2020 Week 2 (Texas)

2020 Week 2 (Texas)

I knew I would be in Texas this weekend. For a few weeks, I had planned to be in Texas this weekend. West Texas. For the Jayton Kickoff Classic. A three-day event of six-man football in the small outpost of Jayton. However, that event was cancelled and the originally scheduled games were cast off to the various home sites of their participants. So, no longer was I going to see two games Thursday, one Friday (after an initial cancellation), and five on Saturday. Instead, it would be one and one. And maybe Saturday if somehow at all possible.

I was going to be in Hereford. And I started looking around for Thursday games. My first thought was Borger, northeast of Amarillo, was hosting Hereford on Thursday night. However, I learned after calling, that due to covid and the 5A/6A seasons being postponed a few weeks, had led to upheaval in Hereford’s schedule. Their road game against Borger became a Friday night home game.

So, I went looking elsewhere. The noteworthy game might have been in Big Spring between Forsan and Coahoma. An 11-man game held at a neutral site to handle the expectant crowd. But, with all things covid, I didn’t want to insert myself into a game with a ton of press and coverage, where the game is already getting plenty spotlight. Cotton Center is south/southeast of Hereford, toward Lubbock. A small dot on the map. I thought that would be a quick, easy, game to go see. But, when I called the school, I never heard back. So, while waiting I called around. Hedley HS, just off US287 near Memphis and Childress, was hosting a neutral site game between Guthrie and Follett. It was expected to be a good game. And it was also, a bit of a drive from Hereford. Unlike Cotton Center, I did get approval to cover the game and though the projection of a 45 wasn’t exactly reassuring, at least I had one game as a possibility.

While that coalesced into a plan, I started looking for Friday night. One game/team I wanted to see was Garden City, who is actually Glasscock County HS, was playing at Sterling City. A small town on US87 between San Angelo and Big Spring. Again, though, the projection was a 45. However, I have talked to coach Jones from Garden City and asked if, while still waiting to hear back from Sterling City, did check with Jones about at least being on the Garden City sideline for the game. And, I was. So, Friday was set. I did, thankfully, later get confirmation from Sterling City that I had access.

Now, these games weren’t just for PA Football News. I also, while in Texas, covered them for Texas Redzone Report. A new thing I started this year. Though in previous years haven’t had issues with my PAFN pass not getting in.

But, with the only Saturday option anywhere in West Texas looked to be a neutral-site game in Hico, off the 281, I decided against that long of a trip. I’m glad that I did because it turns out that I needed to be in Seminole, Texas at 7am on Saturday. Seminole being just east of the New Mexico state line, and the job site a mere 5 miles from the border.

Now, this completely disheveled my plans. Thursday was still free reign. And as I started to find other games in the aftermath of the Jayton cancellation (including Jayton playing on Thursday night), I settled on Aspermont when I saw them, confirmed, as a Thursday night kickoff. And, to make it even nicer, a 6pm kickoff. Possibly the first game in the state of Texas.

Aspermont is a small town on US83 north of Hamlin (runner-up last year in 11-man), and just a bit further north of them from Abilene. It’s a town I’m fairly acquainted with and decided, after getting confirmation, that I would go there Thursday night.

This meant Friday night became a bit more troublesome. I had to find something between Aspermont and Seminole. Though, Sterling City-Garden City was going to be well covered with live streaming and a cool stadium (a turf six-man field?!), I had to pass. Even if the prospect of a 45 was possible, I couldn’t risk a game running too late, too far away, from Seminole that I would suffer from it.

So, I went shopping around. Sweetwater is and was high on my list and WAS originally my Jayton Kickoff Classic replacement when the one Friday night game was cancelled. Tony, a friend from the Houston area, was going to drive up to Jayton and we’d meet for the games and then travel to Sweetwater on Friday for the game at the Mustang Bowl. But, I didn’t want to consider that game. Plus, it is far east.

One thought was Lamesa or Andrews. But, I found both were on the road. Andrews being a big oil town north of Odessa. Seminole, too, was on the road. Plains was at home. But, wasn’t too interested in them. Seagraves, Levelland, Denver City, etc were on the road. And big options, such as at Ratliff Stadium, etc were postponed.

And then, I saw Stanton. I liked Stanton. I’ve been to Stanton (they have a Stripes with a Laredo Taco Company I’m well acquainted with). I’ve even seen their stadium before. And it’s another of a growing bucket list.

I called. No issues. It’s a tad closer to Seminole. It’s 11-man so no concern over a 45 happening. And it’s another off my list. I figured, to my dismay of passing it up, I would see Sterling City or Garden City another time.

So, now I had a schedule. I had my plans. I left for Aspermont early on Thursday and headed east on US62 through Idalou, Ralls and Crosbyton. All towns I hope to one day attend games at. Then down through Spur and Jayton, two more, and into Aspermont. A quintessential West Texas town. A wide, expansive thoroughfare runs through the town from north to south. Where US380 and US83 run together. The town is combined with a mixture of closed up business and dilapidated vacant houses sitting on dusty dirt streets east of town between the main stretch and the school. What little life remains sits along the main stretch that includes an Allsups, Dollar General, and a few other stores. Houses dotting the landscape in what was at some time a much bigger and healthier town.

The school sits just a few blocks east of the main road. Through a lattice of fallen apart shacks, long since abandoned and being overgrown by the desert shrubs.

#5 Aspermont v. Turkey Valley

The school and stadium look nice enough. The sports complex was built with a beautiful concrete facade. Monogramed AHS written in tall letters adorned it. A large gate to the northeast for fans to enter. A nice concession/restroom building to the northwest complete with a roofed patio with picnic tables. Those were where I spent the hour or so I was in the stadium grounds before the festivities began.

The stadium sits east-to-west, which meant endzone shots worked best for a 6pm kickoff in the 100 degree heat of an unrelenting sun. The grass was mostly bristles, crunching under your step rather than the soft padding you think when mentioning grass. The 6pm kickoff was a remnant of the Jayton schedule. With neither team wanting or caring to change it to a more usual August kickoff for Texas.

The stadium was old, but in good repair. The scoreboard functional and acted as a sunblock for the visiting sideline as the game moved on into the twilight. The home stand pressbox had seen better days. The siding on it rusting and paint cracking. The track surrounded the field and their sign proudly displaying their playoff resume sat to the east as you entered. Color-coded in blue for 11-man seasons andred for 6-man seasons.

The field was clearly constructed, at one point, for 11-man and the roomy sidelines were evidence of that. The game started with a national anthem sung by a young woman from inside the press box, and then the rest of the usual trappings on the field. Aspermont did have an enormous black and red standing hornet run-through that would put a lot of large classification run-throughs to shame.

For the game itself, it was a projected that Valley would win by 28. Aspermont started the scoring, but quickly fell behind, 20-6. Before their own three TD rally gave them a 26-21 lead. But Valley would then run off four straight of their own to go up 51-26. Only a long Aspermont TD late could bring it close. Aspermont was a victim of their own indecisiveness on offense. A QB dancing around on a 4th down play instead of running for it sealed the game for them. Valley was the better team and Aspermont played them admirably. Grinding through as best they could as the lead increased for Valley.

It was a great day in Aspermont as the earlier kickoff gave an entire game in the sun. Even if the sunlight was waning at the end. I did meet Jesse Morris, who I had met last year at a Abilene Christian-Lakeland Christian game at Shotwell Stdium. And then traveled to the same Saturday night game as I did, going to Rising Star. It never surprises me more, than when thirteen hundred fifty-four miles from home, I run into someone I know. Sure, there’s some very specific variables involved. But the odds are staggering.

After that, it was a long, meandering trip to Stanton.

My attempt at animal planet humor:

Along the way I thought about buying a new laptop as the one I’m using now for this particular write-up has a tendency to ‘stick’ while typing. The result of a four-year-old and an unsecured drink cup combining. I tried cleaning the keys. And it made it useable. But, not exactly working properly. But, I passed. For now. I think I’ll just buy a USB keyboard for when I really want to do some typing.

So, I was in Stanton around 5pm and the temperature at the time was 101F. I bought some water and tacos from the Stripes, and just waited a bit before going to the stadium at 6pm. And that’s when my shoes melted.

The asphalt was solid black tar. Though my shoes didn’t become stuck IN the tar. They did grind down what little bit of rubber soles they had left. I’ve needed a new pair of shoes for a while, and this just exacerbated the problem. A hole formed in the sole, and I only realized it because I felt pain. My sock wore through, as well and stepping on hot asphalt when it’s 101F in the shade and you’re standing on hot tar sitting in the Texas sun all day is not pleasant.

Luckily, for me, the stadium in Stanton has the newer turf that doesn’t absorb heat the way some of the older field turfs do. But, more on that in a few. The stadium sits behind the high school on the northern edge of town and just south of I-20. The field sits north/south and the fieldhouse/lockers are constructed into the school to the south. The school also sits along the southeast side of the stadium and the visitor stands. There’s parking lot on the northern edge of the stadium that is mostly access for the visitors. The home side has a concession stand and restrooms. The field turf is green with a faded brick colored track surrounding it. Red endzones and the Buffaloes logo at midfield. The scoreboard sits to the north along with a sign signifying state accomplishments.

Grape Creek, the visitors, are from the northside of San Angelo. Located along US87 as you leave town, it’s a small blip that has been skirted by an interchange in lieu of lights on the highway. Sitting in the shadow of the much more well known Angry Orange, aka the Bobcats, from San Angelo Central.

#6 Stanton v. San Angelo Grape Creek

The game was set for kickoff at 730pm, and after a brief delay getting the anthem and run-throughs done, the ceremonial coin flip took place at midfield. Only one player per team participated as is now the custom. Stanton moved the ball with more gusto. Though they struggled passing the game. A badly thrown potential TD pass resulted in an interception. Though Grape Creek wasn’t much better in the air. Some fumbles and miscues. A heavy dose of ground and pound left a scoreless first quarter and if not for a 4th and Goal from the 4 being run in, and the resulting two point jump pass, the game would have been scoreless. Even with the single solitary TD standing in their way, it never felt like Grape Creek could tie it. Their offense just stuck in neutral, and sometimes thrown violently into reverse. As the game wore on, penalties became a pressing concern.

On the last possession, even, Grape Creek ran only one play in the final 30 seconds. Confusion and lack of preperation ingrained in them to execute and stop the clock. The final horn sounded after the last eight or so seconds wore off the clock. 8 to 0. The first game I had even seen ending with that score. Though, interestingly, the 51-34 score from the night before was just as unique being my first. Though definitely less noteworthy.

During the game, I had been keeping tabs on some surrounding games. Looking to see what my other options were resulting in. None, I figured, could match the 8-0 scoreline I stumbled upon. The Sterling City-Garden City game started ominously, I saw with Sterling City already having a 42-14 lead just 11:36 into it. And then, 66-28 with 28 seconds left in the first half. Dangerously close to a 45. Which, in Texas six-man, if a team is leading by 45 anytime after halftime, the game is over. And as I refreshed the score, Sterling City had extended their lead to 74-28 with 22 seconds left. It wasn’t shocking, then, that a few seconds later the game showed a final score in the app. So, I might have made it to Seminole at a leisurely pace had I attended the game in Sterling City. But, I was happy with my shorter commute and comittment to the Stanton contest.

I’ll be back in West Texas again one day and Garden City and/or Sterling City will be on my list. Hopefully with a closer contest no matter who either of them might play.

As for next week, I’m going to be back in western North Dakota. So, with Thursday having a game in Plentywood, Montana, that’s where I plan to be. They host MonDak, a team ‘on my list’. MonDak Thunder are a co-op between Westby, Montana and Grenora, North Dakota. They officially are members of the MHSA. This year, they’ll play 8-man after years of playing 6-man. An interesting twist. I’ve been to Plentywood only once in my life previously. That was last year when I was marking off the last of the counties in Montana. I traveled from Wolf Point to Scobey to Plentywood and into North Dakota and along route 5 from there toward Minnesota. It will be interesting to stop and see the town. A middle school football game is the matinee of the doubleheader. And I should be there for both, hopefully.

On Friday, the current plan is a short 47 mile drive south of Plentywood to the town of Culbertson. I have been in Culbertson a few times in my life, and they’re hosting defending state champions Fairview. This also will be an 8-man game. It will be part of a doubleheader with a junior high game kicking off at 4:30pm.

And lastly, over in North Dakota, there is a Saturday afternoon game just south of Williston. The town of Alexander, located along US85, plays an independent 6-man schedule with a handful of other North Dakota schools not quite willing to give up their identity to co-op with another school to play 9-man. The Alexander Comets and Drayton Titans. This six-man game is set for 3pm local time, with a junior high game kicking off at 1pm. If all three, that’s three varsity games with three sub-varsity games if I’m so inclined.

Hopefully, all goes well and I can get these three games in as planned. The weather should be a lot more cooperative. The high on Friday will only be 87, but the overnight low is 53, so it should cool off fast when the sun starts dropping out of sight.

Photos of the Week

Aspermont Hornets run through dwarfs the competition.

Wesley Koenig catches this pass while Baylor Cruse defends.

Adrian Valdez pitches the ball to Jaxon Edwards.

Jaxon Edwards dives for the touchdown.

For more, and larger, photos from this week, click HERE.

For photos from previous weekends and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *