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  • Lamar Cardinals sign Lovelady lineman

    IMG 0907COURTESY PHOTO Lovelady senior Carter Murray signs a National Letter of Intent to play football with Lamar University in Beaumont during a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 16 in the LHS gym.

    By Larry Lamb

    Lamar University landed a big man to bolster its offensive line with the signing of Lovelady senior Carter Murray during a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 16 in the LHS gym.

    Murray was one of five offensive linemen Lamar signed to National Letters of Intent on Early Signing Day.

    The 6-3, 290-pound tackle was a four-year starter for the Lions on both sides of the ball.

    Kilgore College, Sam Houston State and Rice University also had their eyes on Murray. “None were as interested in me as Lamar. They kept in contact with me, their coaches are really good and the facilities are nice. I just liked everything about it,” he explained.

    “A whole new coaching staff came in last December. Coach (Dane) Morgan was previously at San Diego State and always had a good record there, so I feel like it’s going to be a good ride,” said the future Cardinal. “I’m excited about what’s next.”

    Carter, son of David and Michelle Murray, hasn’t decided on a major. “I plan to get the basics done first and then decide on what I’ll major in,” he said.

    Murray’s senior football season was cut short by meniscus surgery which sidelined him after the regular season. “I missed the two playoff games because if I had waited and not had the surgery I wouldn’t have been ready for baseball,” said Murray, who is a standout player for the Lions baseball team. “I’m ready for baseball.”

    “I really grew up playing baseball but football kind of just fell into me. I knew I could go to the next level and play football, so I started to take that seriously and work hard at it,” he continued.

    Murray said the most memorable football game was his during freshman season when the Lions defeated Alto 22-20 in bi-district. “Being a freshman starter in my first playoff game made it special and it was probably the best game that we’ve ever played as a team. The atmosphere was amazing. There’s no other feeling like that.”

    Lovelady athletic director/head football coach Will Kirchhoff said, “He’s an exceptional young man, a great football player and an even better person.”

    The coach continued, “I’ve watched him grow from freshman year all the way to where he is now so I feel like he’s one of my own. He’s going to carry all the things I’ve seen him grow into and keep growing in the next level, so we’re really excited about seeing where he’s going.”

    In addition to Murray’s obvious physical changes, Kirchhoff noted, “His biggest change has been the mentality and the leadership that he brings to the table. Every single play is important to him on both sides of the football. He’s had such an impact on our program in changing the way that we play football, which is physical hard-nose offense running the football down your throat. He’s been a big piece of that puzzle. Basing your offense around a right tackle is rare but when you’ve got one as good as Carter it’s something that you can do.”

    As a junior Murray received honorable mention All-East Texas and All-State. At the Texas Top 100 combine last year, Murray was named as the top five offensive linemen in Classes 1A through 6A.

    Murray was District 11-2A DII Lineman of the Year this past season and is a likely to be a repeat as All-State honoree when the 2020 selections are announced.

    “Carter was one of those kids that everyone in the district always asked me whether he’s graduated yet because he’s dominated this district for the last four years on both sides of the ball. I hate to see him go but I’m excited to see where he’s going. If he carries that Lovelady work ethic to the next level he’ll do just fine,” said Kirchhoff.

    “To be as successful as he has been is just a testament to his character and all the work that he’s put in because year after year he just keeps getting better,” added Kirchhoff.

    Murray has played every position on the offensive line.

    “That’s a testament to how high his football IQ is and that’s his big attribute. No matter where you plug him in he understands the big picture and can handle those jobs. That’s a huge thing that Lamar’s going to get out of him. No matter where they put him he’s going to be able to execute at a high level and he’s going to understand exactly what’s going on,” said Kirchhoff.

    “Lamar noticed on film how he picks up different schemes, no matter what defenses throw at him. He not only can get his job done but he can make sure everyone on the O-line is in their right place and he does a great job directing those guys. But for football IQ and physicality, Lamar got a gem I assure you,” summed up Kirchhoff.

  • Lovelady cruises past Evadale in bi-district (VIDEO)

    Lovelady FootballLAWANNA MONK Lovelady’s Shaun Easterling abruptly stops Evadale quarterback Chase Smith on a keeper during the Lions’ 50-12 bi-district victory Thursday, Nov. 12 at Cleveland High School. Photo courtesy of Justin Dobbins.

     
    By Lawanna Monk

    Lovelady Lions claimed the bi-district football championship with a convincing 50-12 victory over the Evadale Rebels Thursday, Nov. 12 at Cleveland High School’s Indian Stadium.

    The Lions won’t have much time to relish their victory, however, as they must begin preparing for a showdown with undefeated and top-ranked Mart in the area round Friday, Nov. 20 at Caldwell High School’s Hornet Field. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Mart recorded a Covid-19 forfeit over Cumby in the first round.

    Lovelady will carry a six-game win streak into the second round matchup.

    The Lions led just 8-0 after a quarter but a three-touchdown flurry in the second quarter opened up a 30-6 halftime lead.

    Lovelady scored with 5:13 left in the opening period on a seven-yard run by Keivon Skinner and two-point conversion run by Conner Martinez.

    At the 8:35 mark in the second quarter Shaun Easterling took it seven yards for a touchdown run but a two-conversion failed.

    Quarterback Slade Murray faked a handoff, rolled outside and took it to the house 60 yards with 6:41 in the second quarter. Easterling ran the conversion for a 22-0 lead.

    The Lions went up 30-0 when Murray connected with Caleb Gilchrist on a 66-yard TD pass and Eric Anderson carried for the conversion with 2:29 to go in the half.

    Evadale got on the scoreboard just before halftime on a pass from quarterback Chase Smith to Tom Boles.

    Early in the third quarter Skinner reeled off a 40-yard scamper to set up a 16-yard TD run by Easterling. A conversion pass was intercepted in the end zone, holding the Lions’ lead at 36-6 at the 10:16 mark.

    Lovelady went up 44-6 with :29 left in the third on a 19-yard run by Easterling and a conversion run by Eric Anderson.

    In the fourth quarter the Lions increased their lead on a four-yard run by freshman Jordan Blackmon.

    Evadale put together a 68-yard scoring drive late in the game.

    Lovelady was in the same district with Evadale for two years before moving to its current district. The Lions won both matchups 46-18 in 2019 and 40-6 in 2018.

     

  • Lovelady girls open hoop season with victory (VIDEO)

    Lovelady CoachLARRY LAMB | HCC Lovelady girls basketball coach Kollyn McWhinney gives instructions to players during their season opener against Crockett.

    By Larry Lamb

    Lovelady’s girls basketball season got off to a winning start under new head coach Kollyn McWhinney against county rival Crockett, 58-27, on the road Tuesday, Nov. 10.

    The Lady Lions led 14-6 after a quarter, 26-12 at halftime and 37-19 at the end of three.

    Macie LaRue had the hot hand in the middle quarters when she scored 13 of her 17 points (1 trey) to pace Lovelady’s offense.

    Shyanne Pipkin, a returning all-district second-team honoree, scored 11 (1 trey) and Kortney Bynum rounded out double figures with 10.

    Aaliyah Jones canned 6, while Morgan Womack, Haley Davidson and Shelby Pugh scored four apiece. Rojanae Polhamus, a returning all-district first-teamer, tossed in 2.

    Crockett’s scoring was led by Quenisha Henderson with 10 (1 trey). Tocarra Johnson had 7, Ty’Shonda Bell 4 and La’Kyriah Hamilton drained a 3-pointer. Keaton Crabtree, A’Naya Wooten and Ja’Kenya Tryon each had a free throw.

    Before coming to Lovelady, McWhinney was head coach at Class 3A Marion High School for 16 seasons. She passed the 300-win milestone during the 2016-17 season and finished the 2019-2020 season with a total of 363 victories.

    Lovelady CrockettGirlsBasketballLARRY LAMB | HCC Crockett’s Quenisha Henderson and Lovelady’s Haley Davidson scramble for a loose ball in a county rivalry matchup Tuesday, Nov. 10 at The Hop in Crockett.

    After finishing third in the district last season, the Lady Lions beat Cayuga in bi-district and then knocked off a highly ranked Marlin squad before being eliminated by Crawford in the third round.

    Texas Basketball magazine’s prediction for District 20-2A is a repeat of last year. Grapeland (35-5, 12-0) is the projected champion, followed by Centerville (25-9, 10-2), Lovelady (25-12, 7-5) and Jewett Leon (12-9, 6-6). Slocum, Groveton and Latexo round out the district.

    Lovelady opens district play Dec. 11 on the road against Groveton.

    The Lady Bulldogs are playing catch-up after missing the first two weeks of practice due to Covid-19 quarantine.

    Crockett begins its District 20-3A schedule Dec. 8 at home against Teague.

  • New homeschool hoops team building for the future

    IMG 1312LARRY LAMB | HCC East Texas Archers head coach Detrick Watts talks to players during a time-out against Crockett.

    By Larry Lamb

    Homeschool students in the Houston County area now have an opportunity to play on a basketball team close to home.

    The East Texas Archers, based in Lovelady, have already played 21 games during their inaugural season.

    “We’re a first-year homeschool boys team with all freshman and sophomore players. These are young kids ranging from age 13 to 16,” explained Jeff Rollo, who co-organized the program with Archers head coach Detrick Watts.

    “There’s nothing really in Deep East Texas for homeschool athletes,” said Rollo, noting that his children played for the Aggieland HomeSchool Panthers in College Station several years ago when they were homeschooled. “There are several homeschool teams in the Houston area but we wanted to provide an opportunity for homeschool kids in this area to play basketball without having to travel so far just to practice.”

    Playing a mixture of high school varsity teams, private schools and homeschool teams, the Archers have compiled a 10-11 record.

    The Archers haven’t backed away from playing powerhouse teams.

    The Archers took on the Crockett Bulldogs (6-2), a class 3A UIL squad, on Dec. 31 in the Hopkins Activity Center in Crockett. Although the Archers fell 76-44, Rollo says playing high-caliber teams like Crockett is going to pay off down the road. Two of the Archers’ earlier losses were to defending UIL Class 1A state champion LaPoynor and TAPPS 2A champion Alpha Omega Academy of Huntsville.

    After the Crockett game, the Archers fell to class 2A Normangee, 73-48, and then posted back-to-back wins over Aggieland HomeSchool, 67-53, and Still Creek Christian (Bryan), 48-30 .

    Earlier this season, the Archers notched impressive tournament wins over two private schools. They knocked off Rosehill Christian (Tomball), the sixth-ranked private school team, 54-46, and Bay Area Christian, 68-55, in back-to-back games. “Those were the two best games that we’ve played but since then we’ve lost about five in a row,” said Rollo.

    The Archers’ roster includes Jaedin Watts, Brycen Watts, Kaven Rollo, A.J. Frizzell, Ethan Jones, Trent Goodall, John Sullivan, Shayne Cox, Braden Kovar, Josh Nutt and Levi Smith. Players are from Lovelady as well as Latexo, College Station, Willis, Huntsville, Palestine and Trinity.

    “We have some varsity-caliber kids and then we have some that had never played. We have some with one or two years of experience,” said Rollo. “When we first started this we had three players and now we have a total of 11. Most of these kids did not know each other. Now they’re developing team chemistry and camaraderie.”

    Rollo explained that National Homeschool Basketball rules specify that students can play on a team if they live within a 100-mile radius, but they must be “true homeschool students” not enrolled in a public or private school.

    When the homeschool playoffs begin the Archers will compete in the 16-under division. Playoffs start with the district tournament in Houston, followed by regional in Duncanville, state in Round Rock and nationals in Springfield, Mo.
    Without the luxury of a home gym, the Archers are true road warriors.

    “We’re always the underdog, the away team. You’re not going to get any calls. You’re not going to get any love. Nobody knows who you are,” said Rollo. “I like to say that we’re homeschooled, but we’re homeless without a home gym.”

    Lack of consistency has been the main issue so far.

    “We see spurts. We’ve played pretty good basketball at times but it’s about consistency. We don’t have a lot of skilled players that you could put in and out, so you get worn down during a game. It’s all about trying to get better for the future,” he said.

    Homeschool teams are not restricted in the number of games they can play so the Archers are planning 45 to 50 games.

    “We still have a lot of basketball to be played. These are great kids, very respectful and we’re learning and growing. I explain it as a big brother-little brother situation. Little brother is going to take his licks early but then little brother is going to grow and get stronger. We schedule tough teams because we want a gauging stick. We want to play games that are tough and difficult. It’s only going to make us better,” Rollo said.

    Rollo, who coached the Lovelady High School girls program four years, said plans call for the addition of a girls program next year, eventually expanding to more age groups. Rollo will be the girls team head coach and Watts will assist.

    “We’re all in it together. We try to bring our knowledge, our passion and our love of the game,” he said.