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New era of Bulldog basketball

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072822 new basketball coach

By Brian Besch
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After a successful run as head basketball coach at Coldspring that included multiple district champions, ranked teams, and a run to the state bracket in San Antonio, Greg Devers is moving on to take the same position at Corrigan-Camden.

Devers is a veteran of 17 years and career mark of 394-185, with stops that include Livingston, Manvel and Stafford, where he led the Spartans to a final four appearance.

Coldspring has consistently fielded one of the top hoops teams in the region in his seven years. He hopes to bring that same success to a Bulldog program that has traditionally struggled, but is on the rise.

“I was on a family vacation and I saw the job come open out there,” Devers said. “One of the first things that came through my mind was the four-day school week. I remember them last year when we played in the Huntington tournament, how athletic they were and they were young. I did some checking around and I heard they had everybody coming back. I figured this might be a good chance, as they drop down to 2A. I figured I’d go ahead and take on the challenge right there.”

The coach said leaving Coldspring wasn’t easy. The Trojans were 27-11 last season, advancing to the area round. It is the 2019-20 season that will be remembered in San Jacinto County, when the team finished with a 37-5 record in the state semifinals. They were eliminated by Dallas Madison in the final high school game played in Texas that year, due to a Covid shutdown. Madison would have been the heavy favorites for a state championship in the Alamodome if allowed that final round.

“Coldspring is probably going to be one of the top two or three teams in the district this year,” Devers said. “It was a tough decision and I had success there, but I thought that with Corrigan and the players they had coming back and some that may move in, I think I can probably make a little run with them.”

When Andrew Kirkendoff took the head coaching job in Henderson, he left a foundation that has been building the past two years. Though records have not been impressive, the Bulldogs have played more competitive games in Class 3A, going from 4-17 in 2020-21 to 11-17 last season. They will now drop a classification to District 24-2A, where they will battle with Broaddus, Chireno, Colmesneil, San Augustine, West Sabine and Woden.

Broaddus and Chireno are expected to be top contenders in the district, while Woden is a traditional basketball power.

“From open gym, I have asked about certain players, and they told me that certain players didn’t play last year because of grades or injuries,” Devers said. “So, there were some key ingredients that were missing from that team last year that probably could have made them a little bit better. I talked to (athletic director Brett) Ratliff and he said, ‘Coach, what you are getting right here, with your system, you could probably do well over here in Corrigan.’”

Open gym and offseason workouts have given the new coach a limited view of what he will have, but early impressions are positive.

“One of the players that I am really impressed with in open gym is Tra Thomas. He’s got a nice shot. I know his dad runs an AAU team, so those kids have been playing all summer and that kind of helps. It looks like he is going to be a good point guard and I wish I would have had Tra at Coldspring. He would have helped me. My system depends on a lot of speed and I have Javarion Williams and Anthony Harrell and Tony Cooper. Those guys fit right into my system, as far as pressing and everything. Then, you have a couple of tall, lanky guys like Brodrick Price, Ayden Sowders and Morgan Rayborn. With those guys rebounding, I have been really impressed with the overall speed of the players and they are still kind of young, because there’s only five or six seniors right there. I think they only had one senior last year. If we just get these guys believing in themselves, I think we can go pretty far.

“I am looking at this team, and I thought I had one of the fastest teams in 3A last year in our region. This team that I am looking at on the court right now during workouts, in strength and conditioning and open gym, I think they are quicker than the team I had last year with a Coldspring team that won 27 ball games.”

A key component to this year’s team, barring injury or other issues, could be depth. Devers believes the Bulldogs will have plenty of contributors on a 2A squad, vital for his style of play. When asked if the same system run in Coldspring would be in place, the coach said, “I won’t change a thing.”

Expect a lot of fast pace, up and down the court, with plenty of pressing and trapping. Devers will look to utilize the speed that his teams always seem to have.

Though it can take a while to install a new system, he is confident this group will be competitive right away. It is a challenge for a team that will need to learn in a shortened span if football has the success that many in north Polk County believe it can.

“We should be able to compete in this first year with them dropping from 3A to 2A,” he said of the hoops program. “I think if they would have stayed up in 3A, they would have competed for one of the top four playoff spots in the old district. I wouldn’t be surprised if theycan compete for a district championship this year.

“Corrigan is probably going to make a run in football. That success in football can carry over. Whenever you make a run in the playoffs, when you get knocked out, you have one or two practices to get ready for that first game. It is going to take these kids a couple of weeks to understand my system once I get them full-time.”

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New chance, change and challenge

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072122 new lion basketball coachCoach Frederick Camp will lead Livingston basketball for the 2022-23 season. Photo by Brian Besch

By Brian Besch
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Livingston Lion basketball will have a new leader for the 2022-23 season, but only for the upcoming school year.
Coach Calvin Phillips will be out on medical leave, and Livingston athletic director Finis Vanover has tabbed Frederick Camp to lead for the year.

“I knew about coach’s situation,” Camp said. “I didn’t even expect for them to approach me about it. I just thought that they would get someone else. One day, I went down to the field house and Coach Vanover was in there talking. When I walked in, Coach Phillips said, “There he is; you’d better ask him.”

An early prognosis had Phillips out for six months with hip surgery. It was later discovered that the surgery will be on both hips and a longer period of recovery is necessary.

“I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that for you,’” Camp said of his reply. “Come to find out, it’s going to take longer. That is how — I guess you could say — I am the coach right now. These kids right here, I have had the ones that are going to be seniors since they were in junior high. When I first got here and was coordinator over there (at the junior high), they won district. They aren’t all still playing anymore, because once they got to high school, they decided that they were going to specialize in this or that.”

Arriving at Livingston in 2018, Camp has served as athletic coordinator at the junior high, then moved on to coaching track and football (wide receivers, running backs,  secondary) at the high school.

Camp was hired at Livingston in Vanover’s first year as athletic director. The two didn’t know one another, but had coached at schools a short drive away. Camp coached at what was then John Tyler High when Vanover was at Lufkin. Camp was at Fort Worth Polytechnic when Vanover was at Fort Worth Paschal. They did not have direct conversations in those times, but with many of the same experiences, were able to connect quickly in an interview.

“We’ve got the same philosophy,” Camp said.

In is 45 years of coaching, Camp has seen just about everything in Texas athletics. His last head coaching job in hoops was at Hubbard, between Waco and Corsicana. Interest in becoming part of the staff in Livingston was simple.

“I’ve been with some good athletic directors, and I’ve been with some that didn’t know what the hell they were doing. I finally got back in with a good one. I came here because of Coach Vanover. We got along real well and he was the type of guy that I like to work with. Then, I met the superintendent, so we all are on the same page. I just felt comfortable with them.”

The coach does not plan to just be a placeholder. He has ideas for the team that have already begun to take shape.

“We are going to change it a whole lot. I brought coach Sean Berry here from out of Huntsville, and he used to work with Coach Phillips down in Brazosport. We are going to play a faster game. We are not going to set up and do things. We are pressing and we are running the floor — a lot of layups from a lot of turnovers on defense. It changes the game. My objective is this: I need 90 points per ball game. Our goal is the state playoffs. When I was the head coach in Fort Worth, I took a team one year and lost to Pampa by four.

The athletes that have attended F.A.S.S.T. Camp and offseason workouts have seen a change as well. There is an emphasis on speed and making decisions while running the floor.

“Some people that were here last year, for some reason, don’t want to show up to F.A.S.S.T. Camp. I told them that it is a new chance, new change, and a new challenge, so you have to be here. I said to them it is going to be different. If you do not show up, you may not make the ball club. I don’t care if you were on the varsity last year, because we are changing things and mentally, I know they are not there.

“I told them that we are here to win, and if you are not — bye. The way we are going to play all year, it’s going to be quick, fast and they have to be able to think. I have noticed that going from the head to the body takes them two or three seconds. It is too late then. You have to think while you are moving. That is what we are trying to instill in them.”

Three starters from last year’s bi-district finalist squad will return for the 2022-23 season. Camp said he expects to be successful immediately.

“I expect to turn this into a Golden State Warriors type of attitude — win, win, win. I don’t have the great 3-point shooters that they’ve got, but I’ve got the quickness. We are going to play zone and we are going to trap the hell out of them. When (opponents) are out there at that 3-point line, we don’t have to put a whole lot of pressure on them. If they aren’t Steph Curry, we don’t have to worry about it. They are going to hit 33%; that is not going to beat you. What is going to beat you is not getting inside and getting rebounds and them getting a second and third shot. That is what has been beating you since you’ve been here. You are standing around and you want to shoot. If you don’t follow your shot, you’ll be sitting on the bench with me. They’ve got to get that mentality.”

Camp said this year’s team will be the best 12 available in the program, no matter of previous experience.

“If I’ve got a freshman that can play varsity ball, I’m not going to keep him down there (on the freshman team). You’ve got to let them play.” 

072122 basketball camp The Lions are getting plenty of work in during offseason workouts.

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Livingston 13U reaches World Series goal

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071722 13U world seriesThe Livingston 13U is led by coaches Clint Davis, Matt Wood and Justin Hodges. The players (left to right) are Karter Nelson, Mason Lusk, Isaiah Leahy, T.J. Garner, Anthony Vasquez, Jacob Wood, Wyatt Ogden, Jaxon David, Landon Hodges and Caidyn Hoover.

By Brian Besch
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The Livingston 13U All-Stars won the state championship in Center, Texas, last weekend to advance to the Dixie

Junior Boys World Series in Sterlington, Louisiana.

Livingston defeated a skilled Athens team twice, with a pair of identical 8-6 scores. The team then advanced to the championship round, with two opportunities to defeat Center to claim the state crown.

Livingston dropped the opening game in a 1-0 thriller, where Landon Hodges tossed 6 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and striking out 11 in a tight ballgame.

Karter Nelson started game two and pitched well, with Caidyn Hoover coming on to record the final six outs, as Livingston clinched the state championship 13-6.

The Livingston bats were led by Mason Lusk’s opposite field home run Sunday on his birthday. Livingston played great defense as well, led by Wyatt Ogden, who caught all 14 innings on the final day in scorching heat.

The boys have battled since they were 10 to get to the World Series and with only nine healthy players over the weekend, finally accomplished the feat. World Series games will be held July 22–27, and Livingston will take on North

Carolina Saturday, July 23 at 12:30 p.m. The games will be streamed online.

The 13U coaches are Clint Davis, Matt Wood and Justin Hodges, while players include Nelson, Lusk, Isaiah Leahy, T.J. Garner, Anthony Vasquez, Jacob Wood, Ogden, Jaxson David, Hodges and Hoover.

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Livingston squad makes it two in a row

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071722 11U world seriesCoaches for Livingston 11U are (back row, left to right) Kevin Smith, Shannon Goins and Andrew Haynes. The players (middle row, left to right) are Colton Shelby, Jax Ruiz, Cade Randolph, Ezekiel Angel, Paxton Drake, Brayden Goins, (front row, left to right) Mikey Murphy, Jake Young, Bentley Campos-Jernigan, Braxon Smith, Ryder Surrency and Aiden Haynes.

By Brian Besch
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For the second consecutive season, the Livingston 11U boys have earned a state championship and are off to the Dixie League World Series.

“We had to go through district, and then we had to go through state,” Coach Shannon Goins said of the team. “It was a double elimination tournament. In the district round, there were several brackets. In our particular bracket there were only four teams in it.”

At the state level, the group from Livingston defeated Panola to advance to the ultimate goal.

“It was tougher this year, because Panola actually beat us in one of the bracket play games,” Goins said. “That put us in a three-way tie, because Panola had a loss, we had a loss, and Nacogdoches at a loss. Nacogdoches and Panola had to play each other to see who would play us in the championship.”

Livingston will represent the state in Monroe, Louisiana, which will host the final games this season.

Last year, most of the same group also advanced to the Dixie League World Series.

“They are a good group of boys,” Goins said. “They work hard, they come to practice, they want to get better and like to give 100% during the games. They are trying to get better at pitching and hitting and fielding — whatever it takes to allow them to win games. They understand the game and they understand what they need to do. They’ve played a lot of baseball, so they understand what it takes to win.”

Goins said the team has a large and dependable staff of pitchers that can give the team an edge in tournaments.
“That allows for rest periods, because there are pitch counts that you have to follow with a number you can throw per day or per tournament. All of that plays a factor in pitch counts. Because we have so many pitchers, we can still follow that guideline, but it still may be a few (extra) days until that kid has to pitch again. At 11 years old, they’re going to struggle at times hitting the strike zone or just have an off day, but one of our strong points is that we have a lot of pitching. They work hard on it, as well as all aspects of the game.” 

Along with Goins, the coaching staff includes Kevin Smith and Andrew Haynes. The players are Colton Shelby, Jax Ruiz, Cade Randolph, Ezekiel Angel, Paxton Drake, Brayden Goins, Mikey Murphy, Jake Young, Bentley Campos-Jernigan, Braxon Smith Ryder Surrency and Aiden Haynes.

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Onalaska youth relying on hard work

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071722 6U world seriesCoaches (back row, left to right) for Onalaska 6U are Paige Cowart, Amanda Williamson, Wendy Wacker and Alan Wacker. The players are (middle row, left to right) Whitten Hodge, Saydee Reeves, Avery Cowart, Layla Williamson, River Golson, Morgan McCool, (front row, left to right) Skylar Smith, Kenzie Purcell, Keena De La Cerda, Avie Burks and Leslie Williamson.

By Brian Besch
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They are the best in Texas. The Onalaska 6U group of four-, five- and six-year-olds have captured the Sweetees X-play state championship and will move on to the World Series.

“After the regular season, we form an All-Star team. This team is the All-Star team and we just won the state tournament for our division,” head coach Amanda Williamson explained. “Now, we move on to the World Series and it is in Louisiana on July 29 through Aug. 4.”

The Onalaska team will represent the Lone Star State in Tioga, Louisiana. To win the state tournament, the local softballers defeated a squad from Central, Texas.

“They work their booty off,” Williamson said. “They don’t just go out and play; we have practice anywhere from two to three times per week and we practice in the heat of the day. That way, they are really used to the heat. They are constantly working. We still had the tee in the state tournament, but in the World Series there are no tees. It is strictly coach-pitch. We did coach-pitch during the season, but after three coach-pitches, they got to go to the tee.”

Williams credits the team’s work into our practices to winning the lengthy contest. In the title game for state, the team from Onalaska won a three-hour marathon by a score of 32-22 in five innings. It was highlighted by a home run by Avery Cowart.

Coaces in addition to Williamson are Paige Cowart, Wendy Wacker and Alan Wacker. The players are Cowart, Whitten Hodge, Saydee Reeves, Layla Williamson, River Golson, Morgan McCool, Skylar Smith, Kenzie Purcell, Keena De La Cerda, Avie Burks and Leslie Williamson.

“I want them to win and I want them to do good,” the coach said. “The night before the state tournament, I did not sleep at all.”

Once in Louisiana, seven other teams will compete with the Onalaska girls, with their first game Saturday, July 30 in a double elimination tournament.

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