Saturday, December 29, 2012
Stephenville High School had been a football power in Class 4A since before I moved here. They won four state titles while being coached by now Baylor head coach Art Briles. And the last few years they had been knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual state champs always in a close game. So, this year when they dropped down to Class 3A they were quickly thrust into the state championship conversations. After dropping their first game they had been on a tear. And especially through the playoffs the Yellow Jackets' offense was clicking on all cylinders.
The El Campo team they were playing was the typical pound the ball up the gut type of team that could give Stephenville's defense fits if it got rolling. But, the offense came out quick and set the tempo and Stephenville stacked the box to stop the run and jumped out to a quick lead. El Campo did come back and add a couple scores to get the game close again and went into the half with Stephenville up 35-21.
In the second half Stephenville proved without a doubt who the better team was. El Campo held there own for part of the third quarter, but towards the end of the quarter, the Yellow Jackets were pulling away with it and blew things wide open in the fourth quarter to win the game 70-35. The 70 points scored was also a record for most points scored in an 11-man state championship game. It was the school's 5th state title and the first in 13 years.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Getting a brief break from football... I'll never complain about shooting too much football, but it is always nice to change gears every once in a while. I shot the 100th birthday part for Ms. Virginia Boyd Connally. Hundredth birthday parties used to be somewhat of a big deal, but with the way medicine has advanced lately making it to 100 isn't quite as much of a feat. However, when that person is responsible for helping that cause then the story is justified. Ms. Connally, a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, was the first female physician top open a practice in Abilene, back in 1940. So, the Abilene Womens Club was throwing her a big birthday bask, after her alma mater had thrown a party for her earlier.
It was a really nice event, there was a long line of people waiting to speak to the guest of honor. I was making a few photos of her speaking with everyone, then a guy came up and asked if I'd be taking pictures of them, I told him I was with the newspaper and was just shooting candids. He kind of chuckled and walked off, the next thing I know him and his friend walk up to her and both give her a big kiss on each cheek. It made for a fun photo. Afterward I went to get their names and told them, if I'd have known you guys were going to do that my answer would have been yes definitely! It made for a good laugh and nice photo. After the receiving line the Hardin-Simmons Cowboy Band came in to play "Happy Birthday" for her and serenade her. It made for some really nice photos and was cool to see how genuinely happy and excited she was about the serenade.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
My playoff trip this particular week took a different path than the last couple of weeks of going to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. This week I was going to Lubbock to cover Stamford and Stratford. The games was being played at Lubbock-Cooper High School Pirate Stadium, which I have to give huge props to, this is by far the best lit high school football stadium I've even shot it. It was so bright I could even use a teleconverter without pushing my ISO to too crazy a level, and there was no light falloff in the end zones like pretty much every other place I've shot. Now, back to the game, in particular the teams' names... Stmaford and Stratford, as if there names being close wasn't hard enough to deal with, the two teams wore exactly the same uniforms! Right down to having the same "S" logo on their helmets.
There was glaring difference between the two teams though. Stamford runs a spread out, run-n-gun offense, while Stratford was a lot more old school, running two tight ends, two back sets taking advantage of a lot of fullback dives and misdirection. It's not uncommon for Stratford's drives to last 6+ minutes. Stamford on the other hand can score quickly from anywhere on the field.
The game started out with Stratford slowly and methodically moving the ball down the field taking 6+ minutes for a 55-yard drive. Stamford then got the ball and quickly got the ball down the field to score. After that it kind of set the tone for the game. Stratford would get the ball and move it slowly, but after scoring on the first drive of the game their drives would stall, including a really nice interception in the end zone by Stamford defensive back Dalton Mathis. Stamford won the game 27-7 scoring on four of its six possessions, one of which was the end of the first half. The defense looked really great in this game and they proved that they could beat the tough physical game with a strong defense and now were only two wins away from a state title.
Monday, December 24, 2012
After watching a good playoff game between Stephenville and Wylie in Wichita Falls I headed down to Justin for undefeated Abilene High's playoff game against Waco Midway, who was also undefeated. After the week the team had gone through with young Rex's funeral the previous day it was obvious who they were playing for.
The Eagles came out looking really good but Midway was a tough team and was answering. At the end of the first half Midway took the lead with a long field goal. Then in the second half Midway extended the lead. In the fourth quarter Abilene High came back, getting its running game going and the short passing game was looking good. A touchdown and a good defensive stand put AHS ahead by 4 points and gave them the ball back. They drove the ball down the field and with a little less then 2 minutes left they they were in field goal range... then things started to fall apart. They missed the field goal that would've put them up by a touchdown. Then they had Midway with 4th and 24 deep in their own territory and Midway converted. It was all down hill from there. Another couple passes and then they scored on a long pass with less than 20 seconds left. It was a real heart breaker of a game.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
The matchup between Stephenville and Wylie in the Class 3A Division I state quarterfinals was something that many in the area had circled on the calender since the regular season was winding up. This is one of the best teams that Wylie has had in a while and Stephenville was dropping down from being a great 4A program. Wylie was ranked the #2 team in the state and Stephenville #3.
The first half of the game was what everyone expected. Stephenville's high octane offense put up points quick and had no trouble moving the ball up and down the field on Wylie's stout defense. The Wylie offense did a good job of moving the ball well too, mostly on the ground but also with some nice passing.
The second half of the game, though, was a different story. For the first part of the third quarter Wylie was still in the game, but by hr end of the quarter Stephenville was hitting on all cylinders and making plays on both sides of the ball and Wylie just couldn't keep up. The hole got too deep and the Stephenville offense never let up. I've said it before, this is probably the best Wylie defense I've even seen and the juggernaut of an offense that Stephenville put out there wasn't even phased by it. The final score was 59-28, Stephenville scored on every possession except the one turnover they had in the first half and when they ran out the clock at the end of the game, they looked really impressive.
Monday, December 17, 2012
I've said plenty of times I'm not really a fan of kids. However, Rex Fleming would be the exception to my rule. He may be one of the strongest kids I've ever met. And for the last two years he had been battling brain cancer. Everyone around town seemed to know who Rex was and about his situation, the Abilene High football team and coach Steve Warren had pretty much adopted him as well as the Abilene Christian University football team, where is father is the sports information director.
On his 10th birthday, in October, he was at the Abilene High practice, like he would often do. I was there shooting practice for another assignment but saw that Rex was there and coach Warren let him give the team a pep talk before practice and he hung around with Warren the whole time. I grabbed a few shots and emailed them to his dad, not thinking much about it, I'd do that for any of my friends or coworkers.
Not long after I saw Rex at practice I read on his father's Facebook page that he went back for a checkup and found out the tumor in his head hadn't shrunk. They were giving him only a few more months to live. I can't imagine how devastating it must have felt for his family. But looking and talking to Rex, you'd never know, the kid was never without a smile on his face. Only occasionally, would he even complain about the headaches he had.
On Nov. 3 for ACU's football game against West Alabama, they let Rex toss the coin before the game, he also got to make the call for ACU (he won the toss) and call the first play of the game. The call was the same call he always makes "go deep."And it worked out, ACU had a big play. This time I had shot the photos for a story we were doing about Rex. Not long after that, Rex had taken a turn for the worse, and his time was looking a lot more limited. With his parents' blessing we ended up running the story in the newspaper the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Sadly, that same night that the story ran, he passed away. Something I didn't know, was before he went in for his brain surgery, he told his dad, "I'll live to tell the story," something his dad wrote on a napkin and always kept with him. Rex did just what he said he'd do, he lived to tell the story and touched plenty of people's lives in the process. Rest in Peace Rex.