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Lovelady shines in preseason outing

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081822 sandie mvpPreseason Offensive MVP — Lovelady senior quarterback Shaun Easterling is the District 12-2A DII Preseason Offensive MVP selected by Texas Football magazine. Photo by Larry Lamb

By Larry Lamb
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Lovelady Lions will wrap up preseason football action on the road against the highly ranked Timpson Bears on Friday.

The junior varsities will start it off at 5 p.m. and the varsities will follow with a 15-play controlled series by the first team offense and defense. The second team offense and defense will follow with a 12-play series. The scrimmage will conclude with two 10-minute quarters.

Timpson, coached by Kerry Therwhanger, is No. 2 in Texas Football magazine’s Class 2A DI Preseason rankings. Timpson went 12-1 last year, losing to Shiner in the state semifinal for the second straight year. Shiner went on to win the state crown and is ranked No. 1 this year.

Looking back at his team's showing last week at Trinity, Lovelady head coach Will Kirchhoff said, “They showed up on both sides of the ball and executed well on both sides. We told them before the scrimmage that the main things we were looking for were effort and 11 folks flying around the football. They did that all the way from the JV to the varsity.

Kirchhoff continued, "It's a great starting point for the year and all the kids across the board exhibited Lovelady football. We've talked all year about starting where we finished last year and I think they're definitely way ahead of where they were at this point last year, which is all we can ask. Like every year, we're going to keep getting better every week..”

The Lions are favored to win the District 11-2A DII championship and are ranked No. 14 in Texas Football’s 2A DII preseason poll.

Commenting on the Lions’ offensive showing in the scrimmage, Kirchhoff said, "We had some technique issues, but the physicality that we've become known for was definitely there. Even though we have quite a few returners we have a bunch of guys in a lot of new spots,"

Senior Shaun Easterling has moved from running back to quarterback this season. "That was his first full-time showing as a quarterback and he did a heck of a job of running the show, just making sure he was under control and controlled the huddle, which is something that is natural to him. He's a natural leader. To have him in that role and see him step into it and not miss a beat is pretty special."

The coach continued, "We ran the ball well, which is what we hang our hat on. The thing that'll surprise a lot of people is you think of Shaun being a running back but at quarterback he can throw the ball a lot better than people think."

Easterling threw a 40-yard touchdown to J.J. Crawford early in the live setting. He's obviously one of the best ball carriers I've ever coached, but he's also one of the most coachable kids I've ever coached. He's going to continue to get better and throw the ball better than people would think and he proved that the other night."

Easterling has been named District 12-2A DII Preseason Offensive MVP by Texas Football.

Easterling has been playing running back and was District Offensive MVP the last two years after being named Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. He received all-state third team and honorable mention as a running back from the Texas Sports Writers Association the last two seasons.

The Lions’ second team offense got on the scoreboard in the controlled setting when Cortavius Whitaker broke a long touchdown run.

"We're a grind-it-out kind of team, so there's nothing too flashy. We strive for consistency as far as being able to get positive yards when it doesn't look like we should and making tough runs, always finishing forward. I'm old school, so highlights to me are those four-yard plays that should have been none,” the coach said.

Kirchhoff added, "As for the rest of the guys, it's just small details that we've got to iron out. But for the most part the physicality was there, which is what we're always working on. Effort across the board was extremely high on both sides of the ball."

"Offensively you've got people working their way all the way down field and never taking a play off. That's what's really going to set us for success later down the road.”
Even the defense got in on the scoring when senior free safety Blake Patrick scored on a pick-six.
Kirchhoff said the Lions had three interceptions forced several fumbles.
Lovelady also converted a pair of two-point conversions.

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Sandies open season Friday

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081822 Grapeland open seasonGrapeland's offense tries to punch the ball across the goal line inside the red zone during last week's scrimmage against Cushing in Sandie Stadium. Photo by Larry Lamb

Grapeland Sandies traveled to Bullard on Friday for their second scrimmage against the Brook Hill Guard after a productive outing last week with Cushing.

Grapeland opens the season Aug. 26 on the road against Frankston and then closes out non-district play with three straight home games against county rival Lovelady on Sept. 2, Bremond on Sept. 9 and Groveton on Sept. 16.

The Sandies travel to Timpson on Sept. 23 for their District 11-2A DI opener.

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Bulldogs 'focused' in first scrimmage

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081822 crockett preseaon

By Larry Lamb
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A 120-mile bus ride to Elysian Fields didn't negatively affect the Crockett Bulldogs in their first preseason outing last Friday,
"Once we got there and got the kids settled into the locker room, we walked through our offensive and defensive preparation. The main thing was they were focused really good and when we took the field there was a lot of energy," said Bulldogs head coach Alton Dixon. "It was great to see the offensive and defensive coaches supporting each other.”

Dixon said the biggest takeaway from the scrimmage was the Bulldogs' ability to run the football between the tackles.
"We didn't go out with a big bunch of things we wanted to do on offense. We ran some downhill stuff but we didn't run our quarterback," said Dixon.

Dixon cited several "explosive" offensive plays on carries by running backs Corey Simon, Tywoin Delane and freshman Peanut McKnight. Simon had a 30-yard run and Delane caught a 25-yard pass in the end zone from senior flinger Jadyn Collins. "That was a beautiful pass by Jadyn and our pass protection was excellent," said the coach.

Collins, a first team all-district honoree, was 3 of 9 but had several dropped passes. "Four of the passes were dropped and two other times he was flushed out of the pocket and still managed to throw a catchable ball. He did a great job leading," pointed out Dixon.

On the Bulldogs' first play of the scrimmage, Collins threw to a wide-open receiver for a sure touchdown but the ball was dropped. Another pass on a bootleg to a wide-open receiver was dropped.

"We had several plays like that, so the focus right now is catching the ball. We're catching 100 balls a day to get better," said Dixon. "Jadyn did a really good job of leading and encouraging the receivers when they didn't make the catch. The remarkable aspect for me was seeing him take ownership and still have a positive outlook. He played amazing."

Sophomore running back Damian Griffin didn't play football last year but has worked hard in offseason and summer conditioning. "He's busted his tail and I'm very happy to see his pass protection and his blocking," said Dixon. "There's some finer things he's got to learn to get better. I loved the way he approached the game and the way that he ran."

Rating the Bulldogs' defensive performance, Dixon said, "We had 11 hats to the ball. Our safeties Corey Simon, Kalan Kalra and Dylan Porter were all amazing making plays but there's a lot of room for us to grow and get better.”

Crockett's defense got off to a rousing start on Elysian Field's first offensive play when cornerback Peanut McKnight picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown.

Elysian Fields' only score was a touchdown pass late in the scrimmage during the red zone segment.

Dixon had high praise for the defensive line comprised of defensive end Jim Carruthers, nose guard Blake Jones and defensive tackle/offensive guard Karmond Robinson.

"Jim played like a man. He set the edge and they had to cut back on their stretch because of the way he played. Blake annihilated their center several times," said Dixon.

Jonathan Lockhart played “very fast” and graded the highest in the scrimmage, Dixon added.

Mike linebacker Zandrick Anderson played a solid game getting the defense settled and lined up. Bryson Burton played well at his new position of outside linebacker.

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Alto ruled ineligible for postseason football

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081122 no alto postseason football

Alto High School was declared ineligible for the 2022 Texas high school football playoffs after the UIL executive committee ruled that the school turned in an incorrect enrollment number, according to a report by Texas Football.

The UIL executive committee met Tuesday, Aug. 2 via teleconference to determine whether Alto violated Section 351 of the UIL constitution, which covers enrollment as it relates to conference realignment. In October, Alto turned in an enrollment of 163 students to the UIL, which caused the school to move from 2A Division I to 2A Division II, where the

Yellowjackets were placed in District 11-2A Division II.

The UIL executive committee ruled that Alto's true enrollment number was 166 — just three more than its submitted number, but enough that it would move Alto above the 164.5-student threshold for 2A Division I. The UIL ruled that because Alto was placed an incorrect alignment due to its inaccurate enrollment number, it would therefore be ruled ineligible for the 2022 football playoffs.

The controversy centers around three students who attended classes prior to Oct. 30 — Snapshot Day, the date upon which schools calculate their enrollment for submission to the UIL — but backdated their enrollment dates to Nov. 2, when they would not factor into the school's enrollment number.

The ruling also puts Alto's 2023 postseason status in jeopardy. The Yellowjackets would be eligible for the postseason in 2A Division I next season, but they would need unanimous consent of both their current district (11-2A Division II, with Tenaha, Price Carlisle, Mount Enterprise, Overton and Cushing) and the Division I district they wish to join.

First-year coach Brock Grisgby, most recently the offensive coordinator at Center, took over the Yellowjackets on Feb. 22 after Lance Gamble resigned after just one season. He is Alto's third coach in three seasons. As a result of the postseason ban, Alto will miss the playoffs for just the second time since 2003 and just the third time since 1991.

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'Meet the Lions' slated at Lovelady

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081122 meet the lions

"Meet the Lions" will be held Monday, Aug. 15 at Lovelady High School starting at 6:15 p.m.
A cake auction is planned and spirit shirts will be available for purchase.

Sack meals consisting of a barbecue sandwich, chips and a drink will be sold during the event.

Everyone is invited to come meet the athletes and kick off the new school year.

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