Category: Six-man

EVAN REN: We’re pushing ahead at Big Country Preps — getting the the ball rolling

“A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.” — John Lubbock

My business partner, Daniel Youngblood, is the king of not worrying.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

If NASA were to announce that an asteroid impact was imminent in 15 minutes and that Abilene would be at ground zero, anything beyond a shrug of the shoulders from Youngblood would surprise me. Of course, I wouldn’t be there to see it. I’d be 25 miles down the road with the accelerator smashed to the floor, one hand on the steering wheel and a rabbit’s foot in the other.

The recent turmoil in the world has put both of our natures on display — him letting it all roll off his back and me, well … being me.

If fate allows it, a return to normalcy is the objective here and the sooner the better. As the designated worrier at Big Country Preps, I’ve been on pins and needles throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive social unrest created by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And let’s just call it what it was — a murder.

That said, I’m currently doing my best to steal a page from the Youngblood stress-free handbook and turning my attention from our tumultuous, viral-plagued world to something I can understand: football. That means that heading into the summer months, we’ll be diving headlong into our previews for the upcoming season.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Jayton standouts may very well have reached state tennis tournament

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

For those who keep track of Big Country high school athletics, the names of Tye Scogin and Tripp Scott are likely to ring a bell. The Jayton High School standouts have become familiar to area fans as key elements in back-to-back trips to the state basketball tournament by JHS. 

What very few realize, however, is that they were about to form what was anticipated to be one of the area’s top boys doubles teams in tennis — one that may have had a shot at a regional title and trip to state. 

We’ll never know. 

With the University Interscholastic League’s mandatory lockdown of all school activities across Texas due to COVID-19 and the subsequent cancellation of all spring sporting events as a safety measure, the Scogin and Scott duo never had a chance to materialize.

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EVAN REN: 10 things I’ll take away from the COVID-19 pandemic

I’ve always held to a personal axiom that perspective is everything. True or not, how we view a situation becomes the truth in our minds.
There’s no escaping it and every one of us has our own perspective

Well, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have changed my perspective in several ways on several different things. And for a middle-aged guy who is pretty well set in my ways, this is like the planets aligning.

I’ve managed to list my top 10 takeaways from lockdown, as they pertain to this website and what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Let’s dive in: 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Trips to state in multiple sports stopped suddenly for HHS Gonzales

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Makia “Kiki” Gonzales claims she knew nothing about the shot put when she began throwing it in the seventh grade.

“I knew nothing except the slide, you know where you move sideways across the ring to throw it,” the Hermleigh senior said. “My coaches tried to get me to try another release like the spin, but I was comfortable with the slide. So we worked on getting lower in the ring so I could use all my strength from my arms and legs when I threw.”

Gonzales blossomed into a 5-foot-11 athlete with plenty of quickness, strength and power — all key ingredients for the shot put. She qualified for the UIL Class 1A State Track and Field Meet in the shot put as a freshman, sophomore and junior — finishing eighth, fourth and fourth, respectively. She threw her best of 39 feet, 7 inches at the 2019 regional meet.

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EVAN REN: Virus may teach us some appreciation (for a while)

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
— Voltaire 

There’s a barbeque place near my home that I don’t like. In fact, I seldom go there — deliberately bypassing it whenever the BBQ craving hits me in favor of better choices. 

But Friday, after two months of COVID-19 exile, I decided to make a quick run to bring home some brisket for the wife and I and elected to go to the very place I try to avoid because it was convenient. 

Funny how one’s perspective can change while in isolation.

Abilene’s worst barbeque was suddenly good. In fact, it was beyond good. It was like freakin’ nirvana. 

I suspect that’s the way it’s going to be with virtually everything I had taken for granted before the lockdown. And I’m already experiencing some of it.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Loaded Ira Bulldogs felt this was their year

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

When you’ve been in coaching as long as Toby Goodwin has, you know what an elite team looks like. 

So when the Ira coach says this year’s Bulldogs had a baseball state tournament appearance in their sights, he’s not just blowing smoke.

Unfortunately, neither he, his players or the Ira community will ever get a chance to find out just how good this year’s squad was. And instead of being remembered as the group that finally broke through for an Ira program that has been knocking at the door for years, the 2020 Bulldogs will be the one that (only) COVID-19 took down.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Baseball in the blood for Rotan’s Van Poppel

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Trish Hurt, Double Mountain Chronicle

With the last name he has, Cole Van Poppel was almost destined to end up on a pitcher’s mound.

For the Rotan senior and nephew of former major-leaguer Todd Van Poppel, baseball — and pitching, in particular — runs in the blood.

So to say it was tough to have his final high school season — and final opportunity to lead the Yellowhammers to the playoffs — cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak and the University Interscholastic League’s subsequent decision to cancel the 2020 spring sports season, is a fairly sizable understatement.

And though the opportunity to continue his career at Temple College and memory of pitching a perfect game in his final high school start serve as some consolation, part of him will always be left to wonder what might have been.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Baird’s top-ranked vaulters will have other opportunities

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Baird’s Rylan Rogers and Carsann Baker were the top-ranked pole vaulters in Class 1A through mid-March. Even though both had visions of winning a state championship in May, they figure to have other opportunities after spring sports were canceled this year.

Rogers, a Baird senior, plans to vault collegiately for McMurry’s NCAA Division III track and field program. Baker, a junior, hopes for a normal 2021 track and field season at Baird High School.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Gorman’s Madera never got a chance to long jump this year

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. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Genaro Madera Jr., better known as Jr. Madera around Gorman, was hoping to win a state championship in the long jump this spring and possibly receive an athletic scholarship offer to a smaller university or junior college.

Even though Gorman is a Class 1A school with a high school enrollment of less than 90 students, the coaching staff had helped seven athletes in the last three years earn college athletic scholarships in football, girls’ basketball, baseball, softball and track.

Madera had finished second at the 2019 UIL State Track & Field Meet in the Class 1A boys’ long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 6.75 inches. But the best jump of his junior season had been well over 21 feet.

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BCP Podcast No. 90: Gordon’s Reed joins Evan and Daniel for second time

Mike Reed is not just one of the most successful six-man coaches in the state. He’s also one of the thoughtful and inspirational leaders in the Big Country.

On Tuesday, Reed joined Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood to share his thoughts and perspective on the COVID-19 shutdown and what can be learned from it for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

2020 All-Big Country Preps Girls Basketball Team: First-Team Roster

Here are our third-team selections for the 2020 All-Big Country Preps girls basketball team. For the rest of this year’s boys and girls basketball selections, click the links below.

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FEATURE: Rotan softball still hoping for a chance to make it to state

Photos courtesy of Greg Decker

The Rotan softball team began the 2020 season looking to complete some unfinished business from last year. Now, the Lady Hammers are just hoping to have a 2020 season.

Rotan was one win away from advancing to the UIL Class 1A state tournament last season, but two one-run losses to Borden County left the Lady Hammers wanting a chance to finish the job this year. They even beat Borden County 7-2 during a tournament earlier this season.

But the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, stopped high school sports in Texas — along with a lot of other normal activities — after the first day of Rotan’s softball tournament March 12-14. Now the UIL has said the earliest high school sports could return is May 4, and some are wondering if it’s even possible to resume spring sports at all after losing seven weeks.

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BCP Podcast No. 86: Brandon McAuliffe joins Daniel to discuss coronavirus impact on state hoops, spring sports

With Evan Ren at home recovering from a bout with pneumonia and a week-long hospital stay, Big Country Preps contributor Brandon McAuliffe joins Daniel Youngblood for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

In this episode, Daniel and Brandon discuss the massive impact the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has had on the Big Country sports scene and country at large. 

STATE RECAP: Jayton boys fall to Slidell in 1A semis; competition suspended over coronavirus concerns

SAN ANTONIO — Jayton’s season didn’t end the way the No. 8 Jaybirds wanted it to Thursday morning, but at least the JHS boys basketball team got to take the court at the Alamodome.

Coach Ryan Bleiker’s squad fell 45-28 to No. 5 Slidell in the second of two Class 1A state semifinal games — one of just four contests completed before the University Interscholastic League suspended action on the 2020 boys basketball state tournament as a response to concern over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

That means that San Saba’s Class 2A semifinal against top-ranked Martin’s Mill, originally slated for 8:30 a.m. Friday, will not be played as scheduled, if completed at all.

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BCP Podcast No. 85: Jayton’s Bleiker, San Saba’s Kyle talk state hoops with Evan, Daniel

Jayton boys basketball coach Ryan Bleiker has led the Jaybirds to their second state tournament appearance in as many years. San Saba’s Mark Kyle has led the Armadillos to their first state trip since 1928.

Earlier this week, both men took a few minutes to chat with Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood about the challenge their teams face for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel recap last week’s boys basketball regionals.

BOYS BASKETBALL STATE PREVIEW: No. 8 Jayton prepped for state rematch with defending champ Slidell

After making their first state tournament appearance last March and coming within a single win of their first state title, the Jayton Jaybirds will have a chance to finish the job this year.

But fresh off a grueling run through the Region II-1A bracket, JHS will face another stiff test in their 2020 state opener. Standing between the No. 8 Jaybirds and the Class 1A crown is a semifinal matchup with the defending state champion and fifth-ranked Slidell Greyhounds — a team with which coach Ryan Bleiker and his players are quite familiar.

It was Slidell that ended Jayton’s championship hopes last year, defeating the Jaybirds 49-36 in the 2019 title game. Bleiker and Co. are intent on reversing that outcome when the teams meet at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, but the coach knows that won’t be easy.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Multi-talented AHS star Roberson takes top spot

Abilene High junior Trakenya (KK) Roberson is probably best known for her work on the basketball court, where she’s been weaving through defenses for one layup after another since she was a freshman. 

But this speedy standout’s skills aren’t confined to the hardwood. She’s also an excellent softball player where she serves as a starting outfielder and leadoff hitter for the 15-4 Lady Eagles.

Last week, she put her many talents on display in leading AHS to four wins in six games, earning Big Country Preps Player of the Week honors in the process. 

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GAME STORY: Jaybirds punch second straight ticket to San Antonio with win over Paducah (two videos included)

Poise. Discipline. Defense. 

Coach Ryan Bleiker’s Jayton Jaybirds used that simple, three-part recipe to reach their second straight Class 1A state basketball tournament in San Antonio, with a 49-36 win over Paducah on Saturday at McMurry University. 

Tye Scogin scored 23 points and Tripp Scott and Pecos Smith added 10 each to pace Jayton (31-3), which now advances to the state equivalent to the Final Four. Scogin scored 21 of his 23 points at the free-throw line, burying all but one of his shots from the stripe. 

Paducah closed its season at 28-5, led by Mark Flemons with 16 points and Deftlon Flemons with seven. 

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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.

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GAME STORY: No. 5 Slidell too much for Eula boys in Region III-1A semifinals

MANSFIELD — Eula boys basketball coach Josh Fostel knew a fast start would be key if his team was going to have any hope of knocking off the defending state champion Slidell Greyhounds in Friday’s Region III-1A semifinal at Mansfield Legacy High School.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, what they got was the opposite.

Falling behind 16-1 after a quarter, ninth-ranked Eula was never able to recover in a 58-33 loss to No. 5 Slidell, falling to the Greyhounds in the same round for the second consecutive season. 

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GAME STORY: No. 7 Paducah ends Hermleigh boys historic run

No. 7 Paducah proved too much for the Hermleigh boys Tuesday night, routing the Cardinals 66-29 in a Region II-1A quarterfinal at McMurry’s Kimbrel Arena. But the loss didn’t diminish the positive steps coach Kia McCarty’s squad made this season.

Finishing at 17-14 with their first two playoff wins since 1907, the Cardinals experienced historic success in McCarty’s first season as a head coach.

And following the game, after giving the Dragons the credit they earned with Tuesday’s victory, it was that fact the coach wanted to focus on.

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FEATURE: Gorman softball rebuilds, but the goals don’t change

The Gorman softball team won’t have to carry the burden of an undefeated record into the playoffs this season. The Lady Panthers lost three of four games in last weekend’s season-opening tournament in Abilene.

Gorman won its first 26 games last season before falling to Dodd City in the Region II-1A championship game. It marked the second time in three years for Gorman to fall to Dodd City in the game that determined which team qualified for the UIL Class 1A state tournament.

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GAME STORY: No. 7 Hermleigh comes up inches short against Veribest in II-1A final

The Hermleigh Lady Cardinals’ bid for their third consecutive state tournament berth came up just short Saturday night at Abilene Christian University’s Moody Coliseum. Literally.

With her team trailing Veribest by two points in the waning seconds of the the Region II-1A championship game, standout forward Makia Gonzales fired off a 3-pointer from the wing, hoping to earn her team one more trip to San Antonio before closing her stellar high school career.

The shot was on-line, but unfortunately for the Lady Cardinals, it was just a couple of inches short, bouncing off the front rim and out, allowing the Lady Falcons to secure a 27-25 victory and clinch their first state tournament berth in school history.

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