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Lions playing for district title

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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?”

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Bulldogs chomp Warriors, 28-14

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PSX 20201030 233925PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO A Corrigan-Camden wide receiver hauls in a pass as a Warren defender hangs on for dear life to try and bring him down Friday night.

By Albert Trevino

The Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs defeated the Warren Warriors 28-14 on Friday.

It was the first district win for new head coach Brett Ratliff, who finally witnessed real-game progress under his offensive system.

"We have gotten better every week. I think we are finding weaknesses in different defenses. Sometimes, we have to run a little more or throw. Since we can play multiple, we are able to exploit those things." said Ratliff after the game.

The Bulldog defense had another strong performance, making crucial third- and fourth-down stops throughout the game.

"We definitely played a full team game tonight. When our offense stumbled, getting inside the red zone and not putting one in, our defense picked us up." Ratliff said.

It was also a breakout game for Bulldog sophomore quarterback Christian Hood, who ran for three of Corrigan's four touchdowns.

"[Hood] is a great athlete and has a heart on him." said Ratliff. "He never gets rattled and plays even keeled like a quarterback should. But he also plays physical like a running back."

The Warriors scored first with an early touchdown by senior running back Kevin Kirk.

Corrigan responded with Hood scoring his first rushing touchdown to tie the game 7-7 in the first quarter.

A turnover on downs by Warren in the second quarter gave the Bulldog offense a short field and a chance to take the lead. Hood finished that drive with 11-yard touchdown run to go up 14-7 at halftime.

The Bulldogs stretched their lead in the third quarter, as sophomore running back Anthony Harrell broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run. That score gave Corrigan a 21-7 lead going into the fourth.

Warren's offense would keep fighting, with help from a personal foul call that kept a late possession alive. The penalty was immediately followed by a 43-yard touchdown run by Warrior sophomore back Jeremy Smith to make it a one-score game.

Corrigan answered on its next possession, with Hood scoring his third rushing touchdown to help seal the win.

Corrigan's final game of the season will be this Friday at home against the Newton Eagles.

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

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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.

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Breaking down barriers

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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.

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Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs lose defensive struggle, 6-0

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Corrigan football 19Oct2020PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO The Corrigan-Camden defense takes down an Anderson-Shiro running back during Friday’s 6-0 loss in Anderson.

By Albert Trevino

POLK COUNTY– The Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs fell to the Anderson-Shiro Fighting Owls in a 6-0 shutout from Grimes County.

In a low-scoring showcase for both defenses, the Owls needed just one scoring possession to make the difference in Friday’s district matchup.

Anderson-Shiro’s defense locked down on the Bulldog rush attack and put consistent pressure on sophomore quarterback Christian Hood throughout the night.

On the opening drive, Corrigan’s offense put together a couple of runs to get past midfield before stalling out and having to punt. The Bulldogs continued to struggle in the first quarter with three-consecutive three-and-outs inside their own territory.

The Owls also had trouble moving the ball early, although they averaged stronger field position.

The Bulldog defense made key stops in the first half to help prevent Anderson-Shiro from reaching the red zone. This included a turnover on downs and two straight three-and-outs.

Late in the second quarter, Corrigan started to find some rhythm, marching down the field from their own 8-yard line. Hood threw a first-down pass to sophomore running back JaVarion Williams, then ran the ball to help reach Owl territory.

However, time ran out for Corrigan and the offense suffered two straight sacks looking for the deep pass play. This left it scoreless at halftime.

Anderson-Shiro came out swinging in the third quarter and shocked the Bulldog defense with a quick scoring drive that would ultimately decide the match.

Owl senior quarterback Cole Werner and senior tight end Kelvin Adair both ran for large chucks to reach a first and goal. This set up Adair for a one-yard touchdown run up the middle with the missed extra point for a six-point game.

Corrigan’s offense continued to show decline in the second half, while the defense bounced back to prevent any further big-play opportunities for the Owls. Williams made the defensive play of the game late in the fourth quarter with an interception in the end zone.

Despite having two more chances to respond in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs could not establish field position beyond a couple of first-down conversions.

In the final minutes during Corrigan’s last possession, Hood converted on a fourth down with a pass to Williams to reach near midfield. The Owls responded with more pressure on Hood and forced a quick turnover on downs to seal the game.

Corrigan is set to host the New Waverly Bulldogs for the next district game this Friday.

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