful Eagles — and their confidence — to the limit.

But after watching his squad rebound from a rocky 1-4 start to win four straight games, including AHS’ first playoff victory since 2016 last week against El Paso Eastwood, Fullen couldn’t be happier with how that process has played out.

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Evan Ren’s Playoff forecast: Jim Ned heads to Arlington, Abilene advances to area round

LAST WEEK: 3-2, .600
SEASON TOTAL: 435-95, .821

With May’s loss to Sterling City in the Class 1A DI title game on Wednesday (a game we made our picks for last week), there are but two Big Country teams still playing football in 2020 — the Jim Ned Indians and the Abilene Eagles. 

Jim Ned will square off with Hallettsville on Thursday evening in Arlington in the Class 3A DI state title game. Abilene High will go against North Crowley in the Class 6A DII area round. 

It’s always nice to see some of our area clubs still playing in December. But in the delay-hampered season that we’ve seen this year, it’s a blessing to see anyone suiting up at this point.

I’ll see you on the road. Here’s a look at this week’s games: 

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