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Needing improvement versus Needville

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090122 loin needville advance

By Brian Besch
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Livingston Lion football looks to bounce back after a season-opening defeat to a strong Episcopal team that provided a multitude of teaching points. The week should be productive, and the football adage of most improvement coming between week one and two seems appropriate.

“Their receivers out-athleted us and beat us to the ball every time. They just kept throwing them deep until they caught up with a couple,” Lion coach Finis Vanover said. “The rest of the time, it was those long 12- to 18-yard crossing routes that we couldn’t keep up with. Those receivers were really talented. (Episcopal’s Karson Gordon) is a gifted athlete, but when he showed his best quarterbacking, he threw an 18- or 19-yard out route about three times.

“The key to it was their offensive line; they were gorgeous. They were 6-foot-4 all the way across and they kept us just pinned. There were 11 plays in the game that we played on their side of the ball. There was a loss of yardage or no gain every one of those times. Once the kids saw it in film on Saturday, they got the deal. When we play our game, it is an attack penetration front, you have to find a way to get it done. When we did, we either sacked him or there was a loss of yardage.”

There is another spread team in Needville this week. It is a rematch of two years ago, when the Lions lost a 36-35 game at Blue Jay Stadium.

“Needville is still the same; they haven’t changed,” Vanover said. “There are big, strong boys up front. On film, it doesn’t look to be as good as what we just saw, but there are similarities in their offenses and defenses. There is not going to be lots of new preparation this week, we just have to come with a great attitude and new effort on accomplishing the things that we talked about.”

Vanover said penetrating a big Blue Jay offensive line will be key for defensive success, just as it was the week before. Needville runs a true spread, with four receivers and a back next to the signal caller on most plays.
Defensively, the week two opponents are based out of an odd-front defense, mostly in a 50 front. However, they will show three or four linebackers and three or four in the secondary, based on the package. Livingston could see a 4-4 stack, as well as a Cover 3 zone on the back end.

The Lions will again rely on their ground game to set up the pass. Last week, they ran the ball 39 times for 162 yards. Quarterback Jakob St. Martin was the leading rusher with 53 yards, and sophomore Jerren James came in as a third string tailback to collect 44.

After falling behind Friday, Livingston had trouble finishing drives, with many ending on the opponents’ side of the field.

“There is a teaching and learning point. We had five possessions from the 25-yard line in and came away with one score. We had three right there in the first half, so the worst-case scenario should have been 21-21 if we just take care of business. We have to learn from that and take advantage. We averaged 10 yards on our 11 completions. We still have some of that culture and some of our new kids that it’s no good if you’re not throwing 80-yard passes.”

Needville finished 2021 with a 3-7 record, but head coach Mike Giles’ group started the season off right with a 21-20 win over Columbia last week. Needville scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to come from behind in that contest.

“Their nose tackle is always good and they always put their best player there at nose. Their linebackers are very good tacklers and downhill pluggers. The quarterback is a good operator, but he’s not as athletic as the kid we just faced.”

Livingston will have a good measure of how much they have grown in the past week, based on play Friday night. Similar offenses and defenses to just a few days before should give the team a head start on success versus Needville. The defense particularly will need to begin displaying an understanding after surrendering over 450 yards, with schools like Madisonville, Huffman Hargrave, Lumberton and Splendora running many of the same spread concepts.

“We had a great crowd and a standing room only sellout crowd. We didn’t please them very well. But get another ticket, watch your son’s play this week and see how much improvement there is. It is going to be a process. We wish we could have looked a lot better, but there was a bunch of good-looking stuff that took place that we have to take advantage of. We are going to be good if we just keep growing. We can’t get that old mentality back in us, where we get negative and turn on each other. It is going to take us two or three weeks to get there, and we have some great opponents to show us how to do it.” 

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‘Dogs win by seven

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082822 bulldog fb

By Albert Trevino
Enterprise Staff

The Corrigan-Camden Bulldog controlled the early momentum Friday night and held on for a 28-21 week-one victory against the Buna Cougars.

Despite a late rally from the Cougars in the fourth, the Bulldogs established a decent halftime lead and finished the second half by managing time of possession and making the right plays on both sides down the stretch.

“Buna is a really good football team. I do not care what the record was last year,” said Bulldog head coach Brett Ratliff. “They got a lot of kids back. [Johnson] is a really dynamic running back. They are big, fast and strong in places.They gave us all we wanted at times…That could have demoralized us, but it did not. It just fired us up.”

Buna struck first on the opening possession with junior running back Jacob Johnson easily taking chucks of yardage most of the way. Sophomore running back would reach the end zone to finish the drive for a six-point lead. The extra two-point attempt was stopped by Corrigan.

Corrigan senior JaVarion Williams countered a holding call on the first Bulldog possession, stepping around several tackles to reach near the red zone. This set up a pass from senior back Morgan Rayburn to junior receiver Bayden Lawrence approach the goal line going into the second quarter.

Senior quarterback Christian Guzman finished with a short dive for a touchdown to take the 7-6 lead with the extra kick.
Later in the second, the Bulldogs capitilized on a sack fumble recovered by senior lineman Nate Blalock. Rayborn connected on another huge pass to senior back Anthoney Harrell to get near the red zone. Williams would find running room along the left side for a touchdown to extend the lead to eight points.

In the final moments of the half, Corrigan’s offense got another short field after a shanked punt by the Cougars. Harrell made a big first-down run, added on by personal fouls by the Cougar defense.

From inside the five, Wiliams would punch it in for another short touchdown run, making it a 21-6 halftime lead for the Bulldogs.

Corrigan would control time of possession for most of the third quarter and beyond. Also, be able to counter two late scores from Buna.

“I told the guys I wanted a long, hard and physical drive [to start the second half.] It banged us up a little bit too, but it took ten minutes off the clock and we got a touchdown to go up [three scores,]” Ratliff said. “We breathed a little too much after that…They popped two touchdowns in and put us in a bind. We just have to relax like we did at the end and finish it out.”

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Lions bow to Knights

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082822 lions fb oneLivingston senior running back Connor Starr stretches for additional yards in Friday’s loss to Episcopal. Courtesy photosBy Brian Besch
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The Livingston Lions sputtered on offense and could not prevent the big play on defense, taking a 42-7 season-opening loss to Bellaire Episcopal Friday at Lion Stadium.

A Lion defense that returns many starters in the front seven, showed just how green they are in the secondary, as Knight quarterback Karson Gordon put on a show. While the Livingston defensive line and linebackers pressured the junior star, he still found ways to make plays.

Gordon had touchdown runs of 81 and 77 yards, while 13-for-21 in the air for 278 yards and four scoring strikes. Jackson Chavis led receivers with six catches for 147 yards and three touchdowns. Breylan Thompson also had six grabs for 104 yards.

“The quarterback and receivers were about like what we faced in the scrimmages and we couldn’t do anything about it,” Livingston coach Finis Vanover said. “Their receivers are super, they are well coached and they are drilled — playing in every 7-on-7 tournament in America. I can’t say enough good things about them. You have to line up and beat teams like that. To be able to do it, you have to get in there and slug it out with them.”

Down 14-0, the Lions drove 46 yards down to the Episcopal 8-yard line. On fourth down, a quick slant to Chevy Peters was dropped. Gaining possession again, the Knights took three plays to go 92 yards in just 41 seconds for a score.
“I wanted (their offense) to sit over there and watch us (from the sidelines) in that first quarter,” Vanover said. “We got the drive down there and had four possessions in the first half inside their 20 that we should have scored on — something. We found a way to just shoot ourselves in the foot. You can’t have missed opportunities against something that high powered.

“We’ve got to find our identity and who we are. Some of them aren’t ready. They thought they were, and they love the fact that they’ve got on those varsity silks. They got to go to the pep rally and have their names on the list for the travel squad. They forgot that there is a dogfight out here. Those guys (Episcopal) don’t care who is on the list.”

Vanover said Episcopal coach Steve Leisz told him the 2022 team is the best he’s had. He said that seven years ago, they were probably the best private school team in the country, but lost six key players to injury before the fifth game. This year’s team is thought to be better.

For Livingston, aJakob St. Martin had 12 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. He was 11-for-24 in the air for 101 yards and an interception. Nine different Lion receivers caught a pass.

082822 lion fb twoSophomore Jerren James ran for 44 yards, leading Lion running backs for the night.Livingston quarterback Jacob St. Martin sets to throw a wide receiver screen. The senior threw for 101 yards, and ran for 53 and a touchdown.

Trailing 35-0, the Lions took an eight-play drive 83 yards in 5:54 of clock to finally enter the end zone. Some of the biggest offensive plays occurred on the march, with Jerren James (seven carries, 44 yards) collecting 18 on a run and St. Martin completing a 35-yard pass to Brayden Ethier. Points were earned when St. Martin rolled left on an option, keeping for six yards.

“St. Martin did OK, and did some things for us, and we found a couple of running backs,” Vanover said. “I am a little disappointed in some of the guys who felt they were a little too bumped up to play anymore. I don’t like that we got beat like that on the scoreboard, but (Episcopal) had a lot to do with that. We had a lot to do with taking ourselves out and saying that we can’t go anymore. That is concerning. I haven’t had that out here in four years. We’ve got some things to address. Folks may not like me saying that, but we have to get busy. We weren’t ready to play a team of that caliber.”

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Using a broom at home

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082522 lady lions vbKirbie Evans sets for a teammate. N’Ziya Washington gets up for the spike. Photos by Brian Besch

By Brian Besch
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Lady Lion volleyball delivered a sweep at home in Tuesday’s spike action over the Lady Eagles from Woodville 25-14, 25-18 and 25-19.

Livingston led 6-0 in the first set, yet allowed Woodville to remain in the contest for a bit. The second was competitive throughout with several long volleys.

The final set was tied 6-6 when the Eagles went on a run. They led 15-8 at one point, before surrendering a 13-2 sequence from the Lady Lions.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces and we are really young, so we are still working out some of the kinks this early in the season,” Woodville coach Amanda Howard said. “We will definitely improve. Our tournaments last week when we played some 5A and 6A schools, we played really well. I would love for them to get their skill level back to where it needs to be. I am trying to get us better for district, so that we are playing all of the tougher teams in the beginning of the season.”

Woodville has four wins so far this season, including a triumph over district foe Hemphill.

“I graduated seven seniors last year and five of them were starters. We are starting completely over. They look good, so we will get better. We played Huntington in our playoff game last year, so district is going to be competitive. Central Heights I’ve heard is the one to beat. I haven’t been able to see them play in person, but Huntington and Diboll both look really good.”

For the Lady Lions, Coach Heather Mosser has a work in progress. She is awaiting the return of a few players and has some playing a different position for that reason.

“We are working on being more competitive,” Mosser said. “I think that is a mindset that we need to continue to develop. We’ve played with some pretty good teams. We haven’t beaten them, but we have played with them. When we play teams that we should beat, we play down to that level. That is a mindset that I am frustrated with.

“Our starting middle hasn’t played at all and was out before we even started the season. Braylee Garrett should be back next week. That should change our dynamic up a little bit – I hope for the better – because I have some people that are playing out of position. It is pretty evident at times.”

Mosser referenced a competitive district when talking of the work early in the season. She does not believe her team is currently at the level necessary to compete.

“Anybody that we play this year is going to be very challenging. It is not going to be an easy road. That is good and bad. It is good for us to know that we have to compete at that level. Kirbie Evans is really leading on the court and hustling her butt off. I have her playing as a setter, because if I take her off the court, it falls apart a bit. That is big for her, because she was not always a go-to player, especially last year. I feel like this year she has really stepped it up.

The coach also praised the talents of N’Ziya Washington, who she called “a force” in the middle.

“We are just working on her volleyball technique. She is super athletic, but we just have to get her to where she is more volleyball-minded. I think that is the majority of my team. We have athletes out here, they are just not super volleyball-minded. Bailey Yantes and Ava Hartsell are both my left side. They are on when they are on. When they are off, we really struggle. I am looking for more consistency, but it is early in the season.” 

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Anticipated season kicks off in Buna

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082522 bulldog game advance

By Albert Trevino
Enterprise staff

This season’s veteran-stacked Bulldog varsity squad is looking to reestablish Corrigan as a powerhouse versus a new set of competition, starting with non-district opponent Buna this Friday.

At Tuesday’s evening practice, no loud music was needed to pump up the Bulldog players while running simple pass sets against each other, fighting hard for every catch or interception.

“The majority of them played together as sophomores on varsity when we were just getting started. Obviously, we took our lumps and we started to get a lot better last year,” said Bulldog head coach Brett Ratliff. “Now, these kids are actually getting an opportunity to go at it as seniors. They are very excited about that and you can even see that in the way we practice. I think they are fired up about having an opportunity to be a special team here.”

Week one will be on the road against the Buna Cougars, one of several unfamiliar teams this year to Corrigan in recent history.

Under the direction of second-year head coach Gary Kinne, the Cougars finished last season with a 2-4 record in district and overall a 2-9 record for 2021.Buna did manage to make it to an opening playoff round against Diboll, but were eliminated in a 56-0 shutout.

The Cougars’ top offensive weapon will be junior running back Jacob Johnson, according to Ratliff.

“[Johnson] will be one of the better running backs we will play all year. If we stop him, we have a chance to be successful.” Ratliff said.
The Bulldogs should have the play calling advantage, as Ratliff and defensive coordinator Amaro Villareal have two years under their belts installing systems with the current set of their seniors.

“I think our kids are understanding a lot more of what we expect and the tempo that we want to play at, plus the aggression that we want.” Ratliff said. “I think our play polishes a lot better. We are way ahead of where we were the past two years.”

Quarterback Christian Guzman is back healthy to start Friday after a long offseason recovery from a back injury that put him out the latter part of the last season.

“[Guzman] knows what he has to do and is a workman. Yes, that injury definitely hurt his heart a bit, but he busted his butt with rehab and doing everything the doctors told him,” said Ratliff. “He will be ready, but we also have a great group of athletes and several options at quarterback to come in and help him at times, because he is going to play a lot of defense for us too.”

Ratliff noted the success his option offense had last season rotating players in different sets and plans to continue that working formula starting opening week.

“[Offensively,] we are going to start right back off just like it’s week one by keeping it as simplistic as we can and be really good at what we do.” Ratliff said. “I think we are at that point now. By district, you will see a couple of different things from us. But, we are [still] going to be that hard-nosed football team and be successful at what we can do.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. at Buna’s Cougar Stadium.

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