Sunday, December 25, 2011

State Championship Battle: Good vs. Evil...

I've said this plenty of time before, there are only two times I believe in running up the score: 1) Video Games and 2) When the other team is intentionally trying to hurt or has hurt your players. So, when you look at a team's scores for the year and they are beating teams by 60-70 points every game including one that was 93-0. Refugio was gunning for a national scoring record and didn't care whether they were doing it with class or not.
In the Class 2A Division II state championship game Cisco and their ball control, ground and pound offense was basically going to have to play a perfect game to keep Refugio under control. On the first drive Refugio took the ball and looked pretty unstoppable on offense. Until they got to the red zone, the Cisco was able to stop them on a fourth down. The Cisco offense took over and pounded the ball with their zone read running game, and a really nice deep pass to set up the first score of the game, while at the same time chewing up the clock.
It was kind of funny watching the game. Cisco would get the ball and slowly move it down the field on long drives zapping the clock. The Refugio would get the ball and score in 2-3 plays. Cisco's pass defense just couldn't contain the receivers. The one thing that was missing, sort of like I was afraid may be a problem when I started shooting them three weeks earlier was the kicking game. PAT's were an adventure every time for Cisco, and on the first try of the day the kicker sent one wide. That was the difference at halftime with the score 14-12.
In the second half it looked like Cisco was about to fall apart and the 48 points Refugio needed to set the record was going down. A costly fumble on their first drive of the second half and a quick score, then a punt and another quick score and things were starting to look really bad. Refugio ended up going up 36-19 and was looking completely in control. Then in the fourth quarter on a kickoff Cisco returned a kickoff for 86 yards for a touchdown and on the the following kickoff Cisco pinned Refugio deep.
With the touchdown and pinning them deep the Cisco crowd returned and got loud, then another stop and a bad punt. Cisco got the ball back with good field position and was able to march the ball for another score and they were right back in the game with less than 5 minutes left. This was turning out to be a great game and looking like Cisco could shock the state. After the next kickoff it was obvious Cisco had the momentum and the crowd knew it too, and was getting louder. The crowd from the next game was even getting into and making noise. The Argyle fans were pulling out their propane tanks filled with ball bearings and making it nearly impossible to hear from the sideline... I guess no one likes to pull for a team that likes to run up the score.
The Cisco defense held in their own territory and forced Refugio to punt. Taking the snap inside their own 10 yard line, the Refugio punter ran the ball out the back of the end zone for a safety to close the score to 36-35. That was as close as things were going to get. After fair catching the free kick and moving the ball to mid-field Cisco faced 4th-and-3 with just over a minute left and came up about a foot short of the first down. Well, good doesn't always triumph over evil, but at least Cisco kept them 12 points short of the national scoring record. They were a fun team to cover for the past few weeks and as young as most of the team is there I wouldn't be surprised to see them back again.











Wednesday, December 21, 2011

State Championships at Jerry World, Game 2...

After the Stamford game I was hoping the second game I had to cover between Munday and Tenaha was going to be a little better game or at least even a little bit better. Well, damn I was wrong. This game was actually worse. Munday, I thought was a good team that could pretty much run with anyone. The problem here was Tenaha had just as much (or more) speed as Munday, but they also had a massive offensive line that was not only big, but they could move pretty well too. Often times, Class 1A teams that have big lines are mostly big because all their players are just fat. Tenaha was the exception, they were big, strong and moved pretty well too.
So, here I was spending the better half of eight hours sitting on the field at Cowboys Stadium shooting two games and seeing the same results, both pretty ugly. The one good thing about this game was, although I didn't shoot as many photos, I was a lot happier with the ones I got. The one big problem with shooting a 52-28 loss that was pretty much decided in the first half was finding a lot of shots with a lot of emotion in them. Lucky I was get to get a few that told the story.













Sunday, December 18, 2011

State Championships at Jerry World, Game 1...

For the first time ever the UIL in Texas decided to have all of the 11-man state football championships all in the same place. And, in the state with probably the nicest high school football stadiums in the country, the championships were held at the nicest one of all, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, or as many know it, Jerry World. While I'm not a Dallas Cowboys fan, I know I have gushed about the stadium before, but this is truly the nicest football stadium I've ever seen, and for a high school football player I can't think of a cooler place to play than this.
Now, I know there have been high school games here for a couple of years, but most of them are the bigger schools, the Class 1A & 2A schools just don't bring in big enough crowds to make it a really viable option, so this year when the UIL made it so all the games would be played at Cowboys Stadium, I thought it was a really great idea even if the smaller games were going to be played in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday.
The first game was the Class 1A Division I game, with Stamford playing Mason. When I showed up to the stadium I noticed that the southwest corner had a bunch of tents set up and a whole slew of people tailgating. This was perfect, we were running a fan story and this way I was going to be able to get it out of the way and even sent with plenty of time before the start of the game.
The game started out kind of slow, Stamford couldn't get much done on their first drive, then Mason took the ball down and marched down to score on their first drive. One the next possession the Bulldogs completed a long pass for a touchdown and it looked like the offense may be starting to click. Things were going back and forth but Mason was a machine. Things were still kind of close in the second half despite a couple of stalled drives and a turnover. Then Mason went and blew things open pulling away from a big lead.
But, to Stamford's credit they never gave up and continued to fight. After a few big plays and some nice touchdown drives it was looking like a long shot but Stamford had played themselves back into the game. Then Mason get the ball back and drove down for a touchdown, and in the process killing most of what was left on the clock. It just wasn't meant to be for the Bulldogs this year. The good thing about them though, is they are young team and with the quarterback that they had they should be back next year for another deep run to the playoffs.








Wednesday, December 14, 2011

State Champs...

Saturday was the six-man state championship games, both the division I (big school) and division II games were being played in Abilene. Throckmorton was playing Borden County in the division I game. Last year, Throckmorton lost to Garden City in the championship game. This year Throckmorton had been tearing up the fields. Winning nearly every one of their games by the mercy rule.
Now, if you've never seen six-man football it's quite the experience. I think it was best summed up by a friend a couple of years ago when he compared it to college intramural football only higher scoring. It's not uncommon to see scores in the 70's and 80's or even as high as 100. The field is 80 yards long by 40 wide and with 10 less players than traditional football. Also, punts and field goals are almost non-existent. Going for it on fourth down is the norm more than a surprise. And while touchdowns are still worth six points, going for two requires kicking the extra point and running a play (running or passing) is only worth one point. Teams need to go 15 yards, not 10 for a first down, and onside kicks are a regular part of the game and not just kicked late in the game when a team begins to get desperate. Games can get so far out of hand that after halftime if a team goes up by 45 or more the game is over.
This was Throckmorton's third trip to the state championship game and second under coach Mike Reed. This was also Reed's fourth trip to state as a coach. All three of his previous trips were losses, so there were a lot of people pulling for him to finally "get over the hump." Reed's always been a good guy and has helped out every time I've had to do a story about one of his teams, he's one of those guys you can't help but want to see him win. From talking to a few of the parents on the sidelines the last two weeks, not only did they want to win state and see their kids win, the kids wanted it almost as much for their coach.
By six-man standards this was a really low scoring game ending "only" 48-36. It was in essence a defensive battle, even though it didn't start out looking like that. Borden County took the opening snap for a 70-yard touchdown. One great thing about six-man football, unlike its 11-man big brother, is I never fret about missing a touchdown because I know there will be another one soon enough. After that it was all Throckmorton for the rest of the first quarter. The Greyhounds scored 32 straight points to take a pretty commanding lead. It was looking like it would be another 45 for them.
Then in the second half Borden County came out swinging. It's funny, with all the offense in this game no score is ever safe. Borden County came back playing really good defense and pounding the ball out on the ground. With less than 2 minutes left Borden County had closed the gap to 40-36. Throckmorton had the ball and was driving, trying to kill the clock. On 4th-and-1 with less than a minute left and no timeouts the greyhounds line up to go for it (no surprise)... and false started. After the 5-yard penalty on 4th-and-six Throckmorton snaps the ball the defense blitzes and the Throckmorton quarterback threw an ugly knuckle ball looking pass right to a receiver who took it for a 40-yard touchdown.
After recovering a short squib kick with under a minute left in the game it was just a matter of lining up in the victory formation and this one was in the books. It was a really exhilarating game and a lot of fun to watch. Hopefully the next three that I cover in the 11-man state championships next week can compare. It also helped that everything seemed to work, I was really happy with what I shot, both action and reaction.