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!
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