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  • Save our Stages, yes; trash brisket, NO

    John Cornyn brisket screen grabSen. John Cornyn’s tweet that’ll live in Texan infamy.

    By Chris Edwards

    I was going to open this with some variation of the old adage about a broken clock, but, nah, it’s a new year and new beginnings and whatnot.

    Reelected Senator John Cornyn’s piece of legislation from last year, the Save Our Stages Act, is already helping many live music and entertainment venues across the country.It’s especially noteworthy in Texas where live music is a giant part of our history, lifestyle and economy and many historic venues and the artists/bands who play them were hit especially hard from the pandemic.

    It’s definitely worthy of a big kudos to Cornyn, who co-wrote the bill with fellow senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) The bill gathered an armada of co-sponsors before its passage and is a good example of bipartisan collaboration in this ridiculously divided time.

    But there is another recent development with Cornyn that must be addressed and is certainly not representative of this great state. You see, folks, the senator posted a photograph to social media on Christmas Eve that might just rank among the most un-Texan of things that many people will ever see.
    It was heinous and it was disgusting. The photo featured a Pyrex casserole dish full of what looked like either raw pork ribs covered in ketchup, or maybe meatloaf under a blanket of something red.

    The accompanying text proclaimed it to be a “brisket family tradition.” The next day, he tweeted that the brisket was the best that he’d ever had and cited his wife for the recipe, which, get this: has a cook time of three hours in the OVEN.

    Now before you jump to conclusions and start in with assumptions like “that mean old Chris Edwards is just a barbecue snob,” one thing Cornyn did not do is use the sacred and holy name of Barbecue in vain.

    I know, also, that there are more ways to cook a brisket than bathing it for hours and hours in post oak smoke in an offset smoker, but here’s the rub: John Cornyn is a representative of Texas, which is not just the greatest state in the union but has the greatest barbecue in the world and smoking long and slow with woodsmoke is the only way to cook brisket around here.

    The art of barbecue was perfected in the Lone Star State. Credit it to the influx of German, Czechs and Hispanics, all of whom contributed to the greatest culinary artform the world has ever seen and will ever know. Texans do barbecue the right way (like everything else we set out to do) and Texas barbecue will set anyone’s life on the correct path. The crème de la crème of this artform is smoked brisket.

    No less an authority than the great Guy Clark, who was a true representative of this great state, made mention of barbecue first in his classic song “Texas Cookin’,” which celebrates all of the great delicacies one can find between the Red and Rio Grande.

    Nevertheless, Cornyn was just elected to a fourth term to represent Texas in Congress’s upper chamber, and his Lone Star bona-fides are such: he was born in Houston and grew up in San Antonio. The emphasis, with regard to brisket knowledge, should be placed on that latter aspect. As part of the central Texas region, San Antone is home to some of the world’s greatest brisket, and unless he grew up under a rock, there’s no way he couldn’t have tasted great brisket.

    So, here’s an offer to Sen. Cornyn: I will gladly give you a demonstration on how to prepare and cook a brisket the proper and true Texas way if you will offer your much-needed support to another important cause: Rep. Brian Babin’s H.R. 759, which would help our neighbors, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and, ultimately, the regional economy here in East Texas.

    If Dr. Babin’s bill gets through the Senate (it already gathered a huge swell of bipartisan support in the other chamber and passed) it would put the AC tribe on equal footing with other tribes across this great land.

    Save our Stages is a great thing to help out entertainment venues all over the country, so why not help out with a big entertainment option here in Texas? I get that gambling isn’t everyone’s bag, but everything is a gamble when it comes down to it, right?

  • Spurger students obtain workforce certifications (VIDEO)

    Screenshot 2021 02 18 page0001 pdfCOURTESY OF AMANDA HATTON Spurger FFA welders passed their state test and now hold a certificate to weld. Five received multiple levels of certifications.

    By Caleb Fortenberry

    SPURGER – The Spurger ISD board of trustees met last Thursday on February 11, 2021 to discuss regular agenda items and recognize students for getting certified in welding and floral knowledge.

    The meeting began at 7:02 PM with Ag teacher of 43 years, Ken Cauthen, and Ag/Floral design teacher Amber Conner boasting of the students’ success.

    “These rascals work, and I like ‘em,” said Cauthen, “We need some people that are workers in this world.”

    Cauthen’s inspiring speech explained further his ideals of how education is sometimes gained through work rather than books. “You cannot learn out of a book… We can look at all the pictures in the world, but you got to put your hands on something.”

    Eleanor Holderman presented the Tyler county historical commission (TCHC). She spoke of many of the legendary Tyler County historical figures, specifically Dr. Josiah Wheat one of the first pioneers to settle on the Neches River, Fannie Jenkins, the last operator of Sheffield’s Ferry, and Henry Gainer, the first black pastor in Texas.

    The group donated a flag to the school campaigning their #wearetylercounty promotion for the 175th anniversary of Tyler County April 4th, 2021.

    Spurger ISD Superintendent, Morgan Write spoke to the board about the school’s goals and how they have been utilizing the Deep East Texas College & Career Academy (DETCCA).

    Write explained the students, “can get an Associates when they leave High school,” and they are encouraged to take those courses.

    Any student is eligible starting their Freshman year, but to continue, they must take the TSI exam.

    Welding, Automotive technology, Criminal Justice, and Cyber Security are the degrees listed on the Career & Technology (CT) Education program. However, there are more certifications and schools to come. “There’s a fire school coming in the fall,” said Write.

    The school also has ties with the Texas Workforce Commission that have certifications in Paramedic and Nationally Registered EMT.

    Write also mentioned the Drop-Out Program that DETCCA offers, saying there were now night classes being offered for High school drop-outs up to the age of 24. Welding and CDL certifications are offered through the program.

    Elementary Principal’s Report

    “Enrollment is pretty steady,” said Elementary principal Jason Drake. Drake mentioned he went to five students’ homes that had attendance issues, with a majority of them not answering the door.

    Drake also reported that the Elementary placed second in UIL, but noted it wasn’t easy to get to that position.

    “This a rough year,” said Drake, “I went through seven observations this week. Our teachers are rocking it. I’ve been impressed.”

    High school Principal’s Report

    High school principal Amanda Hatton spoke before the board on several topics. Chic-fil-a becoming the popular fundraising activity, where all proceeds go back to students. On a non-health food day, Hatton brings Chic-fil-a sandwiches to the school and sells them for $6 per sandwich. She encouraged board members to join them and purchase some for lunch.

    Hatton also spoke on a less than orthodox way of finding enrolled students who have been absent and with 36 remote learners, the probability of students not attending class can be higher.

    “These kids have just disappeared on us,” said Hatton, “Usually we shut off their access to their computers to get the students to get in contact with us.”

    Students have all been given Chromebook computers and internet hotspots in the event of necessary distance learning.

    She also briefed the board about College, College and Military Readiness (CCMR) saying they had, “Seven students Due to take a Microsoft test.”

    The school also now has instructional partners, which is a company that works with rural schools.

    The instructional partners are being used to help with learning gaps.

    “They help us where we need so teachers can continue to grow,” explained Hatton, “We developed a plan to address the gaps that we’ve been seeing.”

    Other Business

    • The review board needs a new member, with one stepping down. They get paid and miles paid for.
    • Spurger received an ExxonMobil grant of $500 donated to each campus for math and science. “It can be used accordingly, but for math and science specifically,” said Write.
    • After two year of waiting for a $25,000 security grant, the school will receive updated security devices. “We will have cameras on the perimeter.” Said Write. The bathrooms will also have smoke detectors installed that can detect E-cigarette vapors.
    • The TEA will have a presentation over the 20-21 accountability on February 24 2021.
    • Boys and girls are finishing up basketball. There will not be any scrimmages or practices the following week due to quarantine issues. If there are two more wins, Spurger could be in the playoffs in Huntington.
    • Spurger will not have a baseball team this year due to low participation. However, the students that do want to participate will be covering fundamentals throughout the year.
  • TCSO investigating Sunday morning homicide

    CrimeScene

    By Chris Edwards

    SPURGER – Authorities are investigating a homicide that occurred early Sunday morning near Spurger.

    According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, deputies responded to a residence located on FM 1013, west of Spurger at 1:45 a.m., in reference to an individual being shot.
    Weatherford said that once the deputies were on the scene, they observed several individuals standing over the victim, a male, who appeared to have been shot multiple times in the chest and stomach area. The man, whose identity is not being released at this time by Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, pending his family’s notifications, was pronounced dead at the scene by Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Jim Moore. An autopsy will be conducted within the week in Beaumont.

    Weatherford said that prior to the victim being pronounced deceased, CPR was being administered to the victim, and the deputies assisted with medical attention until EMS arrived.

    TCSO deputies, along with Department of Public Safety state troopers were able to secure the scene and locate several shell casings near the victim’s body.

    Weatherford said that the residence was the scene of a party, where more than 100 individuals were gathered, yet “very little cooperation is being given by individuals that may have witnessed the shooting itself, or that are withholding information that could lead to the arrest of the suspect(s) responsible for this homicide.”

    The murder was especially shocking to Kendall Coleman, owner of Coleman’s Family Mortuary and a community leader in Woodville. The victim’s body was taken to Coleman’s mortuary, and he made a public video on Facebook on Sunday morning. He said he had been hanging out at the party the night before, and when he received the call to come recover the victim’s body, it shocked him. He called the crime a “senseless act.”

    “Somebody saw something, somebody knows something. I’m pleading to you (to come forward) …it happened right here, in Tyler County,” Coleman said, and added that whoever committed the crime needs to be held accountable. “Do the right thing, turn yourself in,” Coleman said in the video, addressing whoever is responsible.

    Coleman said although he did not know the victim, it seemed especially tragic when he learned the man was a father and said that he especially feels sorrow for his family.

    Weatherford said that the circumstances around the murder are giving investigators a hard time identifying who the actor(s) may be.

    Anyone with information is asked to call the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office at 409-283-2172, or Crime Stoppers at 936-639-TIPS. Tipsters calling into the Crime Stoppers hotline with information that leads to an arrest may be eligible for a cash reward.

  • The Tolar Cabin: the other half of the story

    4EDDIE BOX The Tolar Cabin Kitchen on display at the Heritage Village Museum in Woodville.

    By Col Eddie Boxx

    The Tolar Cabin “dog trot” kitchen remains one of the more popular venues at the Heritage Village museum. Built in 1866 and originally located with the “main house” of the Tolar Cabin near Hillister, it was moved to the museum in 1965.

    The “squared-and-notch” log structure with its “mudcat” chimney represents an affluence not usually found in frontier buildings. However, after viewing, many inquisitive visitors (out of town and local) will ask the understandable follow-up question: “Where is the main cabin?”

    Thanks to the preservation efforts of Ray Hensarling and his family – we can tell you the Paul Harvey-like “rest of the story.”

    Originally constructed by Robert Jackson Tolar for his bride Mary Versailles “Versie” Durham, the cabin and kitchen were adjacent to each other but not connected (see painting). Understandably, the threat from wood-fueled kitchen fires along with the desire to keep the heat away from the rest of the house (especially in summer) made sense. Today, the main cabin remains in the same location – a few miles west of Hillister and situated on a ridge.

    Although ownership has changed over the last two centuries, Al Pritchard ultimately saved the building in 1975. Twenty years later, Ray Hensarling (current owner and steward) and Pat Foster fully restored the cabin in 1995. Nowadays, the building is meticulously maintained and decorated and serves as a unique architectural heritage to a bygone era. Additionally, the cabin (and kitchen) represents a connection to two important Tyler county families – the Tolars and Shivers.

    Robert Jackson Tolar was a nephew to Nancy (Tolar) Shivers (1813-1890), a fearless widow who moved her family via wagon to Texas in 1858 and settled 600 acres west of Woodville. According to the 1850 census, the westward move to Texas was a joint family undertaking as the Tolars lived next door to the Shivers in Simpson County, Mississippi. Located today near the Tyler County airport, the Magnolia Hills estate remains in the Shivers family. Nancy ultimately became the great-grandmother to one of the most influential politicians in Texas history – Gov. Allan Shivers. The quintessential log cabin remains identifiable to American, Texas and Tyler County history.

    When Woodville’s own Gov. Allan Shivers (the ever-astute politician) was running for office (and his family’s Magnolia Hills cabin had long ago cease to exist) jokingly quipped, “I wasn’t born in a log cabin, so I built one.”

    To learn more about the Tolar Cabin or to see for yourself a wonderfully preserved 1866 pioneer kitchen, please visit the Heritage Village Museum or call (409) 283-2272 / (800) 323-0389 or visit our website at: https://www.heritage-village.org.

    Col. Eddie Boxx (Ret., USAF) teaches at Baylor University and writes for the Heritage Village Museum – an organization dedicated to the education and preservation of Tyler County history.

  • Triple D hosts Warrior Bonfire event

    Warriors 020911PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDY LEWIS Participants and volunteers of the Warrior Bonfire hog hunt event.

    By Leann Monk

    WARREN –  With so much of what’s happening in the world today being negative, it’s nice to see something good happening right here in our own backyard. Tyler County and its people have long been known for their hospitality and big hearts. No matter what the need, Tyler County folks always rise to the occasion.

    For the fourth year, Cody and Judy Lewis, owners and operators of Triple D Ranch and Event Venue in Warren, hosted the annual hog hunt for the Warrior Bonfire Program. With the help of countless community members, volunteers and donors, this weekend was one for the record books.

    According to hunting guide and Warren Hunting Lease president, Cody Stewart there was a record 14 hogs harvested during this year’s hunt. Stewart stated how proud he was of the efforts of the 45 to 50 volunteers that helped out on the hunt, “without these guys helping and volunteering out here, this hunt would not be possible. It’s hard work.”

    Assistant Guide, Colter Stewart, 11-year-old son of Cody, rode with his dad throughout the two-day hunt ready to do whatever the senior Stewart needed.

    Colter was tasked with “remembering the spot” when his dad pointed out a good area for the men to hunt; and according to Cody, he did his job well. While Colter was assisting his dad in the lease, his brother Briar, 14, was busy back at the camp skinning the hogs. To the Stewarts, this is a family event, and they could not be prouder to be a part.

    The saying is “it takes a village” – and that is certainly the case for this event. It would appear that all of Warren seemed to participate in some way.

    The Warren Little Dribblers provided desserts while others donated money, corn, gas, food, coolers and time. The 10 Warriors left Triple D knowing that the people of Warren, and the surrounding areas, support them and the sacrifice they made for their country.

    One Warrior who participated in the hunt was Doug Shreve, from Hockley, Texas. He is an Army veteran after 20 years of service.

    “This hunt means that I get to come together with other vets and not worry about what’s going on in the world. The hunt, well that’s a plus,” Shreve said.

    Shreve joined the Warrior Bonfire program in 2018. During this hunt, Shreve harvested two hogs.

    Also at the hunt was Graham Golden, from Hot Springs, AR. Golden served as a sniper in the Marines and was shot and injured during his third deployment to Iraq. Golden has been a part of the Bonfire Project for five years and although he lives in Arkansas, hosts an event on Lake Sam Rayburn once a year. “This program means so…” Graham said, stopping mid-sentence. “The bonfire program means camaraderie. It means that I get to be around people who understand me and that I can let my guard down a little bit. You see when I’m at home, I don’t do people. I don’t do public. But when I’m here… I get to let go,” Graham said.

    The mission of the Warrior Bonfire Program is to “provide opportunities that improve the lives of enemy combat-wounded veterans—Purple Heart recipients—on their lifelong journey of recovery and healing. They create activity-based, small group retreats that foster healing, build support communities, and transform lives.”

    “I just can’t thank the Warriors enough for coming back, for trusting us to take care of them.”

    Judy Lewis commented when asked about her thoughts on the men she hosted. She went on to say, “I’m also thankful that Justin Lewis and Ryan “the Dolphin” Gooseman, the liaisons between the Bonfire Program and us, keeps thinking of us and our community. They could take these guys anywhere but say Tyler County is the only place with this kind of hospitality.”

  • Turning ‘Time in Texas’ into Country Gold

    tyler dozier 2COURTESY PHOTO Tyler Dozier

    By Caleb Fortenberry and Chris Edwards

    The pandemic that seized the entire planet last year made for a drastic change in how humans live, work, worship and play. In the “blessings in disguise” category, many who had to re-invent their lives found new passions or re-discovered old hobbies.

    Spurger native Tyler Dozier is one such young man who managed to turn bad news into something positive. “As bad as the coronavirus is, I got laid-off from the plant, and jobs are slow,” he explained. “So, I decided to do something that I enjoyed.”

    Dozier took his God-given talent in music, which he’d honed through his young life, and blaze the trail that many talented Texans before him had taken. So far, he has gone gung-ho into his fresh start, with two singles already under his belt and a full-length album in the works.

    The young singer/songwriter has music in his genes. His father, Donald Dozier, is still known in the region for his prowess as a guitarist and played with many bands and artists through the years, including a pre-superstar Mark Chesnutt. Tyler said his father is his primary influence in chasing a musical career, although he did not get to see him onstage in his glory days.

    “I never got to see him play, because I was too young at the time that he quit playing out,” he said.

    Some other influences came by way of artists like Josh Ward and Cody Johnson, both of whom Tyler began following before they were huge regional acts.

    The young artist said he pretty much taught himself to sing and started playing music when he was eight years old, beginning with piano. Eventually, he also took to playing guitar and drums. His father helped him get started on the guitar when he was 12, and he added the elder Dozier will also play with him live. “I do have plans of getting a band together,” he said. “I have some guys right now that I’ve played with for a long time just around my house and stuff. The only thing I’m missing is a bass player right now but if everything goes as I hope then I will have a band to play out in the next couple of months.”

    Until he gets a band solidified for live work, though, he said he is content to play as a solo act, which he said is a good way for the audience to really hear him and his songs “as I am.”

    At present, even though the continuing efforts to curb the pandemic have slowed down consistent live performance opportunities for musicians, Tyler has been able to take to the road and play some solo acoustic shows in such venues as Conroe’s Red Brick Tavern. “It’s a blast to get out and play in front of live audiences,” he said.

    Before he even started getting into venues, he began laying down some of his material in the studio. His first single, “Doing Time in Texas,” a classic-sounding country tune detailing the heartbreak of a man’s willingness to wait for the woman he loves, went out to radio stations during last summer, when he was the tender age of 19.

    The song was co-written between three songwriters, one of whom was Tyler’s cousin David Reed. “First time I heard it, I was like, ‘Man, I really got to cut this song’,” he said.

    The song made enough of a splash in the Texas regional market that Dozier was able to score a management deal with Salter-Gann Universal Promotions and Management, LLC.

    A second single, “How Can I Get You Off My Mind,” also penned by his cousin Reed, is currently making its rounds in the radio markets, and to add to that excitement, Tyler said he has plans to journey to Nashville soon to record some songs he has co-written with Reed.

    Dozier’s performance of his new single, which is orchestrated by traditional country instrumentation, such as the whine of a pedal steel guitar and acoustic guitars, bares the influence of his dad’s old running buddy/bandmate, Chesnutt, but still sounds uniquely Tyler Dozier.

    Whatever happens for the young East Texan singer and writer of pure country songs, one thing is certain to anyone who meets him: he will remain the same grounded, yet talented, young man he has always been.

    “Man, it’s crazy how people have responded to my music. Especially when I play live. Man! People come up and talk to me and that’s just what this is all about. I’m just an ol’ country boy out here doing what I love and for people to enjoy listening to it as much as I do, it means a lot and it’s really inspiring.”

    Tyler Dozier’s singles “Doing Time in Texas” and “How Can I Get You Off My Mind” can be downloaded from all digital music retail platforms and can be streamed on Spotify or requested from radiofreetexas.com.

    Video interview with Tyler

  • Tyler Countians encouraged to take broadband survey

    NEWS Broadband IllustrationIllustration by Mohamed Hassan | PIXABAY

    By Chris Edwards

    TYLER COUNTY –  A survey is available online to gauge the broadband internet needs of Tyler County residents. The survey, which launched in early February, is being put forth by the Connected Nation Texas, a localized division of a national non-profit organization dedicated to expanding access to broadband.

    The survey launched in early February, but the response has been hamstrung by the recent winter storm, and the loss of utilities for many.

    “We understand that everyone across Tyler County should have access to the resources they need and can find online for themselves, their families, their work and more,” said Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette.

    Pamela Waggoner, a community technology adviser with Connected Nation Texas, said that Blanchette, along with Woodville ISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg have been local champions in getting the word out about the survey. The survey is available online for residents to take at the URL Connectednation.org/Texas, and Waggoner said that Meysembourg has paper copies available, and copies of the survey in Spanish, as well, for anyone in need, by calling her office at 409-283-3752 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    “Basically, what we’re trying to do as Connected Nation Texas is to understand broadband availability needs in Tyler County,” Waggoner said. “The better info we have, the better the information we can provide to provide solutions for the county.”

    Blanchette said that local residents’ input, along with that of businesses, community organizations and other demographics within the county, will help to identify challenges and provide solutions to bringing broadband access to the county.

    “The better educated Tyler County officials are, the better the opportunities are for grants. The monies are only available for a certain amount of time, and if they know [the county] can use the resource efficiently, it has a better chance of being funded,” Waggoner said.

    Tyler County is one of 27 counties asked to participate in a statewide effort led by Connected Nation Texas and funded by the Texas Rural Funders at no cost to the county.

    “Having access to the internet means having access to doctors and specialists through telehealth, a global market for our small businesses, educational opportunities for our children and so much more,” Blanchette said.

  • Tyler County cross-country runners place at Regional meet

    11JASON CHLAPEK | PCPC Spurger Pirates Colton Fredieu and Luis Jimenez cross the finish line.

    BY CHRIS EDWARDS

    HUNTSVILLE – Tyler County was well-represented at the UIL Region 3 Cross-Country Regional Meet.

    The meet, for the 2A through 6A conference schools, was held Nov. 9-10 in Huntsville at Sam Houston State University, and found teams from Spurger; Colmesneil; Warren and Woodville competing in the 2A and 3A events, respectively.

    For the Spurger Pirates, the boys placed in eighth, overall, with 223 points.

    In the girls’ two-mile run, Katy Curry came in 55th place with a time of 15:36.60 and Jillian Leasman placed at 111th with a time of 18:34.50.

    The boys had six runners compete in the three-mile run. Jose Jimenez placed at 24th with a time of 19:26.80. Luis Molina Jimenez came in 53rd place, with a time of 20:26.70, and Colton Fredieu came in right behind at 54th with the same time. Nicholas Wilson got a 65th place finish with a time of 21:12.20; Bryce Oseguera got the 100th place finish with 25:01.80 and Coby Anthony got the 104th place with 25:32.90 on the clock.

    The Colmesneil Bulldogs’ cross-country runners put a team of six girls in the two-mile run and Treston Horton running in the boys’ three-mile event. Horton placed 66th with a time of 21:20.20.

    For the girls, Katherine Vargas-Martine placed 18th, with 14:39.40; Alyssa Mabry came in 37th with 15:04.70; Bernice Pittman placed 87th with 16:47.30. Erin Frazier got 97th place with a 17:05.20; Karen Vargas-Martinez got 113th with 18:41.20 and Katelyne Guerrero placed 115th with a time of 18:48.

    The Warren Warriors cross-country boys had a team consisting of Jerrod Yeagin (#42, 18:21.70); Eli Carrell (#105, 20:46.40); Arturo Bustamante (#118, 21:26.50); Jonathan Lee (#126, 22:02.80); Jerry Don Brinkley (#133, 23:01.30); Juan Lianes (#137, 23:45.90) and Corley Dilbeck (#138, 24:03.70.) They placed 15th in the three-mile event with a total of 378 points.

    Abby Carroll from Warren also ran in the 3A girls’ two-mile run and finished 24th with a time of 13:57.70.

    The Woodville Eagles were represented in the 3A girls’ two-mile run with a ninth-place finish for a team of seven Lady Eagle runners.

    Here are the results for Woodville individual runners at the meet: Kristina Nash (#60, 14:55.50); Brittany Lilley (#63, 15:00.30); Raegan Frantz (#71, 15:23.30); Ryleigh Stewart (#85, 15:23.30); Aubrianna Torres (#96, 15:50.40); Ashley Davis (#118, 16:35.30) and Kenadi Frauenberger (#129, 17:28.20.) The Lady Eagle runners accumulated a combined 258 points.

  • Tyler County declared 2A sanctuary

    Blacksher Resolution 041321COURTESY PHOTO Tyler County Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Blacksher holds a copy of the Second Amendment-supporting resolution he introduced before Commissioners Court on Monday.

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – Before tackling its regular slate of agenda items for consideration, approval or informational purposes, the Tyler County Commissioners Court approved several resolutions. One of those resolutions, brought to the court by Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Blacksher, declares the county to support the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    Blacksher said he was encouraged by an official from Montgomery County who drafted the resolution. He said it is likely Texas will become a 2A Sanctuary state.

    Blacksher said he worked on the resolution with the support of District Attorney Lucas Babin and Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. After approving, Pct. 2 Commissioner Stevan Sturrock made it clear that he supports all amendments to the Constitution, to which Blacksher replied with his reasoning for bringing the resolution to the court – that the Second Amendment is frequently under attack.

    “The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states very clearly ‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’” Blacksher said. “I want to assure the citizens of Tyler County where we stand on defending their right to bear arms.”

    A Second Amendment sanctuary, or gun sanctuary, is a state, county or municipality that has adopted ordinances or resolutions opposing the enforcement of various gun control measures. Recently, the City of Chester adopted an ordinance naming it a Second Amendment sanctuary city (see story on page 2A.) At the state level, a new bill in the House (HB 1911) which was authored by Rep. James White (R-Hillister) would allow Texans to carry a firearm without a permit and has gathered support from lawmakers.

    White issued a statement on the bill Tuesday, which featured testimony from several License to Carry instructors in support of the bill.

    Opponents of the bill, according to White, claim that it would dismantle the state’s LTC law. “Experience shows that residents will continue to voluntarily seek out training and licenses in permitless carry states, recognizing the benefits of instruction as well as acquiring and maintaining a license,” White said.

    In other business, on Monday, the commissioners approved a proclamation to recognize the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

    Also, a pair of resolutions were approved by commissioners to submit a Texas Community Development Block Grant program application, and to authorize Judge Jacques Blanchette to serve as the county’s executive officer in submitting the CDBG grant application.

  • Tyler County deputies make arrests in Spurger area

    Richard Lyles Scott Sanford 2MUGSHOT Richard Lyles and Scott Sanford

    By Chris Edwards

    SPURGER – Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford reported that his office has been busy lately in the southeastern end of the county.

    Last week, TCSO made two arrests in two separate incidents, which resulted in multiple charges, including narcotics possession and stolen property.

    Last Monday, when deputies with TCSO were patrolling in the Spurger area in the late afternoon, they stopped a Ford Expedition on a traffic violation along County Road 4426. According to Weatherford, when deputies made contact with the driver, identified as Richard Lyles, a 40-year-old Kountze resident, they learned his driver’s license had been expired since 2012.

    When they searched his vehicle, they discovered a Remington 552 rifle and were notified that Lyles was a convicted felon, which, under statute, makes it illegal for him to possess a firearm. Also discovered in the search was a small, clear plastic baggie containing a crystalline substance, which field-tested positive for methamphetamines.

    The deputies took Lyles into custody, and transported him to the Tyler County Justice Center, where he was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm; possession of controlled substance and no driver’s license. He later bonded out with his bonds set at $10,000 by Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Ken Jobe. Before Lyles left the jail, a Woodville woman was arrested when she arrived to pick him up.

    According to Weatherford, deputies saw Keiosha Rowinsky, a 29-year-old Woodville woman, drive into the Justice Center parking lot. They knew from previous encounters that she did not have a valid driver’s license and made contact with her. She admitted to the deputies she did not have a valid license and was placed under arrest.

    Deputies located two loaded syringes in her jacket pocket and purse, both of which field-tested postiive for methamphetamines.

    Several other items of drug paraphernalia were found inside her vehicle, Weatherford said, and she was charged with possession of a controlled substance and driving while license invalid. She later bonded out of jail on $5,000 bonds set by Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford.

    The second incident Weatherford reported about in Spurger happened the next day, when deputies were patrolling in the early morning hours along County Road 4420. When the deputies on patrol approached CR 4426, they discovered two sets of small lights shining throughout a clear-cut section of the woods, according to Weatherford.

    The deputies then made contact with two individuals, whom they identified as Scott Sanford, age 39, of Silsbee and Rusty Mathis, of Spurger.

    Sanford was holding a Remington pump-action 30-06 rifle, and both men had small spotlights. “While checking the information on the rife, deputies learned that the rifle had been reported stolen in a late 2020 burglary that occurred in Colmesneil,” Weatherford said in a press release.

    Sanford was taken into custody and charged with theft of a firearm. At press time, he remains in jail with a $5,000 bond set by Jobe. Weatherford said he could face additional charges.

  • Tyler County eligible for FEMA funding

    Donna 190 PhotoDONNA HAMMER | TCB Snow, ice and impassible roads were an unusual sight for Tyler County, as well as the rest of the state last week.

    Lawmakers set to hear ERCOT testimony

    By Chris Edwards

    In the aftermath of last week’s winter storms, although the ice and snow have melted and the temperatures have risen, most areas of Texas sustained damages as a result, and Tyler County is one of the counties eligible for federal disaster assistance.

    President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for Texas on Saturday, Feb. 20, making most of the state eligible for federal relief funding. At press time, 108 of the state’s 254 counties were eligible. Initially, 77 were named as eligible for public assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but on Monday, 31 further counties were added to the list.

    The assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and businesses recover from the disaster’s effects, according to a news release from the White House.

    The request made by Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 13 for the presidential disaster declaration included all of Texas’s counties.

    Abbott said on Monday that additional counties will continue to be re-requested and urged Texans who have suffered damage from the storm to fill out the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s (TDEM) Individual Assistance Reporting Tool, a form found on its website, located at tdem.texas.gov.

    Completing the form will help state officials to identify damages across the state and help emergency management officials gain an understanding for reportage to FEMA.

    All of the counties within the region were included on the list of FEMA-eligible counties, save for Newton, which Rep. James White said he had inquired to TDEM about, and added that Rep. Brian Babin is working with FEMA to get its status as FEMA-eligible.

    “Congressman Babin and I will stay on top of this until we get the answer Newton County deserves,” White said.

    Power outages were the primary utility concern for many Texans during the storm, but many also went without water. As of Friday, power had been restored to all Tyler County residents, but there were still around 1,200 residents without water, according to the county’s Emergency Management Office.

    For some of the millions of Texans who were left without electricity, it was reported that some electric consumers received extremely high bills, which is something Abbott said he and other state leaders are working to find solutions for.

    On Saturday, the Texas Tribune reported that Abbott held an emergency meeting with lawmakers to discuss the issue, and the Public Utility Commission met on Sunday to sign two orders: one for providers to put a temporary moratorium on disconnections for power or water customers for non-payment and another for companies to stop sending invoices or bill estimates to customers until, in the words of PUC chair DeAnn Walker “we work through issues of how we are going to financially manage the situation we are in.”

    Abbott also has given the directive to power companies and lawmakers to winterize the state’s power infrastructure, something that was lacking to keep the various power sources online during the record-low temperatures.

    White said he is committed to addressing the causes and implementing the solutions in order to prepare for such extreme weather events in the future, but not promoting agendas. During and after the storm, many public figures and lawmakers voiced opinions on the state’s infrastructure. Fox News’s commentator Tucker Carlson blamed the predicament on wind turbines, while former congressman Beto O’Rourke said that Abbott chose to ignore facts and science; that state Democrats in the House had been warning of a potential blackout for years.

    Part of Abbott’s directive was for the legislature to investigate the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texans, or about 90% of the state’s electric load.

    White said he reached out to ERCOT and spoke with their legal counsel, as well as Bill Magness, the president and CEO of ERCOT. White said that although ERCOT requested two orders to provide a variance to generating entities to provide power generation above licensed levels (one to TCEQ and another to the federal Department of Energy) and neither order restricted, prohibited or eliminated electricity generation during the storm.

    White said that ERCOT stated it was up to the owner of the power generation unit to take advantage of the increase variance, and that ERCOT should have a list of the generating units that utilized the TCEQ variance, the DoE variance or those that chose to do nothing.

    “I look forward to listening to the committee testimony by ERCOT for consistency,” White said.

    White and the rest of the state legislature are expected to hear testimony from ERCOT officials on Thursday in hearings in Austin.

  • Tyler County’s Dogwood Festival planned

    Allie JarrottPHOTO COURTESY OF THE TYLER COUNTY DOGWOOD FESTIVAL DIRECTORS The current, reigning Dogwood Queen, Allie Jarrott.

    BY CHRIS EDWARDS

    WOODVILLE – The directors for the annual Tyler County Dogwood Festival have met and set in motion preliminary measures to produce the annual festival.

    Last year’s festival was postponed and re-tooled due to concerns with the pandemic, and instead of taking place over the course of three weekends in March and April, was limited to one date on the second weekend in June, still, the 77th annual Dogwood Festival was celebrated in Woodville. It was only the second time in the festival’s history that a drastic change had to be made. Throughout America’s involvement in World War II, the festival was cancelled.

    The festival’s executive director Buck Hudson, now in his 30th year of being associated with the festival, said that last year’s festival was the most challenging of any to produce, but that it was important to have the event for the youth of the county, and to uphold the tradition.

    According to a news release from the festival directors, the event has, for more than 80 years, allowed Tyler Countians the opportunity to “[pay] tribute to the glories of spring and the lovely dogwood trees.”

    Hudson and the directors announced that they are planning the full and traditional range of Dogwood activities, which will begin with Festival of the Arts weekend, on March 20-21, followed by Western Weekend on March 26-27 and concluding with Queen’s Weekend on Saturday, April 3.

    Along with all of the fun events that comprise those three weekends, the directors also announced the traditional historical play will commence. “This year’s historical play will go back to the very beginnings, as this is the 175th anniversary of Tyler County,” according to the news release.

    The theme for the festival, overall is “We are Tyler County: A Celebration of the Beginning.”

    At present, the selection process is underway to choose the new Dogwood Queen for 2021, with the first round of selection planned for Thursday, and subsequent rounds scheduled for Feb. 11 and 25.

    According to the directors, the contestants will be evaluated on the basis of beauty, poise and personality through individual interviews conducted by the Kingsmen Committee.

    The current, reigning Dogwood Queen is Allie Jarrott, who is the daughter of Cody and Joanna Jarrott of Woodville.

    She was a senior at Woodville High School when she was crowned and is now attending Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree.

  • Warren lifts mask mandate

    Tribe Tribute Gladys MitchellCOURTESY PHOTO | TERRY BABINO The Warren ISD Tribe Tribute for April went to Gladys Mitchell from the WISD Food Services Department who was praised as being a model employee and "cooking from the heart". (Left to right front row) Scott Mitchell, Tammy Heriard, Gladys Mitchell, Stephen Mitchell, Dr. Tammy Boyette (Left to right back row) Kimen Johnson, Clay Brown, Steve Moore, Rocky Burks, Burt Moore, Billie Read.

    By Caleb Fortenberry

    WARREN – At its most recent monthly board meeting, the Warren ISD board of trustees voted for the mask mandate to be lifted, it passed.

    After Gov. Greg Abbott made Executive Order-GA 34 allowing school boards to determine their school’s mask policy, many schools in Texas jumped to remove the policy.

    The board voted to make masks optional effective Monday May 17, nearly seven days before some graduation ceremonies will take place.

    WISD UIL HonoreesCOURTESY PHOTO | TERRY BABINO UIL District, Regional, and/or State Qualifier Honorees (Left to right front row) Dr. Tammy Boyette, Brianne Dean, Isabell Stanford, Ty Lambert, Bryce Dean, Julia Drake, James Swinney (Left to right back row) Kimen Johnson, Clay Brown, Steve Moore, Rocky Burks, Burt Moore, Billie Read.

    WISD superintendent Dr. Tammy Boyette released a letter with the following information covering the frequently asked questions of the matter.

    • Masks will be a matter of personal choice for employees and students beginning on Monday, May 17
    • Daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms is still required for all employees and students
    • Employees and students remain subject to existing requirements for self-reporting and quarantining
    • The current TEA definition of “close contact” remains in effect and is enforceable for all employees and students
    • Students required to quarantine will be allowed to attend school remotely
    • The district will continue to provide notice to parents of known positive COVID-19 cases and to monitor data associated with case prevalence
    • The district will continue to provide hand sanitizer and maintain existing cleaning protocols
    • To the extent possible, schools will continue to exercise social distancing practices at lunch, common areas and in the classroom in order to reduce the likelihood that students meet the close contact definition
    • Buses will open windows to allow for improved air circulation while in transit
    • Indoor school visits will continue to be restricted to only those essential to school operations
    • To the extent possible, principals will provide events for end-of year celebrations that can be held outdoors to accommodate family attendance
    • TEA requires that screening protocols be in place for entrance into all WISD sponsored events
    • Medically fragile students may submit a waiver with accompanying medical documentation to opt in to the At-Home learning platform for the remainder of the school year, if they so choose

    Other Business:

    • The TEA 2021-2022 Allotment and TEKS certification were approved
    • Burke Dagle was approved as the “designated asbestos manager” for Warren ISD
  • Weatherford named to Burke board

    Bryan Weatherford 020421 copyMUGSHOT Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford was named to the Burke Board of Trustees as an ex-officio, or non-voting, member.

    The Burke network services the 12-county deep East Texas region, serviced by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) and provides mental health services. Weatherford, along with another law enforcement leader, Sheriff Jason Bridges of Nacogdoches County, were named to the board, with appointments resulting from Senate Bill 632 of the 86th Texas Legislature.

    The bill promotes cooperation between local mental health authorities and law enforcement by appointing sheriffs or sheriffs’ representatives, to their local governing boards as non-voting members.

    “I am honored to have been elected to serve as a Burke Center Trustee,” said Weatherford. “This position will allow me the opportunity to represent not only Tyler County, but all 12 counties in the DETCOG region.”

    According to a news release from the Burke organization, Weatherford was appointed to represent the smaller counties of the region and Bridges will represent the larger ones.

    “I want to make sure the citizens of Tyler County and East Texas continue to receive the necessary mental health care treatment,” said Weatherford.

    The Burke network was established in 1974 as the Deep East Texas Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services, as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, which is governed by a nine-member Board of Trustees.

    The network has grown from a small organization, which offered limited services, into a major behavioral health provider, which serves more than 5,000 people annually, through a variety of services, according to its website.

  • Weatherford named to state jail standards commission

    Weatherford 01 14 21FILE PHOTO Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford.

    By Chris Edwards

    AUSTIN – Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, who just recently began serving another term has another reason to celebrate: an appointment from the governor.

    Last week, Weatherford was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to serve as one of the nine-member Commission on Jail Standards. He will fill an unexpired/vacated position that was occupied by Dennis Wilson, the Sheriff of Groesbeck County. Wilson’s term ends on Jan. 31.

    Weatherford will begin serving his six-year term on the commission, once he is confirmed by the state senate.

    He is looking forward to serving in that capacity, in addition to his duties as Tyler County Sheriff.
    He said it is exciting to him, personally, that East Texas voices are able to be heard in Austin, but above all, he wants to make sure that he does the job.

    “I want to make sure that I do a good job on representing our county in the aspect that the jails are running up to the standards set forth by the Commission,” Weatherford said. “I’m really excited about this appointment,” he added.

    The Texas Commission on State Jail Standards serves as the regulatory body for all of the county jails in the state, as well as privately operated municipal jails. It was created by the state legislature in 1975 to implement a statewide policy for all jails under its jurisdiction to conform to a minimum standard for the care and treatment of inmates, as well as the construction, maintenance and operation of jails.

    Weatherford has served and protected Tyler County citizens for 30 years in various capacities. He worked first as a police officer for the City of Woodville, then as a Justice of the Peace and most recently as Sheriff, after he was elected to his first term in 2013. Weatherford and his wife Ashley, who serves as the Director of Curriculum/Federal Programs for the Woodville Independent School District, are both Tyler County natives.

    Public service runs in Weatherford’s family, as his brother Brad is a Texas Ranger with the Texas Department of Public Safety and one of his sons, Tyler Bryan, is employed as a DPS State Trooper.

    Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Milton Powers will administer the Oath of Office to Weatherford at a later date.

  • Western Weekend continues Dogwood Festival season

    FestivalOfTheArts 2021 002JIM POWERS | PCPC The Festival of the Arts was held at Heritage Village in Woodville last Saturday and kicked off the Dogwood Festival in traditional fashion. Festival goers enjoyed a variety of demonstrations, a quilt show and live music.

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – With the Festival of the Arts in the books to kick off the Dogwood Festival’s three weekends of celebrations, Western Weekend is now upon Tyler Countians.

    The return of the Dogwood Festival to its traditional schedule, following a retooled 2020 festival due to the pandemic, will find Tyler County residents enjoying two evenings of rodeo, sponsored by the Woodville Lions Club, and plenty of other events.

    The rodeo will take place at the county fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. This year’s rodeo will be a Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) sanctioned event, produced by Branded for Christ Rodeo Productions.

    A big part of the Western Weekend activities are trailrides, according to the festival’s directors, which are kept up in an effort to preserve the heritage of the East Texas cowboy and to enjoy the natural beauty afforded by the region. More than 2,000 trailriders, on average, travel by horseback and wagon to Woodville during the final weekend in March. One locally organized trailride is looking to pay tribute to the past, while embracing the present.

    Kendall Coleman has organized a trailride called “Cowboys United: Calling all Trailriders,” which is calling for all trailriders from around the region and begins with the gates opening at 3 p.m. on Friday, at the location of Highway 190 and county road 3510 in Woodville. The warm-up ride will depart on Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m., with the lineup for the parade at 1 p.m.

    Another tradition for Western Weekend is the Western Weekend Sweetheart and Junior Sweetheart contests, in which girls aged 10-13 years are eligible for Junior Sweetheart and those who are 14-23 years of age are eligible for the Senior Sweetheart. The contestants are all judged on their horsemanship, appearance and interviews. The sweetheart horsemanship competition takes place on Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

    In other Dogwood Festival news, the Queen’s Weekend parade entries have been extended to this Friday. The entry form can be found at https://www.tylercountydogwoodfestival.org.

  • Western Weekend: A hoot and a half (GALLERY)

    2021 Western Weekend 12JIM POWERS | TCB Rider falling off a horse at the Tyler County Rodeo

    Last weekend saw the traditional Western Weekend portion of the annual Dogwood Festival in Woodville. From the two-day Lions Club Rodeo to the parade on Saturday, the weekend was full of activities, sights and sounds for folks of all ages to enjoy.

    Here is a selection of some of the fun, from both the rodeo and the parade.

    Photos by Jim Powers

     

  • White bills address firearms, ballots, and cannabis

    Jas WhiteFILE PHOTO State Representative James White (R-Hillister)

    By Chris Edwards

    AUSTIN – It has been a week of legislative triumphs for State Rep. James White (R-Hillister.) A bill that White had a hand in writing pertaining to Constitutional Carry of firearms passed out of the House of Representatives. Another White bill, which would require electronic voting machines to produce a traceable paper ballot also passed to go to the Committee on Calendars.

    White’s House Bill 1927, if passed into law, will allow Texans to carry handguns without requiring a license to carry. That bill gained initial approval from the House on Thursday with a vote of 84-56, with most of the House GOP voting in favor and seven Democrats voting for it.

    White issued a joint statement with the bill’s co-author Rep. Matt Schaefer on HB 1927, which featured comments from several LTC instructors in support of the bill. According to White’s statement, opponents of the bill “are pushing a false narrative that these bills would ‘dismantle’ Texas’ License to Carry law,” which White says is untrue.

    “Experience shows that residents will continue to voluntarily seek out training and licenses in permitless carry states, recognizing the benefits of instruction as well as acquiring and maintaining a license,” White said.

    The bill will allow Texas residents, aged 21 and up, to carry without a permit as long as they are not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm.

    HB 1708, which is the bill White penned pertaining to electronic voting machines, passed out of a House Committee on Elections with a vote of 8-1 on Wednesday. If the bill is passed into law, starting on Sept. 1 of this year, electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper ballot record cannot be purchased in Texas.

    Another bill that White had a hand in writing would reduce the penalties for the possession of cannabis. HB 3772 is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, April 19 before the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

    The bill would reduce criminal penalties for low-level possession of cannabis flower and THC concentrates. It would classify the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor and allow for the expunction of a paraphernalia charge if it is dismissed.

  • White takes proposed bills to task

    Jas White 110719CHRIS EDWARDS | PCPC State Rep. James White (R-Hillister) is shown speaking before the Woodville Rotary Club in November 2019.

    By Chris Edwards

    State Representative James White (R-Hillister) recently spoke out about some bill proposals up for consideration in the next legislation.

    The 87th Texas Legislature will not gavel in until January of 2021, but state lawmakers have had the opportunity to file bills since November. White recently took three of the proposed bills to task and called them “assaults on liberty.”

    The bills in question, House Bill 238, HB 185 and HB 196, all filed by Rep. Terry Meza (D-Irving) primarily deal with firearms-related issues, and White, in a news release, said the bills are “disrespectful, immoral and unconstitutional to freedom-loving and law-abiding Texans from the Sabine to the trans-Pecos; from the Texas Panhandle to the South Texas Plain.”

    HB 238, looks to repeal the state firearms pre-emption law and allow local governments to restrict guns as they please. HB 185, seeks to mandate firearms to be stored in locked gun cases, safes or cabinets, and would make failure to do so a criminal act.

    HB 196 was filed to modify the “castle doctrine,” which gives residents the right to use deadly force to protect their “land or tangible, movable property,” according to the Texas Penal Code. The bill looks to modify the requirement that homeowners not be able to safely retreat before deploying deadly force. It also seeks to remove robbery and aggravated robbery as crimes that can be legally stopped with deadly force.

    Meza’s bill to modify “castle doctrine” has already caused a stir. She claimed on Twitter that the bill has been misrepresented in news outlets. “While theft is obviously wrong, we have laws to address that. I don’t believe that stealing someone’s lawn ornament should be an offense punishable by death” she posted in a Nov. 19 tweet.

    Gov. Greg Abbott responded to Meza’s tweet by stating that “We won’t force Texas homeowners to retreat…homeowners need to protect themselves now more than ever.”

    White said that many of his constituents have expressed concern about firearms-related legislation. “None of these bills address any concerns with mass shootings,” White said. “The put more law-abiding citizens in danger, subject them to civil litigation and criminal prosecution.”

    Although thousands of bills typically get filed during a legislative year, only a fraction of them usually make it through the state House and Senate to find their way to Abbott in order to be signed into law.

    White, who serves as chair of the corrections committee in the state legislature, and also serves as part of the redistricting and judiciary and civil jurisprudence committees, has authored or sponsored several bills in advance of the coming session.

    One bill that has White’s authorship is a property tax reform bill, HB 529, which would cap year-to-year appraisal increases at 2.5%. Currently the limit on increases is 10%.

  • Wildcats play for district lead Friday (VIDEO)

    IMG 3417BRIAN BESCH | PCE Michael Hamilton led all scores with 14 Tuesday night.

    By Brian Besch

    A stifling defense made for easy offense as Big Sandy breezed past Spurger 83-13 Tuesday. Turnovers gave the game the look of a layup drill at times, as the Wildcats led by 17 after the first quarter and 33 at the half.

    Nearly at full strength, the Wildcats were too much for Spurger. The Pirates’ best quarter was in the first, scoring five points. Meanwhile the Big Sandy attack never amassed fewer than 19 points in a period.

    “We’ve got nearly everybody back,” Wildcat coach Kevin Foster said with a bit of relief. “We went on a stretch from Thanksgiving until Dec. 28 where we constantly had two or three guys out. We've played a lot of bigger schools, so it has been tough on us. I kept telling the kids that it will prepare us for the long run, even though we are taking our lumps now.”

    The ‘Cats spread the wealth, with each of the eight players scoring at least four points. Michael Hamilton was tops amongst them with 14. Elias Bullock scored 13, Kaden Foster and Josi Celestine both had a dozen, and Adrian Thompson had 10.

    “The last few games we have really worked on getting the ball up and we go through stretches where we struggle to score,” Foster said. “We need to get into our offense quicker and really transition and fast-breaking. We have done a better job of that as of late. I feel like the one thing that we've done well for the past couple of games is defend. We’ve also rebounded well all year long.”

    Much the same as the girls, Foster believes Friday's game at West Sabine will be in an important one for his Wildcats. The two schools were projected by many to finish first and second in the district.

    “It is going to be a challenging and difficult game, but that's what makes it fun,” the coach said. “I told the kids that we will be focused these next two days in practice to get ready to play. They probably have the best individual player in the district. He has started for them since he was a freshman and is a junior now. They have some good athletes and we are looking forward to it.”