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The Baird-Cross Plains matchup is not only the biggest rivalry for both programs, it’s among the longest and most hotly contested in the entire Big Country. The two Callahan County schools have met 85 times in a series that has spanned 94 years and has, in its history, decided playoff spots, district championships and county bragging rights.
This year’s bout between the two rivals, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Buffalo Stadium, could be for a playoff berth in a tough district that also features Albany, Hamlin, Haskell and Roscoe. The Bears will be looking to avenge the 52-0 loss they suffered last year — Cross Plains’ largest victory margin in the rivalry’s history.
But to discover how the rivalry became so fierce and heated, one must travel back to the 1920s.
In his more than 30 years as a part of Abilene’s sports scene, Al Pickett has done a little bit of everything. In addition to serving as the sports editor of the Abilene Reporter-News for 15 years, Pickett has been the play-by-play voice for numerous local high school and college teams, hosted his own radio show, “Let’s Talk Sports,” and authored five books about sports in Abilene and Texas.
Pickett, who is both the founder and a member of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame, took some time this week to talk about his career in sports journalism, seeing his book “Brother’s Keeper” being made into a feature film and what his future holds on this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.
Also in this episode, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood discuss the situations each of the area’s seven 11-man coaches taking over new programs face in 2018.
First-year Baird coach Joel Baker understands the situation he’s stepping into. Inheriting a 1-9 team that was outscored 445-135 a year ago, he knows he’s got some building to do to get the Bears where they want to be.
But rather than looking back at last season’s struggles and the factors that might have caused them, Baker’s gaze is fixed forward. And rather than focusing on what his players aren’t equipped to do athletically, he’s determined — through meticulous organization and unrivaled preparation — to maximize the talent he has at his disposal.
Outside of Callahan County, not much is expected of the Baird football team this season.
The Bears, who went 1-9 last fall before being realigned into a district that features Albany, Hamlin, Roscoe, Cross Plains and Haskell, were picked by Texas Football magazine to finish behind even Roby — which won’t play a league schedule this season — in the publication’s preseason predictions.
That type of disrespect is OK with first-year coach Joel Baker, however. He feels confident his team will change some minds in 2018.
Like Big Country Preps co-founders Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood, Wichita Falls Time Record News area writer Zach Duncan has been covering high school sports in his market for a long time.
Entering his 15th football season with the Wichita Falls newspaper, Duncan has seen more great games than he can count and worked with some outstanding coaches and players. This week, he took some time to share some his favorite football stories and talk shop with Evan and Daniel.
Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel discuss District 3-3A Division I and District 7-2A Division II — two all-area leagues that should be competitive from top to bottom.