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Still hunting for first win

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By Brian Besch
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A tough start to the non-district portion of the schedule has Livingston football at 0-3. As with most teams without a win in three contests, there is not just one issue, but the coaches in DeWalt Fieldhouse feel they are all correctable.

“We had a tough weekend finishing up the review of last weekend’s game,” Livingston coach Finis Vanover said of the Saturday session. “We did the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ thing again, where we played like warriors in the first half, and had one bitter, disappointing play in the second half and turned the switch off. The entire town sees what we do when we did that.

“The worst thing everybody can do is be ignorant and dwell on that and turn on each other, the coaches, the players, the process, and the program. Everybody in this town needs to get on one page and one ship — and that’s the Lions. We need to get this thing turned and righted, just like we did and have done many times in the last five years. It was a tougher and harder to swallow pill and lesson than last year, because we did some really good things in the second half against Palestine last year. The other night, we took a pretty physical thrashing in the second half after playing incredibly physical in the first half. For whatever reason, we took a trip to Mars.”

Vanover said he and the coaching staff want to put the Palestine game in the past and move forward in preparation of Spring Legacy School of Sport Sciences. The name is a mouthful, but will be on the tip of everyone’s tongue if they continue to win.

The Titans are 3-0 and rolling into Livingston on a high. If you are into scoreboard comparing, Legacy defeated Jasper Friday, and Jasper was a 22-point victor over last week’s opponent, Palestine, the week before. Legacy had a shutout win over Huffman Hargrave (29-0) to begin the year, then walloped Orangefield 48-10.

Last year, the Lions piled up nearly 500 yards of offense and scored 48 points

on the Titans. Livingston won the game by a point after stopping Spring Legacy on the final possession.

“These guys are going to make plays and they have folks at every position to make plays,” Vanover said. “But, they were all there last year and we have seen them all. They haven’t done one thing different this year for all three games.”

Vanover feels the Titans are dangerous because of team speed. There is an extremely large offensive line that will attempt to protect that speed in the backfield and out wide.

Legacy will run a variation of the spread, but will show a tight end for a portion of its plays. A speedy tailback will flank two different quarterbacks that rotate. Livingston defensive backs will need to be ready for the deep ball, but the offense also thrives on swing passes and screens.

“On defense, they like jumping around a bunch. They like playing a 50 defense with that nose tackle. Then, they will jump over and have a middle linebacker and four defensive linemen.”

It is the Titan defense that seems to have made the most improvement to this point. Last season, they surrendered an average of 43 points in six non-district contests. This year, that number has been cut to 13 through three games.

“We have a great chance to get this thing rolling with an outstanding performance here. We can get some confidence back and get ready to face Madisonville again for the fourth homecoming game in four years. Then, we have an open date with two weeks to prepare for the first district game. We played a terrible half against a good team after playing them blow-for-blow in the first half last week. We didn’t answer the bell in the second half. It is done and now we have to play this bunch. If we don’t take that approach, these guys could beat the brakes off of us.”

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Vying for first place

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Arly Balbuena led the team with several excellent serves.  Photos by Brian BeschArly Balbuena led the team with several excellent serves. Photos by Brian Besch

By Brian Besch
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Goodrich volleyball made a quick afternoon of Kennard Tuesday, taking a sweep in three sets.

The Lady Hornets started the match strong, jumping out to a 7-1 lead in game one. However, Kennard would answer, tying the game at 10 each. With Arly Balbuena serving, the team rolled off six straight points, which would lead to a 25-17 victory.

Falling behind 6-0 early in game two, Goodrich came back to take a lead at 11-10. Several lead changes brought the score to 20 each. Arly Balbuena again led the team by serving for four straight points, as the Lady Hornets took a 25-21 win.

There seemed to be little doubt of the match’s outcome when Goodrich held an 18-6 advantage in game three, but Kennard had other ideas. They would pull to within three at 20-17, before the Lady Hornets would take the sweep at 25-22.

“We were looking for a quick one,” Goodrich coach Pinellafie Johnson said. “They have been playing good all year, and they have been playing against 2A and 3A schools. In fact, this is just the second 1A school that we have played all season. Calvary (the other 1A) was in the Latexo tournament when we played this past weekend.

“They never got discouraged when they were losing against the bigger schools. I told them that this is getting us prepared for district. We want to make sure that we are prepared for 1A schools. I told them that these kids we are playing aren’t going to play us in the playoffs. They are just making us better.”

Goodrich is 6-12 so far on the season. They finally have some numbers on the squad and are able to give breathers to the starters with eight on the team.

It is still a young group, with four freshmen, two sophomores, a junior and senior. A few of the freshmen are move-ins, with one from Livingston and another from Houston. The freshmen are Bra’Niyah Wyatt, Alyxis Everson, Giselle Martinez and Brianaly Resendez. The sophomores are Tanyreauna Criswell and Liseidy Balbuena, junior is Arly Balbuena and senior captain is Latrina Morgan.

Johnson said she believes she has a playoff bunch in the 2023 version of Hornet volleyball.

“At a bigger school, freshmen do not play on the varsity. Here, they have had to jump in the fire. They have had a lot to learn and they are picking it up. They are just so excited and they play so well together. This is the first year that they have played, that when they are losing, they do not get down. They play just like they were ahead. We are actually vying for that first-place spot this year (in district). We aren’t looking for second.”

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Competing for starts

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By Albert Trevino
Enterprise Staff

The (0-2) Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs will visit the (1-1) Kirbyville Wildcats in a non-district matchup Friday.

After two straight losses, the young Bulldog varsity team is also competing in practice for starting positions to determine who is truly ready for Friday nights.

“When you are trying to get ready for district play with an inexperienced varsity team, you constantly have to challenge these guys,” said Bulldog head coach Brett Ratliff. “We just give a lot of equal reps with first team on offense and defense to see who is playing and giving the best effort. Right now, they are trying to be the best so they can play.”

According to Ratliff, many of last week’s issues against Elkhart simply came down to details in the offensive execution and playmaking at crucial times.

“We were always in the football game,” Ratliff said. “It is just a couple of little things we have to execute better. I do not think it was a lack of effort or strategy.”

Kirbyville missed the playoffs last season with a 2-4 record against district opponents. The Wildcats are coming off a 28-14 road loss last week at Diboll, but opened the season with a 46-8 blowout victory over the Trinity Tigers.

Much of the Wildcat offense will remain in the unbalanced, power-based scheme. However, Ratliff is expecting an expanded playbook that will try to test the Bulldog defense.

“[Kirbyville] is a lot more multiple in formations this year. They are going to spread it out a lot more,” said Ratliff. “This is to get you in even more formations to make you misalign. We have to play very sound defensively and line up [correctly].”

Offensive playmakers for Kirbyville will include junior quarterback Jace Huffman, along with senior running backs Trent Cooper and Ashton Anderson.

In the two games so far, Corrigan’s offense has scored a total of just 12 points. Ratliff is confident that his offensive game plan, if executed properly, can create opportunities against the five-man front of the Wildcat defense.

“Their defense is going to try forcing you to spread out and try throwing it.” Ratliff said. “We have to do a good job making plays and get them out of what they are comfortable with. That is just winning the front. We can make them misalign if we do things correctly.”

Kickoff for this Friday’s non-district contest is set for 7:30 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium in Kirbyville.

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Returning home for extended stay

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Sched Lions 2023

By Brian Besch
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Improvement was made Friday over the previous week, but Lion football is still falling short of their goal. At 0-2, they will look to turn things around at home versus Palestine.

“We made unbelievable strides in our physical performance. The mentality was there and we didn’t fold the tent,” Livingston coach Finis Vanover said of the 33-28 game at Needville. “We were that close, and we knew it. I didn’t hear a negative word. That was a big step for us. You don’t want to give up explosive plays on defense when they go for 60, and we have to protect the ball.

“We are going to be fine. I am still excited and positive, and I’m not just trying to be ignorantly positive. I’m not blowing any smoke up anyone’s tail. If we were in trouble, I would say so. We played excellent the other night except for turnovers. I understand that’s part of it, but everything else was darn good.”

Through two games, the Lions have started slow. It took until the third quarter for Livingston to show life versus Episcopal. Last week, the team spotted Needville 20 points and — much like the Royal Brigade Band for a road game — didn’t show up until midway through the second quarter.

Vanover said the staff has been working with to establish a consistency on the initial drive. They have attempted to focus the team on the importance of starting early. Through two scrimmages, the Lions showed the ability to grab a quick lead. Yet, that has had no lasting impact on the games that matter.

The Wildcats of Palestine are the next hurdle, and they are also without a win in two contests.

“Their philosophy is pretty close to the same as ours. They love to run their tailback and their halfbacks on the counter just like we do,” Vanover said. “They are in the same position that we are – a wounded bear. They have a great history and background and love to play the sport. They have a great coaching staff that has been there forever, and they know their program. The expectations there are always high, so that is the kind of folks you want to play. We have a great non-district schedule, and we have to take advantage of it and use it as a learning tool.”

If Livingston can limit turnovers and opposing explosive plays, the coaching staff feels as though it will compete each week of the season.

“I really like our odds and ability to get this thing rolling. This is where we turned it around last year and this is where we turned it around in 2020. It is time we did the same thing.

“They are very athletic in places, just like they always have been. They have two to three very capable running backs. Their quarterback is athletic and their backs are as well. They’ve got some athletic kids at wideout that they’re going to try to throw some deep throws to. They will also throw some screen passes.”

Scoring hasn’t been much of an issue. The ‘Cats still employ a Slot-T offense that will run on most downs, only to catch the defense sleeping with the pass. Through two losses, they have averaged 30 points per game. If both coaches have their way, it could be a quick game with few passes put in the air.

The ability to hold the opponents has been the trouble for Palestine. Nacogdoches defeated the Wildcats 40-36, and a week later, Jasper won 46-24.

“Defensively, it is identical to what we saw last week. Their linebackers are very good athletically, and they have secondary kids who can cover and jump. (The defense) is a combination of a split front, with two tackles that they will shade and move a little bit, and two linebackers that will adjust behind those two guys. Then, when you look up, they are in a 3-4 with two inside linebackers. We handled that well and our guys did a great job (last week). We averaged over five yards per carry.”

The Lions will not see another road game until the middle of October, with only two away dates remaining in the regular season. If Livingston is to reverse its fortunes, it will be done in front of the home fans.

“It is six weeks from now until we travel again. You can’t ask for a better deal than that.”

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Bulldogs pounded

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 Damere Arneson gets a huge first down run long the sideline. Damere Arneson gets a huge first down run long the sideline.

By Albert Trevino

The Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs were struck with a 48-6 blowout loss for the season opener Friday at Bulldog Stadium.

An early assault on the young varsity Bulldogs was too much to overcome during the week one matchup at home.

“They got punched in the mouth and now we have to respond, but I know that they can,” said Bulldog head coach Brett Ratliff. “I saw growth defensively in the second quarter. We could not capitalize on some things offensively, but I knew that would be an issue for the first couple of games.”

Buna opened the first drive with an aerial assault, as Cougar senior quarterback Toby Marse completed a first-down pass to senior receiver Kayden Dill, then immediately threw a bomb along the opposite sideline to Dill to get inside the five-yard line.

This set up a short touchdown run by Cougar senior back Jacob Johnson, followed by a quick pitch to junior Billy Robinson III for the two-point conversion. That gave Buna the early 8-0 lead.

Buna continued their attack on the following kick, an onside recovered by the Cougars, stealing a possession opportunity for Corrigan.

Shortly after, Johnson stunned the Bulldog defense by easily breaking through the middle for a 42-yard touchdown for Buna to extend to two-score lead.

“Starting at 14-0 with really no offensive snaps is going to be tough,” said Ratliff. “They had a great first drive and made a great catch. As I said before, their running back and quarterback are two of the best we will see this year.”

Bulldog freshman running back Damere Arneson helped Corrigan finally respond with a huge kickoff return, which would get Corrigan down to the Buna 14-yard line.

However, Corrigan’s offense could not do much from scrimmage to near the goal line, instead backed up by a penalty to turn the ball over on downs.

Johnson would eventually get Buna to the 12-yard line, then a touchdown pass to Dill would cap off that drive for a 28-0 halftime lead with the two-point conversion.

Dill started things for Buna in the third quarter with a 55-yard punt return would extend the Cougar lead to 36-0.

Corrigan-Camden’s offense would later get well into Cougar territory off a flag. Bulldog sophomore quarterback William Ratliff converted a first down on a designed run near the red zone. On a crucial fourth-and-short, Arneson would push through for another first.

Corrigan later found themselves backed up on a fourth-and-long in the red zone. Ratliff found senior receiver Bryce Lawrence open at the goal line 10 yards for the first Bulldog touchdown of the season. This made it 36-6 entering the fourth quarter.

Johnson had another huge run for Buna to get inside the five-yard line. Then, followed that up by coasting up the middle for the touchdown run to extend Buna lead, 42-6.

Another Bulldog drive in the closing minutes was squashed on a fumble recovery by the Cougars, taking it all the way for one final score.

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