By Bobbie Brown
Another awesome Friday night has come and gone! I wait impatiently all week for Friday night to arrive. It is especially nice when I can attend games on Thursday and Saturday, too. This past week I visited the town of Matador, Texas. Home of the Mighty Motley County Matadors. The Spur Bulldogs came to town and a battle ensued. These two teams have played against each other in football since 1924. Yes, you read that correctly. 1924. Both 11-man and Sixman games. That's a long history, folks!
Before I talk about the teams, I need to mention the awesome hospitality in Matador. From the friendly gentlemen at the entrance to the ladies and students in the concession stand, everyone was pleasant and smiling and made everyone feel welcome! I had a big bowl of really great nachos. I gauge the concession stand by how many jalapenos they put on my nachos when I say, “I want a lot!” To my surprise, they let me sprinkle my nachos with jalapenos on my own. I got plenty. Maybe just a bit more than plenty. That is the way to do it!
The sun was doing the trick it does this time of year. It peeks out from behind a few clouds as it heads downward. Just before it sinks below the horizon, the light is spectacular! That lighting is really awesome for taking pictures, especially when the players are running in my direction at 9-0. It is especially great for catching facial expressions behind the face mask. Those are hard to get once darkness falls.
The Spur Bulldogs are now healthy and came out with a BANG! They were firing on all cylinders early in the game and continued through to the end. The Bulldogs are finally playing as a team. One unit. I’ve known for several years they are extremely talented, but they always had something internal holding them back. I believe Coach Clark and the coaching staff have the Bulldogs on the right path and headed in the same direction. It was an awesome sight. Bulldogs… KEEP IT UP! I’ve been waiting for you to turn the corner. And now I can see you coming around the bend. Together.
The Matadors. Wow. What a group of talented young players. After graduating many last year, the Matadors are reloading. I find myself calling them the Young Guns. While the majority of the players are underclassmen, they have a rare determination. You can see it in the hard set of their jaw and eyes as they focus on each play. They play with heart! I didn't witness one instant where there was “give-up” in any of them. It’s easy to tell when “give-up” rears its ugly head. It’s all about the body language. The Matadors fought hard. I just have one message for the Young Guns. Keep clawing and battling. Keep that determination and focus. It WILL get you somewhere. It will get you where you want to be. And I don’t think it’s going to take long to get there under the leadership of Coach Bigham and company.
The scoreboard didn’t really tell the story, as often times is the case. After halftime I had a hard time taking pictures because I was glued to watching the actual game. That is detrimental to a photographer, but I just couldn’t help it. Sometimes I have to put the camera down and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the game. Of course, I blame it on the lighting – the reason I can’t take pictures. But that’s a very poor excuse. I simply love the atmosphere of Sixman football, the fans, the cheerleaders, the music, the sweat flying, the POP when pads collide. I love it all.
Until the next game, go forward and do GOOD!
By Johnna Reynolds
It's the Go, Fight Win Report coming from Santa Anna! I had the pleasure of meeting the Leakey Eagle and the Crowell Wildcat cheerleaders. It was another rainy afternoon. I'm not gong to complain. When God says it's time for a rain, I'm going to say, thank you! However, when my shoes fill up with water running off my poncho, that's just a little crazy and a different story! I sloshed around the stadium the entire game! As if that wasn't enough, a fan decided he needed to shake the excess water from his umbrella and shook it on me! Yep, the meat and potatoes of this operation stayed nice and dry in the press box! Just so you know, I call myself the Fluff!
The Crowell cheerleaders did a great job keeping their fans cheering for their boys of fall! They didn't have a big crowd, but they did cheer for their team! Not only did the fans have noise makers, the cheerleaders did too! Awesome!
The Leakey cheerleaders also did a great job! I gotta tell ya, the band was great! They made up a chant, TPW. They shouted this over and over. What does that stand for, you might ask? Tough Players Win! Even though they fell short, I loved the enthusiasm they brought to the game!
Maybe I'll hear this chant a few more times throughout the season!
As always, I leave you with this. Friends we are and friends we'll always be. Together we will cheer so faithfully, Cheerleaders we'll always be. Til we meet again!
By Johnna Reynolds
It's Go, Fight, Win coming from a soggy Valley versus Follett battle! What a battle is was on the field! I gotta give both squads kudos! Even though it was pouring down rain through most of the game, neither squad gave up. Just like the teams they were cheering for!
First up, the home team, Valley. Gotta tell you, they have some super signs! I love lots of signs to spur on your team. These girls had that covered.
The visitor, Follett. These girls drove a long way just to cheer on their team. Their crowd may have been a bit small, but they cheered with them even in the pouring rain, under dryness of the umbrellas.
Both squads represented their schools well. I am a fair weather person, and I had my poncho on. Neither squad had any type of rain gear on! Talk about perseverance! I was impressed with both teams of cheerleaders. The sweet cheer sponsors they have do very well with the girls.
I look forward to meeting other cheerleaders. I will leave you with a song we learned at cheer camp many, many years ago.
Friends we are and friends we'll always be. Together we will cheer so faithfully. Cheerleaders we'll always be, Til we meet again!
By Johnna Reynolds
All my life, I have been going to football games. My dad was a football coach. You would think that after all that exposure, a bit of football lingo would have seeped into my soul. Wrong! You see, I didn't go to watch the game. I went to watch the cheerleaders and listen to the band!
From a very young age I wanted to be on the sidelines cheering for my team. I got to do just that! I loved every minute! So, I may not know exactly what's going on in the game, (feel free to ask about football according to me, anytime), but I do know what type of cheer to do!
Some think that cheerleading isn't a sport, while others will strongly disagree that it is. My opinion is that Cheerleading is a sport. Cheerleaders train for this sometimes their whole lives. It takes quite a lot of training and practice to do back handsprings and flips! There are lots of squads that not only lift weights for stunting purposes, but they run to keep up their endurance. Try dancing, jumping, stunting, and cheering for four quarters plus, a halftime dance!
Cheerleaders work hard most of the year, there is hardly any down time. . They start before two-a-days painting signs for the locker rooms, painting signs for the halls at school, planning pep rallies, planning mini cheer camps. Every week they practice their cheers to make sure they are perfect! During the pep rally and the game, they work hard to keep the fans fired up and cheering for their team!
This year, I want to recognize cheerleaders! They work extremely hard. So, I am looking for the squad that is full of pep and keeps their fans yelling for their team and keeps the players motivated!
Each week, I will go to a game and meet as many squads and sponsors as possible. Look for my article, the Go, Fight, Win Report. If you would like me to visit you, give me a shout! Hopefully, I'll be giving you the Golden Spirit Stick at the end of the season! Then, I'll start over for basketball season!
Let's hear it not only for the boys, but for the cheerleaders who back the boys of fall!
By Dency McClure
I’m sure most have heard the saying “Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise.” Well, the creeks rose but the good Lord was willing. The road we usually take to get to Highland was closed because the creek rose well over the road. We had to take a longer route, but we did get there.
I always forget about the giant cement factory dotting the rural ranch land between Maryneal and Highland ISD. It’s a bit majestic rising from the landscape like a superhero castle. It can be seen from miles away and the roads seem to curve you all around it from every angle. I’ve been told it employs many in the area. The lights from the factory and the wind towers make for an impressive skyline in the dark like a magical storybook kingdom hidden from the masses.
When I was in high school at Newcastle, we made the trip to Highland a couple of times for football games. I honestly don’t remember too much about those trips. My Dad was college roommates with Joe Killgore, a teacher at Highland and native rancher to the area. They remained friends after college, and I remember visiting their ranch a couple of times in my young childhood. It’s always interesting to me how we all connect at some point in time.
We arrived in the rain to the school on the hilltop in plenty of time. The gatekeepers waved us on in to the stadium. We parked and stared out into the pouring rain not sure we wanted to join in the beating everything was taking from it. I stepped out of the truck into a huge puddle ever thankful for my rain boots and gear.
We made our way to the stands and field. Everyone was covered with something; umbrellas, windbreakers, towels, etc. As I stepped onto the field a young man yelled out to me that our polka dotted rain boots matched. I chuckled agreeing. One man on the Highland side saw my blue rain poncho and inquired where I had gotten it. I told him I always have it in my travel supplies. He was disappointed they weren’t available to the fans.
We met up with the Blackwell coaches Lowry and Means before the game. We enjoyed a nice visit, out of the rain, by the tables before we all had to get to work. Duty always calls and visits continue after the game.
People were taking cover where they could. A group of kids were sitting on the concession stand counter, before it opened, while others were gathered in various other cubbys of dryness. I went up to the press box with Michael and Leman Saunders who were preparing for the broadcast. I told them I would not be taking many pregame photos due to the weather. They were in the dry but facing their own problems. Due to the humidity the press box windows were fogging up. I must admit as a person who works in the trenches, I take a little pleasure in the press box group dealing with weather issues. I work in the heat, cold, rain, etc just like the mail carriers, coaches, players, and others. While the press box crew tough it out in the climate controlled box out of the wind. They turned down the AC put on jackets and got the windows to clear.
Right as the national anthem started, the rain magically ceased! The rains did not return during the game. It was such a blessing to everyone in attendance to get a short reprieve. We love our rain in this part of Texas as water is a scarcity not to be wasted in any way, but it was still nice to get a little break during the game. I happily splashed and squished along the sidelines.
There is a good rivalry going between the two Nolan County schools and they are both the hornets. Their mascot logos are almost identical but face in opposite directions and are different colors. I wouldn’t ever make the mistake of pointing one in the wrong direction if I were you. Not long ago, a new piece was added to the rivalry; a bell on a trailer. The winning team gets to keep the bell until the next match up and ring it at games. Thus the game being labeled the battle of the bell.
During this great rivalry game, I heard some words flying from the stands. One was to the refs “Keep it in your pocket unless you need to wipe your nose.” I couldn’t help but chuckle a little at that one. The other was “Let’s get some blue bumblebees.” I don’t know which is worse a bumblebee sting or a hornet one. I’ve only been stung by a wasp, and it was bad enough.
During halftime I got to meet Tiffany Lange who has been doing great things for the Texas 1A Fan fans through her job at Gandy Ink with the New Spirit Booster division. It was nice to put a face to the name. I enjoyed taking pictures of the Blackwell cheerleaders; one of whom is Tiffany’s daughter.
I got in a short visit with Bud Halfmann who was hanging on the fence during the game. I taught with Bud in Paint Rock for several years. He is actually the first coach I ever shared the football sidelines with. I owe him a big thank you for being so kind and supportive of my photography endeavor.
After the game I caught coach Lowry for an interview. I walked off the field with Means and asked him if we would like to do an interview as well. He responded that there was no point as all he would say is “Defense Played; Lights Out!”
See you on the Sidelines!
By Bobbie Brown
The big story of this weekend… rain. And lots of it! It rained on us all the way to Valley Schools. It might make things messy for football, but the land sure does love it! Everything was turning brown and dead, but after all the rain, we enjoyed seeing beautiful fields of green all the way into Hall and Briscoe counties. It was nice to see a lot of green again before fall comes sweeping in and everything goes back to being dry and brown.
Valley School sits halfway between Turkey and Quitaque, Texas. There is a really cool Drive-in movie place just down the road from the school. The white marquee sign outside has square, black letters that spell out, “Closed for Winter.” The enormous screen faces away from the road and the back is painted like an American flag. You know how you get curious about icons of the past and crane your neck to see just a little more than you really can? I have mastered that maneuver, and all I saw were a few weeds poking out where cars normally park behind the high fence. Nostalgia sets in, and it makes me wish I could drive in and watch a movie on the big screen from the car.
We made it to the turn in and wound our way back behind the school to the football field. We found mud puddles everywhere. And it was still sprinkling on the gathering crowd. Most fans were crowded into cars by the time game time arrived. There were a few diehard fans in the stands wearing rain ponchos and clutching umbrellas.
I braved the rain and marched right out onto the field to find Coach Keith. He welcomed me with a smile. I watched Valley in a scrimmage two weeks ago and then at the Gridiron last weekend. Each week the Patriots have improved dramatically. They are a young team who paced the sideline in 2017 behind the Patriot superstars. This year it is their time to prove themselves on the field. And they are stepping up to the challenge. While the outcome wasn’t a win, they should feel pride in just how far they have come in a few short weeks.
I didn’t get a chance to talk to Coach Copley from Follett. The rain made things messy and to tell the truth, I was just a little weary of being soaking wet. The Panthers are a hard team to review. I watched them at the McLean super scrimmage and came away with nothing other than they are solid. Christian Barber is their QB and is a very athletic player. He is surrounded by players who work well as a team. Sometimes I come across teams where there is no true standout because the team as a whole is the standout. The Panthers definitely fit that description.
The game was a battle. The Patriots and the Panthers matched each other score for score until the very end of the game. With a few minutes left, the Panthers found the end zone and sewed up the win. It really was a great game, and I’m so glad we were able to participate in the fanfare!
Thank you to Valley School and Coach Keith for the wonderful hospitality. Everyone was extremely pleasant and welcoming. I really enjoy visiting Valley. I’ll go back soon!
Week 3 of the 2018 is upon us now. Go find some comforting Sixman town hospitality. You’ll be glad you did and might just find yourself smiling all the way to the truck once the game is done. Until next week, Go forward and do Good!
By Dency McClure
We arrived in Lohn early and found the coaches and others moving sprinkler stuff off the field. Coach Jackson was pushing the little cart along that spray paints the field lines. Not sure why I am so fascinated by those little contraptions, but I am. I mean how cool is that to push the cart and it sprays paint? The area was buzzing with people making game preparations. We caught Coach Jackson as he was putting the little cart in the shed. We have shirts that we are giving to the coaches this season. When I held up the shirt to show him he got excited and was very pleased and even more pleased when Michael told him he was the first coach to get one. The Gustine bus pulled in so we left Coach Jackson so he could get back to work.
About that time a rainbow appeared behind the end zone. I’ll be honest, it had been pouring rain most of the day in Paint Rock. I had reluctantly found my rain boots and was dreading standing in the rain. It was a very nice surprise to arrive in a rain-free oasis in Lohn. They had gotten much needed rain, but it had left in plenty of time for things to dry a bit before kick-off. I gladly traded my rain boots for my tennis shoes.
Soon the referees arrived. Two appeared to be very young and again, I am so thankful we have people stepping up to fill the desperate need for Sixman referees. Of course when you are new at something, you aren’t perfect at it, and it takes time to get in the groove of the season. They all worked hard throughout the game and were under great leadership from a amazing white hat. I hope to keep seeing new referees this season along with my trusted sideline buddies of past seasons.
Before the game got underway folks were parking all along the fence. It appeared that many had their regular spots that everyone knew was theirs. Once backed up to the fence, several set up their game watching homes away from home. Lawn chairs and recliners etc were lifted into the truck beds and even blankets were added for the extra coziness. Why sit in the bleachers when you can watch in style along the fence?
A group was selling raffle tickets for a chance to win a cake. I loved hearing all the discussions having to do with the cake. One cheerleader asked a man if he would share the cake if he won it. He informed her he was a cake-eating son of a gun so there probably wouldn’t be any to share. The discussion from the press box about the cake was if it was homemade or not. They were soon told it was homemade and all about the icing. It sounded delicious. Everyone wanted to win! The winner was announced at half and at the end of the game the announcer in the press box asked when and where the cutting of the cake would take place getting a chuckle from the crowd.
The game got underway and Lohn took off with an unexpected bang. They made the first touchdown and were on fire. I was texting Jeff Corean, the Rochelle coach, to let him know Lohn was in the game. He was excited as well so I told him to tune in to our broadcast to keep up.
We could hear thunder and see lightning in the distance. Gustine questioned the weather and Coach Jackson yelled up to the press box that Gustine wanted to go home, so as not to get beat, so he needed a lightning meter check. The meter was checked and the report came back that it was 30 some odd miles away so the game was still a go.
Gustine jumped in after a startling start, and the game was an exciting one. Both teams had offense and defense going for them. Gustine had a few extra players to rotate in, but Lohn just had their six. No substitutes at all! Playing both sides of the ball play after play all night long. A team of heart and not a senior in the bunch!
The humidity was playing into several things. Both teams were cramping and the bugs were swarming. The game took a bit longer to play as multiple players were having to be stretched. Lohn had to run a couple of plays with only five on the field.
My favorite quote from the night was when one of the Lohn coaches yelled out to Taylor Bass when they were lining up and asked her if she was dating one of the other players. She shook her head no, and he said, "then get away from him." Everyone got a chuckle out of that. It’s only game two and several players had to be reminded where to be before the snap. Number 5 from Lohn, Travis Wise, was in beast mode dragging players down the field for yardage. Play after play he beasted it! Pushing for the 15 yards.
I was surprised to see how well Taylor and the boys were holding up to playing non-stop all night. Their maroon was getting darker and darker as the quarters passed. It wasn’t until half way through the fourth quarter that they started to show signs of getting tired. A tribute to the Lohn coaches on their conditioning for sure.
The game went a full four quarters and ended with Gustine 56 and Lohn 14. It wasn’t the expected game. It was an amazing game. When I interviewed Coach Jackson at a scrimmage his goal for the season was to be competitive. Coach Jackson, I must say you and your six have achieved your goal!
See you on the sidelines!
By Dency McClure
We rolled into Garden City early Thursday afternoon with the Fandominium in tow. Coach Jeff Jones met us and showed us the perfect place to camp on the campus. Right behind the home stands by the shot put. A row of large pine trees just waiting to shade us in the heat of the day. It was the perfect spot for running back to between games, during halftime or after games. It was extra nice because the players walked right by the big window on their way to the field so I always knew when it was time to leave the ac and jump back into the heat.
Being on a 1A campus is nostalgic for me. I love the sound of swings squeaking and the voices of children laughing and playing wafting through the air like a breeze of contentment. The voices of high school kids visiting by their trucks and making plans. The teachers and coaches giving instructions just a bit louder so everyone can hear. My favorite from the weekend was the sound of Gators and golf carts buzzing all around. Carrying water coolers, supplies and people. It’s the most awesome transportation on campus. Tempting to do some Gator racing for sure.
Once we got settled, Coach Jones took us for a quick tour of the new gymnasium. Bobbie Brown was correct in calling it the “Taj Mahal” of 1A gyms. I couldn’t think of anything I would change, and it was a blessing to the eye. My favorite thing is the giant scoreboard hanging down in the middle like a crown of crowns saying this is the place to play. I often find myself a bit in awe, as in standing with my mouth hanging open, at some of the facilities small schools have been blessed with. The land around Garden City appears barren to the eye, but it is a rich and giving land.
We learned that we would get to eat with the players and coaches every night and have lunch in the cafeteria on Friday. What an unexpected nicety. Not only for the food but for the fellowship. It’s always nice to see the players without helmets and coaches released from the burden of the game. Some downtime conversation is always good.
On our way back to the stadium to start making game preparations, we ran into the Klondike Crew. They are always a good group to visit with. Coach Degraffenried told us that he played for Coach Jeff Jones his freshman and sophomore years at Crane. I thought that was pretty cool and even neater that Degraffenried now has his own team playing at his past coaches’ event.
Michael got all set in the press box, and I made my way to the field with my camera gear. Five o’clock is no joke in the August heat. Had my cap and my water bottle at the ready. Let me thank everyone in advance for letting me refill my water bottle from your coolers during the games. As you know, it’s a must and I appreciate it.
The kickoff of the first Garden City Shootout soon commenced and we were off for another great opening weekend of the Sixman Season. I love how we do it in Sixman. All these multi-game events remind me of family reunions. We all come together every year to kick off the season in style. It's a great tradition! A Sixman tradition! Because just watching one game opening week is not enough when you are Sixman Crazy!
I love to listen to Delmer Batla announce at the games with the help of his trusty spotter, Travis Pate. After spending hours with them in the press box because of lightning delays, we have become forever friends. Crossing paths throughout the Sixman seasons. They travel all over as do we. I call them “the flip phone guys” with great tenderness and appreciation for all they do.
I’m the photo lady so having to do videos and learn ScoreStream this season has added some responsibilities to which I am not accustomed. I was chugging right along with entering scores until Bastrop Tribe started making 4pt field goals against Sterling City. ScoreStream doesn’t have a button for that. Up to that game, I think I had seen two successful field goals my entire life. They made two in that game alone so now I have seen twice as many. Pretty major in the realm of things.
I caught as many coaches as I could that I hadn’t already interviewed this year. If I missed yours I apologize. Sometimes it just isn’t meant to be and it doesn’t work out. Interviewing coaches is interesting. They are like all the rest of us. Some love it and like to talk while others see me coming and want to run for the hills. I have gotten to where I give them the question run down and ask if all the questions are acceptable to them and then I tell them I’m recording so if they mess up we can start over. FYI I have messed up at least twice this season and been the reason for a restart. Because I’m so awesome like that.
Lots of times at opening week events, the chain gang stays the same for all the games. So I couldn’t resist teasing them the very first game to see if they would be hanging out with me all three days or not. They informed me they would be getting some relief so wouldn’t be doing all the games completely by themselves. One of the chain gang happened to be Glasscock Counties very own Sheriff Keith Burnett. He quickly asked me if that was my new home behind the bleachers. When I told him it was indeed, he gave me a business card and told me to let him know if we needed anything during our stay. The hospitality in Garden City was nothing short of spectacular.
When facing Balmorhea, I once heard a coach say “stop playing like you are scared”. They were scared and with good reason. Have you been hit by Kyle?! Or any of the Balmorhea boys? I have covered Balmorhea many times and during Thursday’s game, I was super impressed by number eight and his ability to carry players on his back for major yardage. I was so impressed I consulted Bobbie Brown and Leman Saunders during the game on just who this new number eight was. I quickly found out it was still the amazing Marcos Mendoza from previous seasons. I had mistakenly thought he had graduated as so many others did last year. I am a huge admirer of his strength and form. While dragging multiple players along, he keeps a tight hold on the ball and reaches out as far as he can before landing for added yardage. FYI he is a beast and will carry all six of the other team into the end zone for a touchdown if the need arises. Beast-Mode Mendoza! By the way Balmorhea, where was the horn!?!
I enjoyed watching all the games, fans, coaches etc. It’s more than just the game that makes Sixman so great. The Sterling City Eagles have a new run through since the last time I saw them. It’s a huge eagle with large talons. I was a little afraid it would take flight and have us all for a snack. In all seriousness though, it was quite impressive and a run through to be proud of as I could tell the fans were.
When Rankin arrived, they brought their own announcer, and I must say the game was on at that point. I felt like I should be bouncing up and down in the corner of a boxing ring ready to throw a punch. He was full of energy and got us all pumped up for the game. I’ve enjoyed listening to him in the past and hope to hear him again.
Hats off to all the mascots that battled the heat for the Shoot Out. My youngest daughter was the Paint Rock Indian Chief Wanna Win for a couple of years so I know the perils of the mascot life. One time she was performing and ants were crawling on her and she could see them crawling around inside the costume head. Needless to say the minute it was over she hit the truck and stripped like a wild Indian.
On Friday Coach Jones took us to lunch in the school cafeteria. He told us it would be a great meal and great atmosphere. He was correct on all fronts. The food was fantastic! We had sloppy joes with all the fixings and grape salad. I had quite a bit of grape salad. Several staff members made sure I didn’t miss the grape salad, and I did not. If you have never been to the Garden City cafeteria manager Reeann McKinnon has made it a time capsule with amazing food. When you enter you leave the present behind and enter a 1960’s diner. Complete with lots of real antiques and a cardboard flashing jukebox. I kept looking around and seeing more an more neat things. Coca Cola signs, records, food ads from the 60’s, an old phone booth and the list goes on and on. It was worth the trip to go back in time.
When I first started covering Garden City, there was a ball boy named Hunter McMillan that would talk my ear off. I always enjoyed visiting with him on the sidelines over the years. He is now a junior and playing in the games. I always enjoy watching him play and getting a hug and visit with him. He has turned out to be an impressive player.
Also on Friday, we were invited to Coach Wiburn's home for an after-game gathering. I know when I see co-workers gather where they can share about their work and enjoy each others company it’s a good thing. Teachers and coaches’ families need each other. It’s a job of long hours and never ending duties so when the families can bond together in support and social enjoyment it’s a great thing. Elizabeth Wilburn laid out an amazing spread of homemade sliders, cookies, chips and dips etc. I don’t know how she did it all with a toddler and a new baby. It was fantastic and much appreciated after day two of covering games.
Day three of the Shoot Out began with a bang, and I mean literally. I woke up to gunshots. I’m not a city girl so started to go back to sleep and then realized I was on a school campus. Even though it was Saturday, I thought I better listen for a minute and figure out where they were coming from. I quickly ascertained that they were coming from the opposite direction so went back to sleep. Yep, it was the opening day of Dove season.
I enjoyed the last morning in my lawn chair with a cup of coffee in the breeze and the shade of the pine trees. I was kind of putting off going back inside to stare at a computer screen again. I love taking sports photos and seeing what I caught, but it is hours of looking at a computer screen and breaks are a necessary thing for the eyes and mental stability. While I was outside, the band director, John Miller, was taking a walk and happened by. I thoroughly enjoyed a visit with him, and I am very impressed how well his elementary and junior high kids did performing at the pep rally and game.
When day three was coming to a close, the superintendent, Scott Bicknell, asked if we would be staying one more night. I said, “please.” He laughed and told me absolutely we were welcome to stay as long as we needed. The hospitality at Garden City was top notch. Everyone was friendly, supportive, helpful, and unbelievably accommodating to anything we needed. We had a great trip and appreciate everything Garden City as a whole did to make it great.
All good things must come to an end. As the last teams circled up in prayer on the field, Delmer sang “Turn Out the Lights the Party’s Over” from the press box.
See you on the Sidelines!
By Bobbie Brown
The 15th Annual Gridiron is in the books! Jayton presented us with an outstanding slate of match-ups, and the teams did not disappoint. I can imagine the many volunteers it takes to take care of 18 teams over a period of three days. I used to be one. I can tell you that the people who help are selfless and will do anything to make sure visitors have what they need. From the townspeople, to the Booster Club, to the Junior Class and their sponsors… everyone works together to make everyone feel right at home.
School employees keep the bathrooms as clean as possible (and let’s not forget the rolls upon rolls of toilet paper – hey, it matters!) and all the trash cans emptied periodically so the bees didn’t congregate and start bothering people. I can imagine it was this way at Rochelle, Gorman, and Garden City this past weekend as well. Many people came together to make the first week of the 2018 season a great one. And I appreciate it very much!
Thursday evening, I enjoyed the Paducah/Meadow and Knox City/Jayton games. The first game ran a little long and the second game didn’t end until well after 10:00PM. I had a good conversation with my good buddy, Leman, and gave him a ride to his truck. I think I finally pointed the ghetto-mobile (my 1992 faded red golf cart) out of the football parking lot toward home around 11:00PM. And made it back to the house by 11:05. Pretty fast by ghetto-mobile standards. I’m not complaining!
Friday’s games were much like the first day. The first game started at 6:00PM. I arrived early (yes, on the golf cart) and found Coach Abston with the Morton Indians. I later found Coach Bigham and asked how his many freshmen were doing. He said he thought the entire team was ready to take care of business. And yes, they were ready! They didn’t look like a week one team. And for those of you who missed my article about attending their practice, the Matadors have 19 kids, 10 of them are athletic freshmen. The Indians are still trying to get their Sixman legs under them. They are doing a good job. They have a saying on the back of their helmets, “Hoka Hey.” I asked the manager what it means. It means all together or come with me, brother. Pretty cool stuff right there!
The second game Friday was a big one! Union Hill faced defending State Champion Borden County. I was pleased to finally meet Coach Mallory and see the Union Hill fans! It’s always nice to see teams from East Texas, as I don’t get over that way very often. Both teams went at it hard. It really was a great game to watch. The fans got a little crazy, but it was just that kind of game! The coyotes prevailed but watch for the Bulldogs to come out of the East into the playoffs this year! I was able to catch Trey, Bubba, and Ricky after the game. Every time I talk to them, it’s just like it’s always been… great conversation!
I hurried home around 11:00 (again) so that I could rest up for the marathon day that would be Saturday. I don’t know that anyone can rest up for five games in the hot sun. I can tell you I had many bottles of water, sun screen, and a chair. I arrived early and sat my chair in the shade of the Home stands. I knew the shade would disappear before long and I probably wouldn’t make much use of the chair. But it was there if and when I needed it!
I persevered throughout the day taking more than two thousand pictures. I enjoyed every game and was able to talk to most of the coaches. The lineup for Saturday was outstanding! Spur and Crowell started it off with a game that went through the fourth quarter. The game was decided by four points. What a battle and a great way to start of a full day of football!
Next up was Valley and Anton. Let me tell you… THAT was a game! I’m sure you all saw the score! I like to use a phrase I once heard Coach Josh Stanaland use… it was a full contact sprint relay! And it was! Back and forth and back and forth. Valley finally prevailed against a much-improved Anton team 93 to 86. And of course, it was such an exciting finish (I mean down to the last seconds) that I really messed up the scores and flipped them. Yep, sometimes that happens when dehydration is beginning to set in. I’ll have to pay more attention putting scores in when my adrenaline is up due to watching a great game! It was a marathon game. If I’m remembering correctly, it ran longer than three hours. But wow, what a finish!
Ira and Happy followed. The Bulldogs are more mature and ready to take on any team this year. Happy lost many seniors but they still have a good nucleus and play well as a team. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jackson Davis of the Cowboys. You can’t miss him. Very tall and extremely athletic. This was another game that went the full four quarters and ended up very close. Ira came out of this one on top by nine points. Coach Goodwin at Ira continues to do great things there. Don’t ever count the bulldogs out. And Coach Moore at Happy… I have some funny stories about him. He’s a great guy! I saw him get heated on the sidelines for the first time. I would be lying if I said it didn’t surprise me. It actually shocked me, but he was standing up for his players and that is exactly what a good coach does.
By the time the fourth game rolled around, the Gridiron was way behind schedule. The fanfare of tunnels and school songs and players running out on to the field was cast aside so that games could get going. I didn’t hear any complaints. I don’t think anyone wanted to be sitting in the stands at midnight. White Deer and Hermleigh started with a bang. White Deer started to edge the Cardinals in the second quarter. After halftime, White Deer held the Cardinals scoreless. I’ve seen White Deer several times in the past few weeks. I can truthfully say they were firing on all cylinders Saturday. It’s hard to beat that! Hermleigh will be a force after working out a few kinks. I have no doubt Coach Winters will have them 100% ready before District begins.
And then the BIG game was set to begin. The clash. The defending Division II State Champs rolled into town. Strawn was a very heavy favorite to win. The Greyhounds took the field and looked very impressive in warmups. The Tigers quietly warmed up. Everyone in the area could see them. They are very hard to miss. I think the one thing that grabbed the attention of most was during the coin toss. The Tigers towered over everyone on the field. I’m a tall girl, but beside most of them, I feel little. I have watched them many times over the last 12 months and knew this was coming. Did I know to what extent? No.
You’ve all seen the score and heard the gasps and the, “Nah, you’re lying!” Yep, I’ve heard it, too. Then I’ve heard from those that “knew it all along!” That’s what is so great about all the sports we love. You can be the best team in the world and still get beat. I like to say, “Any given night, guys… any given night.” That night happened to be Saturday for the Greyhounds. The Tigers dominated from the very start with a powerful defense that drove the Greyhounds into the end zone resulting in a safety right off the bat! And then there’s Crockett. Do not get in his way. His job becomes easier because he has outstanding blockers. The Tigers looked like a week 10 team right out of the gate. I have to pause to give a shoutout to Strawn Greyhound Carlos Villanueva. I’ve seen many fast kids on the football field. Wiley players. Players who can get away from a bad situation on the field. But I’ve never seen someone that could dodge and weave and run so very fast down the field. There were so many times he almost got away. So shoutout to the #7 Greyhound and all his blockers. You played valiantly. And I’m pretty sure you won’t let a loss happen again this season.
I’m sure I didn’t tell you much you didn’t already know. I enjoyed every hot, sweaty minute of the day games and every sort-of-but-not-really cool evening games of the Gridiron. I met many people. I was able to talk to people I have conversations with online about Sixman football. I saw old classmates, some really awesome personal friends, and generally got to hang out at the best spot in Jayton. On the sidelines. It was awesome. It was tiring. But oh, I’m so grateful that I am able to take pictures of the players, teams, coaches, managers, cheerleaders, mascots, and fans. I am truly blessed that God gave me a little skill in that department. I am thankful every day. I am also thankful I am a part of the Sixman community. There is nothing else like it.
I’m ending with my repeated encouragement that comes at the end of each article. Truly try and attend a game near wherever you may be. I promise you’ll be glad you did! Until then, go forward and do GOOD!
While he was small in stature, he was huge in heart. I watched him make plays a little guy should never make. He got knocked down over and over, and every time that happened, he would jump right back up ready for the next play. I watched him later in the season when the Cougars made the short trip over to Ira to take on the Bulldogs. And there #1 was… still playing with very well-developed fundamentals and that great big heart. I immediately knew I had to find out his story.
Kylar Pepper. The little Cougar with the big heart. I like to call him Mighty Mouse. I thought it appropriate he wore #1 on his Cougar jersey proudly. He is switching to lucky #7 this year. Kylar is a typical teenager in that he loves chocolate, especially Milk Duds, really enjoys learning about history in class at Klondike High School and listens to country music. He lives on a farm ten miles from the school and works the land with his dad. Much like other 1A kids, he participates in multiple sports. While his favorite sport is football, he also plays basketball and runs track. Kylar believes that running track is essential to doing well on the football field. He quoted his coach saying, “Run the ring in the spring to move the ball in the fall.” Great advice!
Being small in size may seem an obstacle to most football players, but Kylar doesn’t let it affect him. He admits he sometimes gets discouraged but immediately pushes that to the back of his mind and remains tough. Last year against Balmorhea he says with certainty about playing the Bears, “That was intimidating. I got barreled over a couple of times, but I just tried to get back up and be tough.” Kylar admits it’s sometimes very intimidating to go out there at his size, but he just has to get back up, be tough, and keep going.
There are many teams with smaller kids who have lots of heart. Kelan Evans from Santa Anna and Caleb Chisum from Jayton, just to name a few. I asked Kylar if he had any advice for other 1A kids who may not be the biggest guy on the field. He had wise words. “Don’t be intimidated by anyone. No matter what size they are, go out there and give 100% every day. Just stick it out. Don’t worry about your size. Don’t worry about your weight. Just stick it out, and you’ll be alright! You’ll be good!”
Coach Degraffenreid had great things to say about Kylar, “He’s an exciting kid to watch.” Sometimes the smallest guy on the field has to learn the fundamentals of the game and make them evident in every move just to see some playing time. Coach “D” says Kylar works hard and has earned every second he gets on the playing field. He added, “Kylar is a great kid!”
Kylar may be viewed as the underdog, but he doesn’t want to be seen that way. In many ways, Sixman football is the same. The underdog to big schools. The underdog to 11-man football. We are the little guy. But more importantly, we are the little guy with the great big heart who pushes discouragement out of the way and forges on tirelessly. We love our players. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Our towns may be small, but we are family. Small towns provide a simpler life, and we enjoy every second of it. We do more than exist. We embody the fight within the human spirit. So many 1A kids like Klondike Cougar #1 represent our towns with pride and the “never give up” attitude.
Thank you, Kylar Pepper, for being an inspiration. You are an example for us all. Never change that about yourself, and never, ever lose that heart! You, sir, encourage me to go forward and do Good!