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Fighting like Trojans

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091522 bulldogs vs trojans

By Albert Trevino
Enterprise Staff

The (3-0) Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs go on the road to play the (2-1) Coldspring-Oakhurst Trojans in a non-district matchup this Friday.

After an early season win streak, the Bulldogs may have their hardest test so far, as they visit Coldspring for what is expected to be a physical four quarters on both sides.

Although head coach and former Bulldog Brett Ratliff remembers playing the nearby Trojans his senior year almost 15 years ago, he is prepared to face the same overall style of offense Coldspring is traditionally known for.

“[Coldspring] has not changed much as far as being physical, athletic and well coached.” said Ratliff. “They are a very good football team and that is why I wanted to play them. They run a ground-and-pound type offense that we need to see, especially when we try to get ready for [teams like] Centerville later on in the season.”

The Trojans, currently led by Coach Ken Stanley, are coming off 42-12 road loss versus the Hamshire-Fannett Longhorns last week.

Coldspring had a strong start to the season, first beating the Liberty Panthers 28-21 on the road, followed by a 34-7 victory at home over the Splendora Wildcats.

Over recent years, the Trojans have had overall success against teams that Corrigan is more familiar with, including Crockett, Diboll, Kountze and Woodville.

Last season, Coldspring finished with a 5-1 district record and lost a first-round playoff game 30-6 against the Anahuac Panthers.

The primarily double wing Trojan offense will feature junior quarterback Luke Monroe.

“[Monroe] is kind of that dealer back there that knows how to hide the ball well.” Ratiliff said. “I also think he is their best overall player. He plays quarterback and he will also come in to play safety as well.”

Coldspring’s defense will include another key playmaker in senior end Chrishun McGowen, according to Ratliff.

“They will have one of the best defensive ends we will see this year in McGowen. He is talented and is a good-sized kid and gets to the ball quick.” said Ratliff. “He is a prototypical college player.”

Ratliff is counting on Friday’s matchup to be a test of will and conditioning for his now-matured varsity squad, relating it to a pair of fighters in a long sparring session.

“I amount these types of games to when you are training for boxing.” Ratliff said. “That is going to be us for 48 minutes. We are going to put our foot in the tire and see who can last the longest.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is set for 7 p.m. at Trojan Stadium (Coldspring High School).

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Homecoming week

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091522 livngston vs legacy

By Brian Besch
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Livingston Lion football waited until the first road trip to turn in their best performance of the season. They will look to build upon that with all the distractions of homecoming Friday versus Spring

“If we have the same team that showed up and played Friday night, we are going to beat a lot of folks,” Lion coach Finis Vanover said of his squad. “It was a totally different mindset, physicality and performance – with the exception of some penalties. We lost on the scoreboard, but we won a whole bunch of battles Friday night in personnel, playing and confidence. We have got to clean up the mess of the kicking game and the penalties.”

Though winning the game, Palestine was outgained in total offensive yardage 279 to 215. However, the Wildcats led from the end of the first quarter to the final. The coach said his staff has been
frustrated with slow starts and that there will be a focus this week on being strong and aggressive from the first whistle.

“That part is really frustrating from a coaching standpoint. It looks like we haven’t practiced at all and don’t have our kids prepared. It takes us eight minutes to a whole quarter to get untracked and go.”

A defense that has been the pillar of the Lions finally looked the part in the third game of the season, creating turnovers and stopping the run. Connor Starr provided a big hit that resulted in a fumble, and Javean Gardner broke on a pass for an interception. A change in scheme to give defensive backs some help may have been a big difference in the defense’s performance. The Lions used the strength of the unit – defensive linemen – to get more pressure into the backfield. The result was a defense that allowed very little between the tackles.

“The defense came out and was doing a super job,” Vanover said. “It was our best defensive performance in a long time. We felt that was going to happen. We did all the things we wanted. We got the ball away from them, we had picks, we had fumble recoveries, we had goal line stands. It is hard to play much better high school defense than we did the other night against a good team.

“We’ve done fairly well offensively at times. It was the first time in a long time we were able to throw the ball deep and catch it to score.

It was nice and a great feeling – but then, nope, it’s coming back (from penalties). But the performance of the group shot up immensely. There were some individual performances that shot up immensely too.”

Last week was the first game action for quarterback Jontavian McNeal, and the senior got started in a big way. He scored three touchdowns – one each by reception, rushing and passing – and was the game’s
leading rusher with 140 yards.

“Jontavian gives us some threats that we didn’t have and we were able to stand in the pocket and throw the ball, letting them rush outside. That is a big asset and helps. We had two fabulous catches on that last drive. One was with (wide receiver Dylan) Murphy on an out route, where we needed eight yards and picked up 11. Then, we came back three plays later and hit the big tight end (Nick Smith) on a post across the middle while sitting in the pocket.”

Legacy (1-2) has been a few different teams in their three games, dropping a heartbreaker in the final seconds versus Huffman Hargrave 28-27, defeating a tough Orangefield team 40-30, then getting blown out by Celina 60-22 last week.
Legacy will show a 4-3 defense with two high safeties that will play zone and man under. They have surrendered nearly 40 points per game, so the Livingston offense will need to take advantage.

Offensively, Vanover said the line will be one of the biggest they face this year. They are athletic in the skill positions with a quarterback that will distribute the ball in a spread offense.

The Lion team is hoping to break into the win column this week, but to do so, they will need to avoid the distractions that accompany homecoming.

“Homecoming is really about folks that aren’t even in school. It is about folks coming back to their school and enjoying festivities of the game and activities,” the coach said. “It has turned into just the opposite. I can’t change that or fix that, but we are accountable and responsible for getting this football team ready and the players to get themselves ready. We need to bring that same team back from Friday night. If we’ll do that, I think we’ll have a wonderful night and they’ll have themselves a great homecoming dance and cap off the week of festivities.”

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Getting closer

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091122 livingston vs palestineThe offensive line drives the Palestine defense back. Photo by Drew Dunson

By Brian Besch
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Mistakes and penalties in the first half cost Livingston football a chance at its first win, falling 24-18 Friday in Palestine.
The Lions are 0-3 on the season, but continue to show improvement in each loss. Palestine (2-1) took advantage of the slow start, punching in three first-half touchdowns to coast the remainder of the way.

A few possessions after Elijah Walker’s two-yard run to put the Wildcats up 7-0, Jontavian McNeal took an option keeper and sprinted upfield for 47 yards and a Lion six-pointer. The extra point was missed, keeping Palestine in front of a 7-6 score.
The ‘Cats answered with a 70-yard strike on blown coverage, as Elijah Walker was left open to increase the margin to eight. Walker soon struck again for a 17-yard run, going up 21-6 at the half.

Penalties and field position killed Lion chances in the first half. Livingston shot themselves in the foot with eight flags for 62 yards. Two key infractions negated 120 yards in the air and a touchdown. The Lions would end the night with 13 penalties.

“Eleven of those penalties were probably boneheaded errors,” Lion coach Finis Vanover said. “That first quarter was a nightmare and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It puts you behind the eight ball right off the bat.”

Livingston was the better team in the second half. They were able to drive the ball, yet didn’t always produce points. Palestine was held to a field goal, and had trouble running the ball between the tackles all night.

One play after taking possession at the Wildcat 27 in the third quarter, McNeal floated a well-placed pass to Chevy Peters, closing the gap to 21-12.

On the Lions’ final drive, an 11-play march ended in Jakob St. Martin rolling left, then turning and throwing right to McNeal, who sidestepped a defender and ran into the end zone.

“What an effort,” Vanover said. “We were playing good defense and we really felt good about bottling these guys up and holding them – and we did. The defense played like we’ve been expecting them to and like they have the last two years. They rose to the occasion tonight. At times, offensively, we did. We outmanned them physically on both sides of the ball. We had to find a little mismatches and the little cracks and attack straight downhill. We dropped too many balls again and some crucial ones. We did a great job of protecting (the quarterback), but we had to wait so long to get open.”

The play of McNeal kept the Lions in the game. He had touchdowns by running, catching and throwing to account for the three Livingston scores. He toted the ball 20 times for 140 yards and threw for another 65. The senior had less than two days to prepare for his first game of the year.

“I thought both (quarterbacks) did a great job of coming in under duress from Wednesday on and picking this thing up,” the coach said.
“Ta has a little more experience and athleticism in doing that and he came through to perform really well. He didn’t make many poor decisions. His play was good enough to help us win. Our punting killed us tonight and we gave them great field position. It looked like wewere kicking an egg.”

Livingston will return to Lion Stadium next week to take on Spring Legacy.

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Challenge for defense

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090822 corrigan vs kirbyville

By Albert Trevino
Enterprise staff

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

The week-three matchup is expected to be the hardest test for the Bulldog defense so far, facing the power run of Kirbyville’s offense.

“[Kirbyville] will put you in a lot of different and unbalanced formations.” said Bulldog head coach Brett Ratliff. “So our primary focus is to avoid mental breakdowns, make sure we line up correctly on defense and trigger fast.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs are simply looking to gain more momentum and continue their game plan for the season.

The Wildcats are coming off a 33-24 home loss against the Diboll Lumberjacks last week, but won their season opener in a 52-0 shutout against the Trinity Tigers.

Although some of Corrigan’s coaching staff is familiar with Kirbyville in years past, it will be the first game between these teams in three years.

Corrigan won the previous two matchups, which included a 32-8 win at home in 2019 and a 21-14 victory on the road during the 2018 season.

Kirbyville finished last season with a 4-5 overall record and 2-4 district record.

The Wildcats wing offense will be led in part by senior running back Azion Mahathy. However, it will be a challenge up front and for the secondary, according to Ratliff.

“[Mahathy] is an explosive guy. I think he is one of, if not, their best overall football player.” Ratliff said. “They are going to ground and pound, trying to lull you to sleep. Then, (they’ll) throw the ball and they have weapons on the outside. We have to make sure we are reading our keys and playing assignment football.”

Friday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.

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Taking another big step

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090822 lions vs palastine

By Brian Besch
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Livingston football is 0-2 after a 44-19 loss to Needville, and will have another stiff challenge Friday in Palestine.

The team is mostly healthy, but may be without a key lineman for the game this week. Lion coach Finis Vanover praised the line’s play from the Needville loss, saying they turned in one of the best performances of the past year.

“The offensive line was just wonderful,” he said. “Coach (James) Herrera and (Emmanuel) Rivera have done a great job with those kids and continue their improvement. They blocked wonderfully and good enough to win in most cases. Our running backs have improved dramatically in carrying out their fakes and carrying the ball. We are still missing some blocks here and there, and our fullbacks still have to understand their importance to this team to block and catch the ball.”

The coach said a few of the top rushing performers of the first two weeks may start to see more carries. In the first two games of the season, the Lions had up to eight players take handoffs.

With game experience, the defensive backs are expected to improve. The coaching staff believes a tendency to peek into the backfield on play action passes has been a large problem when covering longer routes.

Finally, special teams may see a different group on the field Friday.

“Somehow, we have to find 11 guys who will fix that,” the coach said of his kickoff and kickoff return unit.

“The areas we need improvement can be fixed — the majority of them. What you can’t fix is attitude and desire.

They have to have that inside and it has to come out. If they can’t, we have to find somebody that does have that.”

The Wildcats from Palestine are 1-1 after a 37-31 season-opening win over Nacogdoches and 40-28 loss last week to Jasper.

“Palestine has a very athletic defensive line,” Vanover said. “The linebackers are very skilled and the skill kids can cover you. They run a 3-4 defense with a very good nose and tackles. Those two end guys are very good and they always will be. They do a super job with that. They do some things with their outside linebackers, where one is rushing and one is always dropping. They double rush from the outside to stop all of our rollout stuff.”

The Wildcats haven’t had problems putting points on the board, and the Lions will have their hands full with a different look from the first two weeks.

“Offensively, they are kind of like Splendora, where it is a Slot T but they are spread out. They have a great counter play and they will run a toss. They have been running it forever. They have an athletic quarterback with tall receivers.

The offensive linemen are probably a little bit taller than our kids and they are wide. They run the ball really aggressive downhill.”

Livingston will likely attempt to keep the Palestine offense on the sidelines as much as possible with long scoring drives. Last week, that plan worked for a half, as the Lions ran 43 plays to just 13 for the Blue Jays.

Every team in District 10-4A took a loss last Friday and are searching for answers in the same manner as Livingston. Difficulties through the non-district schedule should serve as preparation when it comes time to square off against those district opponents.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If we will trust our eyes, trust our coaching, trust each other and not lose confidence — we keep coming to work just like we did this past week — it is going to come together. Last week, we got exceptionally better. It just wasn’t good enough to beat that team. We have to take another big step in getting better.” 

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