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  • Breaking down barriers

    Livingston Football 19OCT2020Photo by Linda Jacobs and Jo’Hannah Proctor Livingston quarterback Damian Ruiz (3) dives into the end zone during the Lions’ 35-14 win at Splendora Friday night. Ruiz ran for two touchdowns and threw three more touchdown passes.

    By Brian Besch

    MONTGOMERY COUNTY – Livingston football keeps rolling, defeating the rival Wildcats 35-14 in Splendora Friday night. The team utilized the efforts of its defense and a balanced attack on offense to win in impressive fashion.

    The Livingston Lions have become one of the better stories of Class 4A football in 2020. A team for which many predicted a basement finish has won five straight games, has a 2-0 record in district play, and is trending toward a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

    “That was a long time coming,” Livingston head coach Finis Vanover said. “Three years of grueling misery, shame, embarrassment and whippings. These seniors stuck it out and went through three years of that misery and they have made a commitment and a promise, and they are fulfilling every bit of it right now. All it took was to trust us to show you how to get there and you have to trust the Lord’s gift that you have and not waste it.”

    It was just two years ago that Splendora defeated the Lions 87-21, with not-so-subtle celebrations after each score. Last year, the Wildcats enjoyed a 48-15 win on the same field. Proud of the team’s performance, the coach said accomplishments like the win Friday were something that would not have happened in the past.

    “Not the last two years, but this fall when they showed up, the way they scrimmaged and the way they played Needville, I knew there was something really special going on. We are not as good as we can even be yet. That is the beauty. They (Splendora) are tapped out,” Vanover said pointing to the opposing sideline. “They can't play any better than they have the last two or three weeks. They got matched physically tonight, speed beat them, scheme beat them, and a kneel down on the 1-yard line.”

    Splendora (3-4, 1-1) began with the lead at 7-0.

    Livingston quarterback Damian Ruiz then led two touchdown drives, ending the first with a 26-yard touchdown strike to Julian Gardner and another on a six-yard run.

    The Wildcats’ Zane Obregon, who had both Splendora touchdowns and 106 yards rushing, scored once more. But the home team’s success ended there.

    The Lion defense that has been the squad’s reliable unit made a few adjustments and did not allow further damage.

    “We made some personnel movements and coach went to a different front,” Vanover said of the defense. “There was just a change in alignment with them and we moved them around to try to get them in some spaces. We couldn't match up with them and it took us that first series to realize that. We had to bring some blitzes and bring some heat from different directions and the coaches did a great job adjusting during the first half, but especially at halftime. (Defensive coordinator Dalton Murray), the secondary coaches and the outside linebacker guys did a great job getting the kids clued in on what we needed to do the second half to get some stops.”

    Ruiz (9-for-15, 219 yards, INT, 3 TDs) would later hit Izzy Enard on a 25-yard touchdown pass, sneak in his second rushing six-pointer, and find Gardner again for a 52-yard pass to score.

    Gardner had five catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. If that wasn’t enough, the junior standout added an interception while playing defense.

  • Corvette owner shows collection to Livingston Lions Club (VIDEO)

                                   PHOTO BY KELLI BARNES | PCE Pat McCulley’s collection of corvettes was on display Wednesday afternoon at the weekly Livingston Lions Club meeting at Camp Cho Yeh. McCulley’s collection includes one corvette from each of the brand’s eight classes.

    By Jason Chlapek

    LIVINGSTON — Sometimes one thing leads to another.

    That’s the case with Pat and Jerry McCulley. Somehow one corvette turned into eight.

    Pat displayed her corvette collection Wednesday afternoon at the Livingston Lions Club’s weekly meeting at Camp Cho Yeh. She was able to show her entire collection, including her eighth corvette which arrived in September — the 2020 C8 mid-engine.

    “We have a corvette from every generation,” McCulley said. “The oldest corvette is a 1960 C1.”

    McCulley said each corvette generation averages about 10 years. She also said that there was never an intention of having a full-blown corvette collection.

    “It just sort of happened,” McCulley said. “The first one I bought was a 1975 C3. It was a popular car when I was a teenager. After I bought that one, I thought it would be neat to buy a 2005 C6. I didn’t intend one to get one of every generation, but it just happened that way.”

    In all, the McCulleys have a C1 from 1960, a C2 from 1965, a C3 from 1975, a C4 from 1990, a C5 from 2000, a C6 from 2005, a C7 Grandsport from 2017 and a C8 from 2020. Pat has an interesting story about the purchase of the C4.

    “(Jerry) found the C4 online in California,” Pat said. “We have friends in LA who we sent money for the purchase of the car and we had it shipped to Texas.”

    The McCulleys ordered their latest corvette in July 2019, and were scheduled to receive it in March. But, a few things happened that delayed the arrival date until September.

    “GM went on strike back in March then Covid-19 hit,” Pat said. “This is the first year of the C8 generation.”

    The McCulleys are lifetime members of the National Corvette Museum, which is located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They have lived in Livingston since 1979.

    “I try to show them every opportunity I get,” Pat said. “We always try to participate in anything FAITH does, Hometown Christmas and anything else we can do to help the community. We take children for rides in the corvettes and also do fundraisers and food drives.”

    While the C8 was just released this year, the C9 has likely crossed Pat’s mind. Whether or not she and Jerry purchase one a decade from now will be the question.

    “We’ll have to see how young and spry I am when the C9 comes out,” Pat quipped.

    It might just lead to another corvette in the family.

  • Country star Supernaw dies

    Doug SupernawFILE PHOTO Doug Supernaw

    From staff reports

    LIVINGSTON – Country star and Livingston resident Doug Supernaw died on the morning of Friday, Nov. 13. Supernaw was 60, and his passing came after a battle with cancer.

    Supernaw’s death was announced on social media by his manager J.J. Morris. “My friend and boss man Doug Supernaw passed away this morning, with his wife Cissy Allen Supernaw at his side,” her post read.

    Other musicians expressed condolences on social media after the news became public. Neal McCoy, a friend of Supernaw’s and fellow ‘90s hitmaker, said “What a good fella and a heck of a singer,” and added a note of encouragement to Supernaw’s wife: “Stay strong Cissy! You have been for a while. Doug couldn’t have been blessed with a better woman, and I’ve heard you say the same thing about him.”

    Supernaw, who was a native of Bryan, grew up in Inwood Forest and was exposed to country music at an early age by his mother.

    In high school, Supernaw was a star athlete, and attended college on a golf scholarship, before he began playing in bands. He later moved to Nashville and found work as a staff songwriter, before moving back to Texas where he formed a band called Texas Steel.

    Supernaw and his band (later renamed the Possum Eatin’ Cowboys) became a huge draw across the state, and in 1993, he signed to BNA Entertainment, the label that released his gold-selling debut Red and Rio Grande.

    The album, which drew critical acclaim along with its big sales, produced several hits, the best-known of which were “Reno” and the number one hit “I Don’t Call Him Daddy.” The video for the latter included an appearance from Supernaw’s son Phillip, who would later go on to play in the NFL.

    After two more albums for major labels, Supernaw recorded Fadin’ Renegade for an indie label, and took a lengthy hiatus from recording. He was reportedly disillusioned with the recording industry but continued to perform live. His blend of literate lyrics, catchy melodies and traditional country sounds, along with a stick-to-your-guns Texas-born attitude, helped influence many Texas country acts that became popular around the turn of the millennium.

    Supernaw returned to full-time touring in 2016 and recorded an album the following year comprised of re-recorded versions of his hits, along with a pair of new songs.

    He was diagnosed with stage IV lung and bladder cancer in early 2019 and began an aggressive course of treatment. Several benefits were held throughout last year to help Supernaw with medical expenses, including events at Pontoon’s and Coal’s Smokehouse in Splendora.

    Reportedly, the treatments were working, and Supernaw was on the mend, but recently, it was announced that the cancer had spread to his spine and brain, as an MRI had indicated, and he was placed under hospice care.

    Supernaw is survived by his wife Cissy, his children and grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

  • County commits funds to regional communications infrastructure

                                   JASON CHLAPEK | PCE Polk County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Byron Lyons addresses commissioners about an agenda item that he wants tabled during Tuesday morning’s Commissioners Court. The item was tabled.

    By Jason Chlapek

    LIVINGSTON — Polk County commissioners approved a measure that will help not just their own county, but other counties as well during Commissioners Court Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse.

    The measure is a resolution authorizing the commitment of county funds and participation in a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) project by the Deep East Texas Council Of Governments (DETCOG) for regional interoperable radio communications. Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy believes this is a good move.

    “A few years ago, one of our Sheriff’s deputies was shot at and he was unable to get out and his radio wasn’t working so he couldn’t get help,” Murphy said. “What we’re trying to do is get interoperable communications with the entire 12-county DETCOG region and build a network across those counties that will allow us to have interoperability for emergency management, law enforcement, first responders or anybody that needs to be in communication in a crisis situation or circumstances. If we can get this done, then they’re asking for a commitment of 1 percent from the cog, which is huge. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these counties to be able to get good interoperability.”

    The DETCOG region consists of 12 counties that include Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties. The project calls for some communication structure.

    “It’s going to be upgraded technology where towers will be placed strategically,” Murphy said. “For example, let’s say Polk County ends up with a tower. That tower will be powerful enough to cover part of Liberty County, part of Trinity County or part of Tyler County depending on where the tower is located. The idea is to put ‘umbrellas’ over the entire DETCOG region to where everybody is covered regardless of where the location of the tower is. It’s a regional plan.”

    Commissioners also approved a measure to submit a CDBG grant application for flood and drainage improvement in a subdivision in Precinct 1. The Precinct 1 Road & Bridge Department will match the funds.

    “What happens when you receive these grants, there’s a matching portion,” Murphy said. “They don’t just give you the money. You have to have ‘skin in the game.’ It’s a matching grant. Some of the HUD requirements that those people be low to moderate income. To be LMI, it’s based on the average income for that county. The average income for Polk County is lower than the average income for Montgomery County based on the businesses and what people make. The cost of living is also higher in Montgomery County. The LMI is what qualifies certain areas. Let’s say you live by the lake and you have a home with a low monetary value, but it’s right next to a mansion. The mansion skews it and does not allow the person living in the smaller home to receive as much funding or assistance because the value for that area is so high. HUD has set up requirements for LMI and that gives you points for when you apply for those grants. The lower the income, the more assistance you will be providing and the more points you get when you make application. The LMI is what qualifies that subdivision based on the conditions and the amount of money the people living in that area make.”

    Also approved was a measure for county transportation infrastructure. The Texas Department of Transportation is partnering with the county.

    “Our agreement with TxDOT is to help replace some bridges and culverts or things like that,” Murphy said. “Our agreement is to allow them to proceed and each commissioner will communicate with TxDOT engineers to get what those precincts need. We’re trying to streamline the operation as much as possible and allow it to be simplified.”

    The next Commissioners Court takes place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10.

  • COVID CRUSADER: Retired physician taking stand against virus

                                   JASON CHLAPEK | PCE Retired U.S. Army Col. And Dr. Ronald Tolls is an advocate for Covid safety.

    By Jason Chlapek

    LIVINGSTON — Ronald Tolls has held a few titles during his 80 years of life.

    Among those are U.S. Army Colonel and Doctor. Tolls has an unofficial title these days — Covid Crusader.

    Inspired by friends who relocated from Houston to Livingston during the initial outbreak of Covid-19, the retired doctor is taking it upon himself to help prevent the spread of the virus around the Livingston community. He believes it is easier to spread than other illnesses as well.

    “The first thing that happened is we had a couple that I vaguely knew from our church who were displaced from Houston. They’ve been with us ever since,” Tolls said. “I became aware of it acutely that Covid had spread and was highly communicable. People who were in nursing homes have a high fatality rate. I’ve since been following the CDC recommendations and I think they were off track for a while because they thought it was spread like a common cold or the Spanish Influenza. But in fact, it can be spread via aerosol, which is akin to the smoke that we smell around a bonfire. In other words, it’s far beyond the six feet.”

    Tolls has taken his mission to the Livingston Walmart. He believes the virus is more likely to be spread there as opposed to churches or schools.

    “In our church, we have social distancing,” Tolls said. “But at Walmart, it has all fallen on the wayside. About a month ago, I did a tally at Walmart and I found that 50% of employees were wearing their masks improperly. I’m a staunch believer that the No. 1 spread of Covid is not in our churches or in the open marketplace. It’s in shops. Walmart is the principal retailer in town. A third of the people that come in are not even wearing masks. I am eager to raise awareness and what I’m proposing is that, with all respect to Walmart because next to (Livingston ISD) they’re our No. 1 employer in town, we get a systemized program at Walmart. They’re examples to the rest of our community. They can beat their chest and say ‘Look what we’re doing. We’re not killing you by selling cigarettes as much as we’re trying to save you from Covid.’ Cigarettes will shorten your lifespan by 10 years and those very same people have the audacity to go out and have a team on Relay For Life.”

    During Tolls’ time at the London School of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, University of London, he learned about a man named Sir John Snow. During the London Cholera Epidemic of 1854, Snow figured out a way to slow down the spread of the disease.

    “In the social area of London (in 1854), there were 500 fatalities in 10 days,” Tolls said. “Somebody asked John Snow what they should do about it. He said to take the handle off of the Broadstreet Pump. He had a box of pins and a map of that region. Essentially, in 1854, John Snow was a couple of generations ahead of his time. I will never be able to prove things like he did. I will never be able to prove with pins like he did. What I would like to do is promote a program at Walmart and other businesses will follow suit. I would like to see them do it in good face. I want our Walmart to be an example to the community.”

    Tolls retired from practicing medicine three years ago. In addition to Walmart, he is interested in talking to other high-traffic businesses in Livingston.

    “I think there’s something people need to know about and I think they need to know how to stop the spread of Covid,” Tolls said. “It’s killed 200,000 Americans. It behooves us to do something about it. I’d be quite willing to talk to other stores as well.”

    He’s staying on the crusade.

  • Ellis back on board

    20201116 180424BRIAN BESCH I PCE Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins swears in Bea Ellis during the November meeting of the LISD Board of Trustees.

    By Brian Besch

    LIVINGSTON - The Livingston ISD school board reshuffled some of its positions after accepting a “new” member Monday at Creekside Elementary.

    The November LISD Board meeting opened with the swearing-in of Bea Ellis. Ellis spent 26 years on the board, also serving as its president, and returns after just two years away.

    After, Ben Ogletree was named president for two more years, Scott Paske will serve as vice-president and Krissa Bass will be the board secretary.

    Livingston ISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson presented the annual Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) report during the public hearing portion of the meeting. 

    The state's school financial accountability rating system ensures that Texas public schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices and that they improve those practices.

    The system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes. The FIRST report consists of 15 different indicators. The district scored the maximum allowed points of 100.  

    Board president Ben Ogletree noted during the review of the principal reports that the district is holding an attendance rate in the mid-90 percentile, which he attributed to the janitorial staff and the diligence of the teaching staff with efforts in fogging, cleaning, and handwashing.

    An action item approved by the board was the reconsideration of the board student outcome goals.

  • Interview with Covid survivors (VIDEO)

    covid interviewCALEB FORTENBERRY | PCPC Livingston Volunteer Fire Chief, Corky Cochran and Livingston Junior High Coach, John Taylor speak on their experience of surviving Covid-19 in the exclusive East Texas News interview.

     

  • Interviews with WWII veterans

    coogler3FILE PHOTO | COURTESY OF POLK COUNTY MEMORIAL MUSEUM J.D. Coogler

    By Brian Besch

    LIVINGSTON - One of the treasures of the Polk County Memorial Museum are recordings that some of the staff have begun compiling. With Veteran’s Day so near and many of the usual events canceled from Covid-19, some of the museum’s more timely are interviews with World War II veterans.

    In conversations with Polk County Historical Commission co-chair Joyce Johnston and others, a few of the Polk County heroes speak of their role in one of the world’s most well-known events.

    Jimmy Parker was on one of the 16 planes from the Doolittle Raid, the American air strike that was retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    “General (James) Doolittle came in and said, ‘We’re going on a mission. We’re going to bomb one of our enemies in war and deliver these aircrafts to one of our allies.’” Parker says in the interview.

    “We were supposed to go in the afternoon. Doolittle was going to light up the city and we were going to go in and bomb where the lights were.”

    J.D. Coogler spoke of his service overseas in Italy as an engineer and top turret gunner.

    Coogler spent around nine or 10 months flying missions in Italy, where once he landed, said he knew he “was in the combat area then.”

    The veteran also told of facilities and supplies at the camp, friends in his camp who were shot down in action, as well as some of his missions.

    Some of his stories included having to help land a plane after an engine going out and dropping bombs over Czechoslovakia.

    Avery Merdolf Walker told of his time graduating Livingston High School in 1941, going on to letter in football, basketball and track at Sam Houston State. He would also play a year for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Walker was drafted after Pearl Harbor was attacked and he was placed in the Army combat engineers.

    “We mostly did work; we didn’t do much fighting,” Walker said in the recording. “We did all kinds of road work and construction work, and on the island of Guam, we built a big runway that the B-29s took off from that dropped the atomic bombs that ended the war.”

    These interviews and many others can be found on the museum’s website at http://www.polkcountymemorialmuseum.com/oral-history/ 

     

  • Leggett, Livingston face off to begin schedule (VIDEO)

    legg and livBRIAN BESCH | PCE Livingston took a 60-44 home win over the 1A powerhouse.

    By Brian Besch

    LIVINGSTON - The Leggett Pirates and Livingston Lions did not exactly ease into the season with cupcake games. The two Polk County schools squared off against each other Saturday, with Livingston taking a 60-44 home win over the 1A powerhouse.

    Leggett actually began the contest with a 7-0 lead, as the Lions needed a few minutes to adjust to the game's speed.

    "It started out real good, but we just have to do a better job of protecting the paint and matching up with other teams," Leggett head coach Sean Edwards said. "Coach (Calvin) Phillips knows what he is doing over there and they are going to be OK. Livingston is going to be competitive this year. He even has three guys that he is missing, so he is even going to be better.”

    Even though the Lions were missing a few due to football, they were able to show off a deep bench. Eight of the nine players dressed for the game contributed points.

    Jeston Kowis led all scores with 16 points for Livingston, newcomer Adyn Stewart had a dozen and Gage Morris had nine. For Leggett, Varian Flournoy had 12, Chase Parrish had 10. Both Jacoby Sells and freshman Josh Perkins finished with seven points.

    Just as last year’s team, Livingston possesses plenty of size, even adding some for the latest version.

    That proved to be a difficult task for the smaller Pirates.

    “We are small this year and my 6-5 post got hurt, and for medical reasons, he can't come back and play," Edwards said. "We had another guy move to Splendora, but it is what it is. We are small this year and we are going to have to out-quick them, but sometimes you run out of gas.”

    State-ranked Leggett may not have the offensive firepower as they have the past few years, but the team will still be able to collect plenty of wins on the 1A level.

    “It is going to be defense,” Edwards said of keys to success. “We have to control the tempo, it is simple and easy. We are not going to be scoring 95 or 100 this year. We have to play defense and take it possession by possession. Of course, I'm
    going to coach to what I have, so that's what we have to do.”

    The Lions may have a few different ways to earn victories in the 2020-21 season. Their size should prove to be an asset both on defense and in rebounding, but they will also receive an injection of speed now that football season has come to an end.

    "It's going to let us do what we want to do," new Lion head coach Calvin Phillips said. "The press with Julian (Gardner) and Izzy (Enard), that is going to be our quicks up front. We can play a lot more man-to-man in full court like I want, but it all depends on what we see, how we break down film and see what works best for us. I'm not trying to be a big entertainer; we just have to get some wins. (The additional players) will give us some more shooters too."

    Phillips said aggression has been a big key and something emphasized in practices. Once the team regained its footing Saturday, aggression made the difference in the outcome.

    “We started off kind of slow and we were a little bit soft and backing off, but once the aggression came around and we started hitting the floor and started getting turnovers, I thought that was the difference in the game right there," Phillips said. "We got some breakaway shots and Coach (Stephen) Seaback works transition every day. Overall, every phase of the game was OK, but we still have a lot of work to do. I was impressed with the half-court game. We went to a zone, which really helped us a lot. It wasn't bad for the first game, considering who they (Leggett) are, because they play hard.”

    After allowing 16 points in the first quarter, the Lions held Leggett to single digits in both the second and third period to slowly distance themselves.

    Livingston was consistent on offense each quarter and outscored the Pirates in all four frames.

    "Seaback and I both are always working something as far as some kind of
    shooting drill," the Lion coach said. "Our pet peeve is defense and we have to stop people. It isn't going to do any good to go out there and score 100 points and
    let them score 100 points. I like the fast game and I like the man-to-man defense, but you have to pick your poison. We had to fall back and play more zone than I wanted to play, but it worked out for us. All I want is a victory and get that first victory in my belt."

  • Lions playing for district title

    IMG 1437PHOTO BY JO’HANNAH PROCTOR Livingston running back Lynn Johnson (23) runs with several Little Cypress-Mauriceville defenders hanging on him trying to bring him down Friday night.

    By Brian Besch

    LIVINGSTON - The Livingston Lions ran their district record to 4-0 by defeating the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Bears 18-6 on Senior Night in Lion Stadium. The win sets up a District 10-4A Div. I showdown in Huffman for the final regular season game, as the Hargrave Falcons are also undefeated.

    For the first time since 1963 when Corky Cochran was taking handoffs, the Lions (7-2, 4-0) have won seven consecutive games in a season. It is an accomplishment for a school that had won just two games the three prior years combined. A win on the road Friday will have the school vaulting from worst to first.

    “The past two years have been rough,” senior linebacker Tanner Orn said after playing his final game at Lion Stadium. “My sophomore year, we were 0-10 and last year we went 2-8, so it kind of feels surreal right now, winning seven straight. We are going into the district championship undefeated and it really doesn't feel real. This is it for me. I'm playing out here 100% as long as I can. I just love football and I'm just trying to play.”

    Livingston was successful on the ground, led by junior Lynn “Tank” Johnson, who had 18 carries, 145 yards and two scores. Ja’Marri Green added 56 yards in 11 attempts. In all, the Lions ran for 238 yards.

    The story of the year for Livingston has been its defense. After holding the Bears to six points, they have now surrendered an average of 8.5 points per district game.

    Orn said a lot of the improvement for the defense is mental and emotional.

    “It is the attitude, 100%,” he said. “Everyone is in there playing for the person next to them, you know? In past years, it wasn't like that. Now it is. Everybody has the same goal.”

    The visiting Bears also performed well on the defensive side. The Lions were unable to convert many drives into points.

    “They played defense,” Livingston coach Finis Vanover said of LC-M. “They were well-prepared, they moved people around on the chessboard that we haven't seen moved to those spots. They attacked us and got physical and we didn't answer back a couple of times real good. We figured it out enough to put points on them.”

    Livingston scored on its first drive of the game, going 10 plays in six minutes and ending in a Damian Ruiz 1-yard sneak. A missed extra point had the team chasing two-point conversions the rest of the night.

    Much the same as the Lion offense saw early in the season, the Bears brought pressure from both ends to contain rollout passes and runs outside the tackles.

    “They brought two people, and then they put their big boys out wide that we haven't seen all year,” Vanover said. “We were in a bind and we didn't handle it well. We have to get that smoothed out. I am very disappointed in our red zone offense. We had two possessions before the half and came away with nothing. They stopped two two-point conversions and that is just unacceptable.

    “It is also a tribute to their defense. It's what I was afraid of all week. If they get juiced up and get rolling and get confident, they would make some big offensive plays. I didn't want those skill guys out there, because I knew they I would throw it all over the field. I didn't think they could run it on us. They have some playmakers and they can go the distance in a hurry like they showed.”

    The time they went the distance was in the third period on a 78-yard slant to Brendon Pollock, cutting the lead in half at 12-6.

    Before that, Johnson sprinted in from 16 yards with 1:53 to go in the first half, capping a 14-play drive to put the Lions up 12-0. The final score of the game had the junior tailback outrunning the defense again, this time in the third quarter on a counter for 59 yards.

    Friday will decide District 10-4A Div. I. The Hargrave Falcons are 9-0 on the season after taking down Vidor 15-13 on the road. Both teams enter the clash with 4-0 district marks.

    “It is what you play the sport for,” Vanover said. “It is what everybody talks about from Aug. 3 until now — playing for the championship. Everybody snickered and snarled about the old Livingston Lions and here we’re fixing to be two undefeated teams playing game 10 for the district championship. What more can you say about a group of boys that have stuck it out, believed and achieved like you are supposed to do?”

  • Lions restore their roar (GALLERY & VIDEO)

    IMG 2503PHOTOS COURTESY OF LINDA JACOBS AND JO'HANNA PROCTOR Livingston Lions celebrate their victory on Friday November 6, 2020 as they win the district championship.

     

     
    By Brian Besch

    HUFFMAN - From worst to first, or maybe more accurate, from the outhouse to the penthouse. After winning only two games over the past three years, Livingston football has won the District 10-4A Div. I championship.

    The Lions stunned the defending district champions on their home field, taking a 21-20 come-from-behind win Friday over Hargrave in Huffman. It is the first outright district championship for Livingston football since 1963.

    The Lions fell behind 20-7 when Falcon quarterback Luke Thomas powered his way in from eight yards out with 2:45 left in the third quarter.

    The Lions later answered with a Nigel Henderson interception that set the offense up at the Hargrave 15. Three plays later, freshman Ja’Marri Green took a sweep over the goal line from the three, cutting the lead to 20-14.

    With just 2:51 in the game, Livingston again needed just three plays to score. After a 5-yard run from Damian Ruiz, the quarterback then took to the air, completing a 40-yard pass to Julian Gardner. On the next play from the Falcon 30, Ruiz rolled right and threw back to his left, finding Green wide open. The young running back cut across the field, dodging defenders to help give Livingston the lead.

    On the next possession, sophomore Jontavian McNeal intercepted a pass to give Livingston the ball once more with under a minute to play. A first down from Green on third-and-five secured the win.

    Behind 6-0 at the half, Livingston head coach Finis Vanover said his team looked down in the locker room.

    “We sagged a little bit going into halftime and I told them, ‘It is like a morgue in here. We told you and told you that it wasn't going to be easy. These guys have been there for five or six consecutive years and they have beaten all comers, including us. They made fools out of us last year here and there were people dancing on our sidelines when we were 40 points down. There's only going to be one dance taking place here tonight, it is going to be when we win.’”

    Ruiz threw completions of 28, 6, 40 and 30 yards The first of those was a scoring strike to Chris Washington to put the Lions up 7-6 on the first drive of the third period.

    Washington is the only Lion to have played through the past four years. He began as a freshman and had only been a part of two wins before 2020.

    “Those four years were crazy,” the senior receiver said. “My (freshman and sophomore) year, we didn't win any games and coach Vanover told us to believe and that is what we kept doing. He told us keep believing and we are going to win and we are going to turn around the program. That's what we did. It has been a long, hard four years for me and I am just glad we came out with a win. It took a lot of hard work. I did my part and I did all

    I could. I just stuck it out. I didn't want to transfer and I didn't want to go anywhere. I stayed with my hometown and this is the outcome.”

    The coach said a big difference in the offense for the final two quarters was getting the running game in gear. Green provided much of that, going for 53 of his 69 yards in the second half.

    “We told our tailbacks, ‘If you didn't show up to play, get your tail on the bus and wait for us. We'll find somebody else that will run tough. Get busy running — and we did. (Coach) Seven (Armstrong) had some good talks with the offensive linemen about getting physical. They are the simplest defense (by scheme) that we played the entire year. Little Cypress (-Mauriceville, last week) was good, but these guys (Hargrave) are great.”

    The district champions will now face Tyler Chapel Hill 6 p.m. Saturday in the bi-district round of the playoffs at New Caney’s Texan Drive Stadium.

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  • Livingston orders demolition of former Holiday Inn building

                                   The building that once served as a Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn, Knights Inn or Royal Inn has been ordered for demolition by the City of Livingston. The measure was approved unanimously by city council during Tuesday’s meeting.

    By Jason Chlapek

    POLK COUNTY — The City of Livingston approved a measure to demolish the building where the Holiday Inn previously operated Tuesday night at Livingston City Hall. After a public hearing that lasted approximately an hour-and-a-half, city council aldermen unanimously approved the demolition of the building located on 1200 North Washington. Livingston city code enforcer Josh Mohler and city engineer Kirk Bynum both spoke about the findings discovered that prompted advocation for the building’s demolition.“The council determined that the building was unsafe and dilapidated,” Livingston city manager Bill Wiggins said.The building suffered a fire on Dec. 11, 2011, and has been unusable ever since. The structure also was known as the Ramada Inn, Knights Inn or Royal Inn for a brief period of time.The building’s owner, Indira Patel, spoke on behalf of trying to salvage the structure. She has 90 days to have the structure demolished and the grounds cleaned.Livingston Mayor Judy Cochran was reappointed as a director for the Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency board of directors. Cochran has been a director of the agency since 2017, and Livingston Alderman Clarke Evans is the vice-president of the SRMPA board.Also approved was a purchase for $66,747 for two elevated water tanks, and a payment of $21,251.75 for the completion of the SCADA Project on the sewer lift stations. The final payment also allowed council to issue a resolution to accept the project, which started a one-year warranty period.Livingston City Council meets again at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10.

  • Livingston recognizes promoted officers and approves holiday schedule

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Livingston Police officers Marty Drake (left) and Kaleb Barker were recently promoted to new positions within the department. Drake was promoted from detective to lieutenant, and Barker was promoted from patrol to detective.

    By Jason Chlapek

    LIVINGSTON — Livingston Police Chief Matt Parrish recognized a pair of longtime officers in his department Tuesday evening at the City of Livingston’s monthly council meeting at Livingston City Hall.

    Marty Drake was recently promoted from detective to lieutenant, and Kaleb Barker was promoted from patrol to detective. Drake has been with the LPD for 20 years, while Barker has been with the department for 16.

    “We’re fortunate enough to have most of our department with master peace officers,” Drake said. “We make sure the cases are followed up in a timely manner. The detectives do a great job and it makes my job a lot easier. We have sergeants and patrol officers who are fair and make good decisions.”

    Drake joined LPD in August 2001. He started out as a reserve deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in 1996 before joining the Onalaska Police Department as a patrol officer and school officer, then moved on to Livingston.

    “Livingston earned a Cops in Schools grant in 2001 and that’s when I went to Livingston,” Drake said.

    Drake spent the first 12 years with the LPD as an officer at Livingston Junior High. In 2013, he became a detective before earning his promotion to lieutenant three weeks ago.

    “It’s different policing in school and policing on the street,” Drake said. “The detective is on the investigative side of things where a patrol officer on the street works the case as far up as it will go. They go case after case after case. The detective does follow-up interviews and picks up evidence. The detectives file complaints, deal with the DA’s office, go to the judges to get the warrants and continue the investigation all the way through. As a lieutenant, we oversee patrol and detectives.”

    Barker joined the LPD in September 2005. He spent the first six years in dispatch before becoming a patrol officer in 2011, where he served until earning his promotion to detective two weeks ago.

    “It’s a totally different world (detective and patrol),” Barker said. “I’m going to miss the camaraderie with the patrol guys. When you’re a detective, you typically go by yourself. You don’t have a partner coming with you, but you’re not in too many dangerous situations. A lot of times, it’s me going to a business to look at the camera system and request copies of a surveillance video. I’ll be doing more investigation.”

    In other items of business, the city approved the holiday compensation for employees and council aldermen, the holiday observances for 2021, and a resolution for a public hearing at the Dec. 8 meeting and dues for Brazos Transit. Also approved was a payment of $56,430 to Maguire Iron for the elevated water tanks project.

    “The employees get turkeys or hams for Thanksgiving, employees who has been with the city at least a year gets a week’s salary, employees who have been with us less than a year get $50, and the council members get turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” City Manager Bill Wiggins said. “The holidays are going to be New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr., two days for Thanksgiving, two days for Christmas, Veterans Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Good Friday and Labor Day. The Bauers have the tract of land just east of Peters Tractor & Equipment. We’ll have the hearing on annexing that tract on Dec. 8. Aideney Reeves will be the Lower Trinity Groundwater Conservation District board member. The city’s portion is $4,200 and it’s an annual contribution. We help the county with their portion.”

    Livingston city council will meet again at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8.

  • Nearly 12,000 letters urge Senate to save East Texas jobs

    NKGCO 038 Logo Update MECH 300x tbFILE PHOTO - NKGCO 038 Logo

    LIVINGSTON — Texas’ U.S. senators have been sent nearly 12,000 letters over the past six weeks asking them to save the 700 jobs connected to the Naskila Gaming electronic bingo facility. The letters provide a grassroots complement to more than 70 civic and business groups who have also urged the Senate to ask and keep this major East Texas employer open.

    The 11,700 letters urge Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to help pass H.R. 759, a bill that would effectively stop the state of Texas’ efforts to close Naskila down. The U.S. House unanimously passed H.R. 759, authored by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, more than a year ago. The Senate has not moved forward with the bill — putting Polk County’s second-largest employer at risk.

    Naskila, which is operated by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, continues to have overwhelming support in East Texas. More than 70 groups — including county commissioner courts, local Republican parties and chambers of commerce — have approved resolutions or other statements of support for keeping Naskila open.

    Included on the list of groups supporting Naskila are the Polk County Commissioners Court, Polk County Chamber of Commerce, Polk County Republican Party and Polk County Higher Education and Technology Foundation.

    “Texans are speaking with a loud, clear voice in support of Naskila Gaming,” said Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council Chairwoman Cecilia Flores. “We are grateful for the support we’ve received from our visitors and from respected civic and business leaders throughout this region. We hope the Senate will listen to Texans who want to protect these jobs.”

    Naskila is responsible for 700 direct and indirect jobs in East Texas and a recent study estimated that Naskila generates $170 million in annual economic activity for the region. More than 1 million people visit the facility per year. Even when closed for several months during the pandemic, Naskila continued to provide pay and benefits for its employees. Naskila reopened Sept. 10 with new safety precautions in place.

    Another 1,000 jobs are tied to the electronic bingo facility operated by Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso. The state is also trying to shut that facility down. However, it is not trying to shut down electronic bingo on the Kickapoo tribal land in Eagle Pass, near the Texas-Mexico border.

    H.R. 759 would ensure that the facilities in Livingston and El Paso are governed by the same federal law as the Kickapoo facility.

    “We want to offer electronic bingo without state interference, just like the Kickapoo Tribe,” Flores said. “It’s very concerning to Naskila employees and their families that the Senate has not acted. We have broad, diverse support in East Texas. The Senate needs to approve this bill and save these jobs by the end of the year.”

    In August, 19 members of the U.S. House who represent Texas — ten Republicans and nine Democrats — sent Cornyn a letter urging him to support H.R. 759.

    “Rather than spend untold sums on legal fees and litigation, costing the State of Texas millions of dollars, we believe we could better enact our time and resources by enacting H.R. 759, which would create an economic boost to two hard hit areas of the state with no cost to the taxpayer,” the congressional letter said.

  • Noah’s Helpers builds extension to local food bank, receives donation

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Joyce Knierim (right) of McWilliams & Son presents a check to Noah’s Helpers to purchase tools that were stolen from the volunteer group’s trailer last month. Members of Noah’s Helpers are (from left) Larry Jander, Bill Brewster, GB Wise, Willard Moody and Craig Knowler.

    By Jason Chlapek

    LIVINGSTON – Since its inception in 2004, Noah’s Helpers has been taking care of building projects throughout the community.

    The volunteer group, which is part of First United Methodist Church in Livingston, has spent the last week building an extension to the Mannafest food bank. The project is expected to be complete next week.

    “Mannafest has added a 30x40 addition and we’re framing it out so we can build walls and they can expand their operation,” Noah’s Helpers director Willard Moody said. “We’re also taking out walls and making a big waiting room area for their clients to come and get food and a new restroom.”

    Last month, a burglary on the FUMC property resulted in Noah’s Helpers’ trailer being burglarized and several tools were stolen. But, a local business came to the aid of Noah’s Helpers in the form of a donation.

    “We responded to a Facebook post about their incident,” Joyce Knierim of McWilliams & Son said. “McWilliams & Son donates to almost every nonprofit organization that goes on in Polk County. One of our biggest contributions from McWilliams & Son is we give back to our community. Our community gives to us, we give back to them.”

    When Noah’s Helpers started, the group built wheelchair ramps, porches, stairs and handrails. It also took care of minor home problems.

    “We do this kind of work for nonprofit organizations,” Moody said. “We don’t do projects of this magnitude too often. We probably build 3-4 wheelchair ramps a month.”

    Moody said Noah’s Helpers has 11 active members. He also said that Mannafest is a food bank that was started by several churches here and it has its own board now.

  • Playoff Bound: Lions clinch postseason berth with 21-7 victory

    Lions football against vidor 2020PHOTO BY JO’HANNAH PROCTOR Livingston wide receiver Chris Washington (7) sprints past Vidor defenders on a catch-and-run 76-yard touchdown play in the Lions’ 21-7 victory against the Pirates Friday night in Livingston.

    By Brian Besch

    The Livingston Lions pushed their winning streak to six games Friday, defeating district preseason favorite Vidor 21-7 in Lion Stadium.

    Livingston (6-2,3-0) kept its first-place standing in District 10-4A Div. I with an incredible defensive effort and a few big plays from the offense and special teams.

    “We played great, we really did,” Livingston coach Finis Vanover said. “I don't think a lot of people really, truly believed yet that we were capable of doing that and we matched them physically and got in the ring and slugged it out with them.

    “They won three or four battles with their big boys and they hurt us with some pass rush in the second half, but we just kept missing the ball. We dropped a bunch of sure touchdown catches, but every one of them came back and redeemed themselves.”

    For much of the night, the offense missed on opportunities for points, but would break a scoreless tie on the first play of the second quarter. Freshman running back Ja’Marri Green set the offense up with gains of seven, 29, and four yards to end the first period before punching it in from a yard out to put the Lions up, 7-0.

    After a short Vidor (3-3, 1-2) punt, the Lions tried to convert a fourth-and-8. They were successful, as Livingston quarterback Damian Ruiz (8-20-1, 183, 2 TDs) rolled to his left and completed a pass to Julian Gardner. The junior standout turned upfield and scooted the 41 yards needed for the end zone.

    Last week, Gardner caught five passes for 141 yards, two touchdowns and added an interception. He followed that Friday with three receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown, but also had two interceptions and a fumble recovery on defense. That made him responsible for ending three of the four Pirate drives in the second half.

    Special teams played a large part in the game all night, and the final two scores of the night would occur in punting situations.

    The Livingston offense was headed in the wrong direction on a drive with over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, but held a 14-0 lead. On fourth-and-29 from their own 24-yard line, the Lions faked a punt. Ruiz stepped in to take the snap and tossed to Chris Washington. The senior receiver not only made the long journey to the sticks, but used his speed to outrun the Vidor defense for 76 yards and a touchdown.

    “It was a different formation than we have used and we shifted the two running backs and didn't have the receivers there,” Vanover said of the fake punt. “We shifted them out of the backfield, so we knew they were going to vacate somebody. We told them, if it is there, we have to live with it. If it is not, get off a deep punt and get them off of us.”

    It was a gutsy call on fourth and very long, with the game just a two-score difference. Without the first down, the final five minutes of the game could have provided some anxious moments.

    “When you have talent and you believe in yourselves and you work all week to prepare for it, when the chance comes, you can't be afraid of the opportunity,” the coach said. “You just have to be man enough to live with the results.”

    Down 21-0 with 30 seconds left in the game, Vidor blocked a Lion punt and corralled the loose ball in the end zone, giving the visiting team their only points on the night.

    “On the punt, that was inexcusable. Especially when they think we may fake it again and we just watch the big boys go by and block it for a touchdown. That is unacceptable and we have to get that fixed.

    “We gave away a shutout in district play against the preseason favorite. But (having the shut out for that long) is a tribute to how hard our kids played — how much they believe in what we are teaching.”

    The Lions have clinched a spot in the postseason with their third district win. They will host Little Cypress-Mauriceville in the final home game Friday. A win there could set up a match of district unbeatens at Huffman, when the Lions face Hargrave to end the regular season.