Here are the Big Country’s receiving leaders through Week 9:
If you had told Clay Martin in January that his team would be undefeated four weeks into his first season as a head football coach, he’d likely have happily accepted that outcome.
If you had told him all of the challenges he’d face to get there, he likely wouldn’t have believed you.
Hired to replace longtime Wylie head coach Hugh Sandifer on Jan. 31 after spending more than a quarter-century on the Bulldogs staff, Martin has been tasked with navigating one of the most unique seasons in Texas high school football history. And with his team in the middle of what’s likely to be its third consecutive week off due to COVID-19 cancellations/postponements, he’s adopted an age-old coaching cliché as his guiding philosophy.
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.
The Wylie football team has had to cancel its next two games due to instances of COVID-19 within the program, removing Friday’s crosstown matchup with Cooper and the Bulldogs’ Oct. 16 homecoming game against Amarillo Palo Duro from the team’s schedule.
According to the district, two players and one coach tested positive for coronavirus, and a number of other players were in close contact with individuals who had tested positive for COVID-19.
“We continue to remain focused on the health and safety of our students and staff and are following the UIL protocols along with our state and federal guidelines,” said Wylie officials in a statement released by the school district. “The Taylor County Health Department will notify all students and staff who may have been affected and we will continue to monitor the situation and give any updates as needed.”
Wylie, which is off to a 2-0 start, will return to the field on Oct. 30 when it opens District 3-5A Division II play at Wichita Falls Rider. The Bulldogs’ home opener will now be delayed until Nov. 6, when they host Canyon Randall.
Wylie was to be the final nondistrict opponent for Cooper (1-1), which will now be idle this week unless a replacement game is sought and found. The Cougars will open District 3-5A Division I action Oct. 16 at home against Justin Northwest.
Having one big-play wideout can be a game-changer for an offense. Having two is even better.
The Wylie football team is currently enjoying the latter with seniors Creed Cooper and Reed Hughes, who’ve made their presence felt in a major way during the Bulldogs’ 2-0 start.
In combining for 10 catches for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns in victories over Brownwood (28-7) and Lubbock Monterey (24-6), Cooper and Hughes have given quarterback Balin Valentine and the Wylie offense, in general, a pair of big-time weapons on the edges. And though the two friends share a light-hearted rivalry that goes back years, they’re more than content to share the spotlight — and touches — if it means continued success for their team.
LUBBOCK — The Wylie football team continued its hot start to the season Friday, following its 28-7 season-opening victory over Brownwood last week with a 24-6 win at Lubbock Monterey to improve to 2-0 on the year.
The Bulldogs raced out to a 24-0 halftime lead and never were threatened in the second half in matching last season’s win total just two games into Clay Martin’s head coaching tenure.
Quarterback Balin Valentine led the offense, hitting 13 of 20 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown while rushing for a team-high 64 yards and a score. The Bulldog defense, meanwhile, limited the Plainsmen to one third-quarter touchdown and forced four turnovers in delivering its second consecutive dominant performance.
Coming into Friday’s season opener against against a Brownwood team that had just rushed for almost 300 years in its previous game, first-year Wylie head coach Clay Martin knew that controlling the line of scrimmage would be vital to his team’s hopes of starting 1-0.
But even he had to be surprised by just how thoroughly the Bulldogs accomplished that mission in their 28-7 victory at Gordon Wood Stadium.
Led by a strong effort from its defensive line, WHS limited Brownwood to just 188 yards of total offense, including just 38 yards on the ground, in a dominating performance.
It was quite a start for a front that returned just one starter from last year’s 2-8 squad.
BROWNWOOD — Clay Martin’s debut as Wylie’s head football coach couldn’t have gone much better than it did against Brownwood on Friday.
The longtime leader of the Wylie defense under former coach Hugh Sandifer got to watch a dominating performance on that side of the football and, most importantly, got to leave Gordon Wood Stadium with a 28-7 victory in the Bulldogs’ 2020 season opener.
The WHS defense forced five turnovers while limiting the home-standing Lions to 188 yards and no offensive points. And the offense overcame a slow start to control the game and clock as the team pulled away in the second half.
Few positions in sports are as important as an offensive line is to a football team.
If you can control the line of scrimmage, everything else gets easier. And if you can’t, well, the opposite is true.
In recent years, the Wylie football program has experienced both of these extremes. In 2016, a strong offensive line unit led by current Abilene Christian University senior Kade Parmelly helped the Bulldogs to a 12-1 record and their fourth state championship game appearance in school history. Just two years later, though, in WHS’ first year as a Class 5A program, struggles up front contributed in large part to a rough 0-10 campaign — a trend that continued last season as the ‘Dogs struggled to a 2-8 record.
Taking over for his longtime boss Hugh Sandifer, who retired in January after 41 years at Wylie, first-year WHS head coach Clay Martin is determined to get that turned back around. And with a healthy O-line group that features two returning starters and good crop of junior varsity call-ups, he feels the pieces are in place to accomplish that.
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.
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.
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.
LAST WEEK: 34-15, .694
SEASON TOTAL: 34-15, .694
If this were a horse race, Gramps Ren just stumbled out of the gate.
A .694 pick percentage is one of the worst weeks I’ve had in recent memory — brought on by a disastrous 15-9 tally (.625) in the six-man ranks.
Alas, we have yet to reach the first turn, so it’s way early. If I’m not hitting over .800 down the backstretch, I may resort to consulting with a palm reader.
Here’s a look at this week’s Big Country football games.
I’ll see you on the road.