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Eagles facing Crockett in bi-district round

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The senior Eagle players stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” before their game against Anahuac, and prepare to play their last regular-season game of their high school career. (PHOTO COURTESY OF REGINA THOMPSON)The senior Eagle players stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” before their game against Anahuac, and prepare to play their last regular-season game of their high school career. (PHOTO COURTESY OF REGINA THOMPSON)

By Chris Edwards
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The regular season for high school football is now a thing of the not-so-distant past, but this week signals the beginning of the playoffs.

 One Tyler County team has a spot in the bi-district round of the playoffs, the Woodville Eagles. The Eagles will battle the Crockett Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Abe Martin Stadium in Lufkin for the District 10-3A Division I bi-district title. The Eagles go into the match with a 6-3 overall record and a 5-1 district record.

 The Eagles sustained their one district loss of the regular season last Friday to Anahuac. The 37-31 loss put them in the number two slot for the playoffs.

 A field goal from Cole Standley put the Eagles up 3-0 on their first ball, after cutting the Panthers off on their opening drive.

 Another Panther turnover in the first quarter led to a touchdown for the Eagles, and posted a score of 10-0, after a good conversion point kick, at the end of that period of play.

 In the second quarter, the Panthers tied-up the score, but not before Isaiah Wheaton scored on a one-yard run, with the Eagles up 17-10 at halftime.

 A TD from Pop Prejean in the third quarter, on a five-yard run, furthered the Eagles’ lead to 24-10. The fourth quarter belonged to the Panthers, as they tied the score and took their first lead with 8:41 left in the game, 31-24.

 Darius Bean scored for the Eagles on a 32-yard pass from Jack Fowler, but ultimately, Anahuac put up another score and the team’s victory. 

 Both teams ended the night with 5-1 district records. East Chambers, whom the Eagles beat the week before, also sport a 5-1 record going into the playoffs.

 Crockett finished third in district and go into Thursday’s game, facing Woodville with a 3-3 record in conference and a 4-6 overall record going into postseason. 

 Tickets for Thursday’s game in Lufkin are $5 for adults and $3 for students and may be purchased at the gate.

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Another close call with Orangefield

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Chevy Peters (2), Michael Hill (42) and Bryce Stiegler (77) work to bring down the ball carrier. (Photos by Kaytlin Garsee)Chevy Peters (2), Michael Hill (42) and Bryce Stiegler (77) work to bring down the ball carrier. (Photos by Kaytlin Garsee)

By Brian Besch
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Just as it was last season, the Livingston Lions needed to hang on until the final play to defeat Orangefield, this time 31-27 in the southeast corner of Texas. 

The Lions (2-1) were down three points with just over two minutes remaining in the contest. F.L. McClain stadium was still abuzz from a 68-yard Bobcat pass to give Orangefield the 27-24 lead.

On the third play of the final Livingston possession, Jontavian McNeal (10-for-15, 242 yards, TD and 60 yards, TD rushing) found Javean Gardner for 39 yards, putting the ball just inches from the end zone. The junior receiver got separation and made the catch over his head to set the Lions in prime position to take the lead. They would do just that on the next play, as McNeal dove on top of the scrum with two arms holding the football over the goal line.

The Livingston defense celebrates the final stop of the game.The Livingston defense celebrates the final stop of the game.“I was after him,” McNeal said of his pass to the younger Gardner receiver. “I knew backside shoulder and he had it to make a big play. It feels big. It feels like I had a big part on the field and it feels great.”

The game was McNeal’s first as starting quarterback, as Damian Ruiz is out with an injury.

“I’ve been working at practice and, the starting quarterback, Damian Ruiz, I look up to him and I take after him. When they played back, I knew the hots (hot routes) were open every time. Everybody was coming around to me saying ‘you got it, keep your head up.’ It was a big situation. I’ve got to step up. Coach told me every time I’ve practiced to step up.”

Following the kickoff, the Bobcats (2-1) needed 65 yards for the touchdown in just over a minute of clock, down four. Connor Starr provided a sack and loss of 10 on 3rd down and Jakob St. Martin made the final tackle short of the first down stick on 4th-and-15 as the time hit all zeros.

“We’re back,” Livingston coach Finis Vanover said. “That is the test that we needed right there. It was passionate and we had to grind it out. We had them pinned inside the two down here and they end up with a 98-yard drive and a touchdown. We helped them with a facemask penalty and an offsides and we go to sleep on a pass. The rest of the time, they passionately played. We told them at halftime that we worked our butts off to get back into the lead, but these guys are warriors. They understand what it takes to get hit in the nose and not quit.”

The Lions received a shot of confidence on the opening drive, converting a fake punt, good for 14 yards. It propelled the offense to a touchdown, capped with a 3-yard run by Tank Johnson.

Jontavian McNeal (5) races to the end zone to give Livingston a lead.Jontavian McNeal (5) races to the end zone to give Livingston a lead.“That is what this bunch needed,” Vanover said. “They get that spark and they got the motor humming. We got it back and I’m glad they did, because if they don’t, this is a team that will grind you into hamburger.” 

Orangefield answered with an eight-play drive of their own, with Cameron Dischler (21-129 yards, 2 TDs) taking the ball in from 10 yards out.

The Lions then put up seven more, as tight end Willie Fagan took a post pattern across the goal line for a 63-yard toss from McNeal.

A facemask penalty bailed the Bobcats out of a 4th-and-long hole from their own 1-yard line, giving them a first down and new life. They took advantage, traveling 91 yards on 14 plays over seven minutes to tie the game.

The Lions were able to work down the field in under a minute and Eric Vazquez booted a 36-yard field goal to give Livingston a three-point advantage at the half, 17-14.

Orangefield began the second half with a long 12-play march of 68 yards, taking nearly six minutes to do so. It would be until midway through the fourth when McNeal and the Lions would go up by four. The elusive quarterback would go in from 30 yards out for a 24-20 advantage.

“They (defense) split the field and I’m thinking, ‘juke, juke, juke — touchdown,” McNeal said.

Both Gardner wideouts, Julian (5-82 yards) and Javean (2-72 yards) had big games. The offensive line rebounded from the week before with a good showing, and the defense had standouts like Julian Gardner, St. Martin, Zaylon Bogany, Willie Fagan, Landon Leggett and Starr that came though when they were needed most. 

The Lions continue their extended time on the road next week, traveling to Diboll to take on the Lumberjacks.

Chevy Peters (2), Michael Hill (42) and Bryce Stiegler (77) work to bring down the ball carrier.Chevy Peters (2), Michael Hill (42) and Bryce Stiegler (77) work to bring down the ball carrier.

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Robinson’s idea promotes long-term culture of success

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Woodville ISD Coach Ty RobinsonWoodville ISD Coach Ty RobinsonBy Emily Eddins

Woodville - According to a recent study, almost 80% of Woodville ISD is economically classified as disadvantaged by the state of Texas. This financial deprivation means that our students and their families are socially disadvantaged compared to other Texas residents who do not lie beneath the poverty line. 

This lack of economic success truly affects the future generations of our county in ways that you would expect. Students growing up in a rural environment have so many negative factors weighing down on them today, they struggle to rise above their situations, and many fall behind.  Statistics have proven that if a child falls behind in grade levels as low as first grade, it can be difficult for them to recuperate and leave them struggling for the rest of their lives. According to data from Texas Education Agency, 30% of students at Woodville ISD are classified with some sort of learning disability, and 34% of WISD students are classified by the state as “at-risk” for being unable or unwilling to graduate high school. 

While these statistics may seem disheartening, faculty, families, and students of Tyler County are determined to beat the odds that are against them and be successful by making a difference in our community. One leader in providing this culture of success is Woodville ISD Boys’ Athletic Director Ty Robinson. 

Robinson is on a mission to make a difference in our community by starting a new program with the student-athletes in Woodville. 

Robinson’s idea is to raise enough money to purchase sportscoats for male student-athletes to promote an atmosphere of success and raise the standard of both the individuals and the athletic program itself. The idea behind the program is to provide initiative, increase pride within the school, and hopefully spark a new tradition that will precede him for many years to come. Not only will this new and exciting program spark joy in the community, but hopefully, it will also encourage the students to want more from life and pursue greatness despite their economically deprived situation. 

Our job as a community is to take the future into our own hands and provide a solution, rather than add to the problems we currently face. While we cannot control the state of the world, we can ensure the future of our hometown has more opportunities for success than those who preceded them and hope that they will do the same for the next generation to come.

Eagle athletes Nick Doss, Kentravion “Pop” Prejean, Braden Lilley and Jack Fowler look sharp in their sportscoats.Eagle athletes Nick Doss, Kentravion “Pop” Prejean, Braden Lilley and Jack Fowler look sharp in their sportscoats.

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Wilkinson commits to Rich Mountain

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SPORTS Sunnie Wilkinson 012621PHOTO COURTESY OF COLMESNEIL ISD ATHLETICS Colmesneil Lady Dog (and soon-to-be Rich Mountain Buck) Sunnie Wilkinson at bat.

By Chris Edwards

COLMESNEIL – Lady Dogs softballer Sunnie Wilkinson announced her commitment to play for the Rich Mountain Bucks last week.

Wilkinson, a senior, announced the commitment on social media. “I am honored and blessed to announce my commitment to further my education and play softball at the University of Arkansas, Rich Mountain,” she said.

Wilkinson, who is set to graduate Colmesneil High School this year, as part of the class of 2021, plays short stop, left field and centerfield for the Lady Dogs under Coach Kayla Day.

She said she wants to thank her coaches, family and friends to help her further her goals, both on the diamond and in the classroom.

The Rich Mountain campus is located in Mena, Arkansas and is part of the University of Arkansas system.

The school’s softball program was added to its athletic offerings in 2020, under the direction of Coach Tracy Nealy, a 34-year veteran of coaching various softball programs.

Currently, Wilkinson and her Lady Dog teammates are prepping for the coming season. They began practice the second week of January and are scheduled to play the Groveton Lady Indians at home at 5 p.m. on Feb. 16 to kick off the season after scrimmages with Onalaska, Corrigan, Hudson, Woodville and Huntington.

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Ready for the challenge (VIDEO)

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IMG 3389BRIAN BESCH | PCE Corynn Kaleh had six points in the first quarter and eight for the game.

Lady Cats prepare for two games that will determine district lead

By Brian Besch

Tuesday’s game in Dallardsville seemed more of a formality than competition, as Big Sandy easily outscored Spurger 69-14.

The home team overpowered the Lady Pirates 42-3 in the first half and never allowed more than six points (fourth) in any quarter.

“We have battled a little bit of injury since the Christmas break, but overall, I have been pleased with the way we have been playing,” Big Sandy coach Ryan Alec said of his group. “We've beaten some quality teams over the break and we also lost to a quality team in Central Pollok at their place. They were a good, solid team. We got a chance to see what a really great team looks like.”

Alexis Thompson led the way on the scoreboard, with 28 points in just three quarters. The sophomore point guard hit eight 3-pointers. Faith Geller had 19 points, connecting three times from behind the arc, and Kalyssa Dickens collected 10 points.

The Lady Cats are undefeated going into an important two-game stint of district contests. Both could prove to be pivotal in determining District 24-2A seeding for the postseason.

“In my opinion, it is going to come down to us, West Sabine and Broaddus,” Alec said of the title race. “I think all of us will battle it out for the top spot. With West Sabine, we are going to have to match their intensity and we will have to play well. We play at their place on Friday and that is always a tough place to play.

“You always tried to take games one game at a time and our focus is on West Sabine now. We have Broaddus at home on Tuesday, which will be another tough battle. They are very aggressive and play extremely hard. That will be another tough game.”

The challenges are something the coach believes his team is prepared to face.

“We're ready and I think the kids are excited for Friday night. They know how big of a game Friday night is going to be in West Sabine.”


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