Cowboy’s Sixshooter Six Weeks and Thousands of Miles

This has been a busy season for me. In six weeks I have logged 3500 miles and covered sixteen games.

I started my season at Jayton, and watched several top ranked teams. Weeks two and three I covered some of the little guys- teams that are largely ignored by the media. Mullin vs Trent and Morgan vs Three-Way were both fun games to watch. None of these teams are championship contenders, but they played hard and renewed my love for underdogs.

Week four Brandi and I traveled to Weskan Kansas and Kit Carson Colorado. We chose them because they are only 45 miles apart. Both towns made us feel extremely welcome.
I didn’t realize I would get to see a top ranked team from each state. Moscow, now at #2 in Kansas, used a strong running game to defeat Weskan. It was homecoming for Kit Carson , #1 in Colorado, and they destroyed rival Eads.

We followed underappreciated teams again week 5. Thursday night was Cranfills Gap at Bynum. Gap won by mercy rule, but Bynum put up a good fight. I think both of these teams have a good chance at winning their respective districts.
Friday we made the short trip to Gholson for the Wildcats homecoming game against Buckholts.

Week 6, Brandi and I continued our trend of following teams that don’t get much attention. We started our weekend at Prairie Lea. The Indians fell to Oglesby, but are showing a vast improvement over last season. Oglesby looks solid and should have a shot at second place in their district.
Saturday found us in Dime Box. This was one of the most interesting days I’ve had. When we arrived, the coaches were using sand to fill cracks in the baseball field. Yes, you read that correctly. Dime Box doesn’t have a football field so they painted lines on the baseball field.
A player arrived on a horse, then after I talked to the team, they got in a truck to be in the town parade.
There was no scoreboard or clock so both were kept by officials. During halftime I hung out at my truck with the officials, deputies, and Dime Box fans. The game ended with Dime Box winning 64-32.

For the first time this season, Brandi and I will be going to different games this week. I’ll be at the Evant vs Leakey game, and she will be at Milford’s homecoming. I’ll try to find time to recap the game I attend.

Top Teams movement, Week 7

by Shad Kline

Lets take a look at the top teams and see how they moved in the rankings this week.

Texas UIL Division I

Week 7 Rank (Week 6 rank in parenthesis)

  1. Borden County (1)
  2. Ira (2)
  3. Balmorhea (3)
  4. McLean (4)
  5. Leakey (6)
  6. Garden City (12)
  7. Sterling City (5)
  8. Paducah (7)
  9. Rankin (9)
  10. White Deer (8)

As you can see, the top 4 all maintained the status quo and made no movement.  Borden County had a bye and the other 3 were all favored by 45 and won by 45.  Leakey moved up to #5 but kept the same rating for the same reason.  It’s not until we get to #6 Garden City that we need any explanation.  Garden City jumped all the way from #12 to #6 after beating Strawn by 45, a game in which they started as 11 point underdogs.  The big question is did they actually earn the jump or do they just get the benefit of catching the Greyhounds right in the middle of an injury bug?  Sterling City made a slight drop to #7 after not covering the spread in their win against #9 Rankin.  Paducah, maintained their rating, but dropped 1 spot because Garden City moved up.  Rankin grabbed some rating points and wasn’t affected by the Garden City jump because they slid just ahead of White Deer.  White Deer dropped just 2 rating points after almost covering the spread against Milford, but slipped to #10.  Last weeks #10, May fell out of the top 10 to #14 after struggling a bit, only beating Newcastle by 12, a game in which they were a 45 point favorite.

This week

  1. Bordon County – 45 point favorite over UIL DI #37 O’Donnell
  2. Ira – 45 point favorite over UIL DI #45 Rotan
  3. Balmorhea – 45 point favorite over Independent #1 Midland Trinity
  4. McLean – 45 point favorite over UIL Outlaw #2 Baird
  5. Leakey – 45 point favorite over UIL DI #46 Evant
  6. Garden City – BYE
  7. Sterling City – 45 point favorite over UIL DI #48 Water Valley
  8. Paducah – BYE
  9. Rankin – BYE
  10. White Deer – 45 point favorite over UIL Outlaw #3 Claude

I don’t see a lot of changes happening after week 7.  Everyone is a 45 point favorite against their opponent, or they are on their BYE week.  Someone is going to have to slip pretty hard against a team that shouldn’t give them any trouble if there are to be any changes.  Of course that’s not looking at what may happen just outside the top 10 that could give a team just enough of a jump to get in the mix.  #11 Valley, #12 Milford and #14 May, all play top DII teams and could move up by winning more than the spread is giving them.

UIL Division II

Week 7 rank (week 6 in parenthesis)

  1. Jayton (1)
  2. Grandfalls-Royalty (2)
  3. Blackwell (5)
  4. Gordon (6)
  5. Richland Springs (7)
  6. Strawn (3)
  7. Groom (9)
  8. Motley County (8)
  9. Calvert (4)
  10. Anton (11)

No changes at 1 and 2 as both Jayton and Grandfalls-Royalty did exactly what they were expected to do, 45 their opponent.  #3 Blackwell and #4 Gordon, did that too, but benefited by significant drops by both Strawn and Calvert.  #5 Richland Springs actually dropped a couple of rating points as they were about 6 points shy of the spread in their win, but they moved up 2 spots as well being a benefactor of the Strawn and Calvert drop.  #6 Strawn is where the major shifts start.  They dropped to #6 from #3 after getting 45’d by Garden City after being an 11 point favorite.  Now I know first hand that they had 2 major players sidelined due to injury on this game, and I feel like they will slide up quickly in rating points and rank upon the return of even 1 of those players, and definitely when they get them both back.  But in the meantime, looks like they will have to settle in at a slightly lower rank.  #7 Groom had no change in rating, but moved up 2 spots because of Motley County and Calvert both dropping.  Motley County dropped in rating points but maintained their rank at #8 after losing by 22 to Knox City.  They were the underdog, but only by 3.  Calvert made a significant drop all the way from 4 to 9 after getting strummed by Coolidge by 45.  But as we discussed last week, Calvert made a huge jump last week after beating an injury riddled Oakwood team, and may have very well been slightly overrated coming into the Coolidge game.  Anton slipped into the #10 spot despite losing 4 rating points as they were a touchdown shy of covering the spread against Morton.  Anton can thank Oakwood for the spot as they slipped out of the top 10 to #13 after getting beat much worse by Union Hill than the spread allowed for.  Oakwood’s slip can likely be attested to the injury bug as well as one or more of their top players are out, but expected to return soon.

This week

  1. Jayton – 45 point favorite over UIL DII #63 Guthrie
  2. Grandfalls-Royalty – 45 point favorite over UIL DII #16 Sanderson
  3. Blackwell – 45 point favorite over UIL DI #71 Santa Anna
  4. Gordon – 45 point favorite over UIL DII #40 Morgan
  5. Richland Springs – 45 point favorite over UIL DI #57 Medina
  6. Strawn – 6 point underdog to UIL DI #14 May
  7. Groom – 45 point favorite over UIL DI #70
  8. Motley County – 27 point underdog to UIL DI #11 Valley
  9. Calvert – 26 point underdog to UIL DI #12 Milford
  10. Anton – 45 point favorite to UIL DII #36 Lazbuddie

Should see some changes this week as there are a trio of schools that play top DI teams this week.  The question is, which way will they move, if at all?

Outside of Texas, Kit Carson held onto the #1 spot for Colorado as did Cheylin for Kansas, and Elida for New Mexico.  Inside of Texas, in the private school ranks, every #1 team from last week remained at #1 this week.  The only change at any #1 was in the UIL outlaw ranks where Irion County slid to #1 moving Baird to the #2 spot.

Texas top 10 explained (kind of).

By Shad Kline, 10/1/2019

The Texas top 10 public schools has had some pretty good changes most weeks.  Here is a look at which teams have moved into and out of the top 10, which teams have moved within the top 10 and why.

We will start with Division I, I didn’t do a preaseason ranking so we will go with the first ranking after week 1.

Week 1

  1. McLean
  2. Borden County
  3. Balmorhea
  4. White Deer
  5. Sterling City
  6. Leakey
  7. Blum
  8. Milford
  9. Ira
  10. Garden City

McLean, having won state last year, was given the benefit of the doubt and started at #1.  That would turn out to be short lived though as Balmorhea would take over after week 2.

Week 2

  1. Balmorhea
  2. McLean
  3. Borden County
  4. Sterling City
  5. Leakey
  6. Ira
  7. White Deer
  8. Milford
  9. Garden City
  10. Paducah

The only other major moves in week 2 would be that Blum would drop out of the top 10 allowing Paducah to slide into the #10 spot.  Everyone else in the top 10 would make small shifts, but would relatively stay the same.  Remember that I was still tweaking the system trying to get teams moved into the correct spots, which was still widely unknown after only 2 games.  A lot of the ratings were largely based on last years final ratings.  Week 3 wouldn’t be much different.

Week 3

  1. Balmorhea
  2. Borden County
  3. Ira
  4. McLean
  5. Sterling City
  6. Leakey
  7. White Deer
  8. Crowell
  9. Milford
  10. Paducah

Ira was the big mover jumping from 6 to 3 largely due to 3 teams ahead of them dropping rating points.  Crowell made their debut in the top 10 at #8 while Garden City slid just out of the list.

Week 4

  1. Balmorhea
  2. Borden County
  3. Ira
  4. McLean
  5. Sterling City
  6. Leakey
  7. White Deer
  8. Rankin
  9. Garden City
  10. May

Some pretty significant changes in the lower half of the top 10 as Rankin finds their way into the top for the first time this year, Garden City moving back in from #11 and May also coming in at #10, making the list for the first time this year.  Of course anytime someone breaks into the top 10, someone has to drop out and those teams were Crowell, Milford and Paducah.  Milford has had some injuries and it has cost them in rating points.  Don’t be surprised when they show back up in the list as players start getting healthy.

Week 5

  1. Borden County – moving into the #1 spot for the first time this year after beating #7 White Deer.
  2. Ira – One of the most consistent teams this year, has slid up to #2.
  3. Balmorhea – Not covering the spread against Grandfalls-Royalty cost the bears the #1 spot.  Is Grandfalls that good? Or did Balmorhea just have an off game?
  4. McLean – Still holding onto the #4 spot.  Ben Crocket will keep them as a contender as long as he stays healthy.  Not a one man team by any means, but with a talent like Crocket, it sometimes can seem that way.
  5. Sterling City – Pretty much more of the same from SC, good solid wins and taking care of business. 
  6. Leakey – No talk about Leakey, and I think they like it that way.  They are the top rated team on the East half of the playoff bracket.  AT&T?  Maybe!
  7. Paducah – Sliding from outside all the way to #7 after dominating Motley County 88-46, a game in which they went in as a 13 point dog.  Beware the Dragon.
  8. White Deer – Having trouble with the best of the best, but still lurking around.  We will find out if they can be a contender when they face off with district foe McLean for the DC and the better playoff slot.
  9. Rankin – A rare occasion in which a team gains rating points and still drops in the rankings.  They moved from #8 to #9 after beating Garden City by a couple of TD’s, when they were favored by an extra point.  Blame Paducah for the drop in ranking, as they just slid the scale.
  10.  May – Holds the #10 spot for the second week in a row.  In the west I would say they were on the outside looking in, but in the East, a very significant contender for the title game.

Coming up in week 6

  1. Borden County –  BYE
  2. Ira – 45 point favorite over DI #25 Ropes
  3. Balmorhea – 45 point favorite over TCAL #3 El Paso Faith
  4. McLean – 45 point favorite over DI #20 Happy
  5. Sterling City – 21 point favorite over DI #9 Rankin
  6. Leakey – 45 point favorite over DI #32 Eden
  7. Paducah – 45 point favorite over DII #13 Whitharral
  8. White Deer – 26 point favorite over DI #13 Milford
  9. Rankin – 21 point underdog to DI #5 Sterling City
  10. May – 45 point favorite over DI #37 Newcastle

Division II seems to be a little down this year all the way across the board.  Most years the top DI and top DII schools end the year pretty close in rating, and flip flop for the #1 overall spot.  This year it doesn’t seem to be the case.

Week 1

  1. Strawn
  2. Jayton
  3. Richland Springs
  4. Motley County
  5. Grandfalls-Royalty
  6. Blanket
  7. Oakwood
  8. Blackwell
  9. Groom
  10. Whitharral

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I started off last years champions at #1.  They have won 2 in a row, so someone had to knock them back a couple of rating notches before I moved Jayton into the top spot.  Borden County did it in week 1, but it wasn’t until week 4 that Strawn slid out of the top spot.  Also, just like in division I, the power ratings after weeks 1, 2 & 3 is nothing more than an educated guess based on very limited information.  So lets take a look at weeks 2 and 3.

Week 2

  1. Strawn
  2. Jayton
  3. Richland Springs
  4. Motley County
  5. Grandfalls-Royalty
  6. Blanket
  7. Blackwell
  8. Oakwood
  9. Groom
  10. Calvert

Not much change, Blackwell and Oakwood switched spots as did Calvert and Whitharral.

Week 3

  1. Strawn
  2. Jayton
  3. Grandfalls-Royalty
  4. Blanket
  5. Groom
  6. Blackwell
  7. Oakwood
  8. Richland Springs
  9. Motley County
  10. Calvert

Same 10 teams, slightly different order.  (Once again, a result of the week 3 adjustments that I make every year.

Week 4

  1. Jayton
  2. Motley County
  3. Strawn
  4. Grandfalls-Royalty
  5. Blackwell
  6. Oakwood
  7. Richland Springs
  8. Groom
  9. Blanket
  10. Calvert

Same 10 teams, once again, different order.  Jayton moved into #1 after Strawn struggled with a very good private school team.  Motley County made a huge jump after a huge win over a top DI school, Crowell.  Blanket started sliding down the list after they lost to May.  Which brings us to this week, week 5.

Week 5

  1. Jayton – Holding steady at the top with consistency and well balanced on both sides of the ball.
  2. Grandfalls-Royalty – As mentioned in the DI article, GR played Balmorhea a lot closer than expected.  Was Balmorhea off or is GR that good?
  3. Strawn – Held their ground with a win over Milford and doing so within 1 point of the spread.  I’m actually a little surprised that it was even that close as the Bulldogs were without Pendleton and I expected Strawn to take advantage of that.
  4. Calvert – Where did they come from?  They’ve been lurking at the #10 spot all year and all of a sudden just blows up Oakwood 47-14 after being a 27 point underdog.  That’s a 60 point swing!  What happened that made that much of a difference?  No, seriously, I want to know!
  5. Blackwell – from 8 to 7 to 6 to 5.  Hmmmmmm, better watch ‘em.  Just Sayin.
  6. Gordon – Same exact question as the Calvert game.  Gordon has made huge strides since slipping to Waco Methodist in week 1.  Is Blanket missing players?  Is Gordon starting to come into their skin?  Who knows?  But it’s starting to make THE rivalry against Strawn in early November look a LOT more interesting.
  7. Richland Springs – Don’t be fooled.  RS is still waiting for the prodigal son to return to the field.  Landon Burkhart should return at the end of October.  I bet we see RS start sliding up this list when that happens.
  8. Motley County – I can’t figure out the Matadors this year.  The beat Crowell, but lose to Spur and Paducah?  All 3 good teams, but its not like they were all close games.  MC is kinda all over the place. 
  9. Groom – I’m sorry to say that I don’t know much about the Tigers this year.  But they have been right here in the bottom half of the top 10 all year, and I know that they are always a team that can grab a tiger by the tail.
  10. Oakwood – Well we already know why Oakwood dropped to #10, talk to the Trojans over at Calvert.

Coming up in week 6

  1. Jayton – 45 point favorite over DI #44 Rotan
  2. Grandfalls-Royalty – 45 point favorite over DI #40 Fort Davis
  3. Strawn – 11 point favorite over DI #12 Garden City
  4. Calvert – 45 point favorite over DI #31 Coolidge
  5. Blackwell – 45 point favorite over DI #68 Veribest
  6. Gordon – 45 point favorite over DI #39 Zephyr
  7. Richland Springs – 34 point favorite over TAIAO #2 San Antonio FEAST
  8. Motley County – 3 point underdog to DI #15 Knox City
  9. Groom – BYE
  10. Oakwood – 6 point underdog to DI #23 Union Hill

Johnson Looks to Change Culture at Prairie Lea

By Garrett Ross

A 2-2 record before the bye might not seem like much for some teams, but for Prairie Lea it shows signs of promise.

The Indians haven’t seen very many victories over the past two seasons, in fact, they have more wins in 2019 than the previous two seasons combined.

First year head coach Josh Johnson isn’t a stranger to turning programs around, in fact, he actually has a knack for it.

“I would consider myself a strong motivator and really relatable to student athletes, just in my experiences in different walks of life. The hardest part of turning a program around is getting the athletes to buy in. Once you get them bought in, the job becomes much easier,” said Johnson. “The kids here at Prairie Lea are some of the hardest working kids that I have coached. Our job as a staff now is to make sure that continue to change the culture and mindset of a program that has struggled in years past.

Johnson took the job at Prairie Lea after guiding Wichita Christian to a 6-4 record in 2018. Wichita Christian was very similar to Prairie Lea prior to the arrival of Johnson.

From 2009-2013, Wichita Christian won a total of ten games. Johnson took over the program in 2015 and immediately made an impact. The Stars opened the 2015 season with back-to-back 50-0 victories over Benjamin and Gold-Burg and finished the season 7-5.

During his tenure at Wichita Christian, Johnson had an overall record of 25-19. Johnson had similar success at Heath Fulton from 2010-2014.

Heath Fulton, like Prairie Lea, had just one victory in two seasons prior before Johnson took over. In 2010, Johnson guided Heath Fulton to a 5-6 record, then in his second season Heath Fulton went 9-3.

Johnson turned the Heath Fulton program around and finished with an overall record of 32-15 as their head coach. Prior to his arrival, Heath Fulton was 1-39 in four seasons of play.

Johnson also coached one season at Clovis Christian in New Mexico and he won a state championship in 2009 at Duncan Life Christway as the OC.

“Every time I step into a program, I plan for and treat that program like I’m going to have a long future there. With that being said, I’m always open to the call of the Lord and where he might need me or my family,” said Johnson. “ My wife also coaches so decisions to move are never just based on just my job. We have a son that is in 4th grade and as he approaches JH and HS, we would like for him, and our older daughter, to have stability at one school for his jh/Hs career.”

Every coach seems to have a calling to the profession and most have been inspired by fellow coaches along the way. Johnson is no different and he has had two people in particular who have provided that inspiration.

“I have two coaches that have had the biggest influence on me. My two offensive coordinators in college, Robert Clyde (from 2003-2005) and Alexander Wright (2006), at Southwestern AG,” said Johnson. “Coach Wright was actually one of my idols growing up as he is a former Cowboys, Raiders and Rams WR. They both very high character coaches that held me extremely accountable on and off the football field.”

The numbers don’t lie, Johnson knows what it takes to create a winning culture. Johnson is currently in his 13th season as a head coach and his overall record is 61-39.

Prairie Lea seems to be the perfect place for Johnson to try his magic in the public school setting. The Indians are no strangers to adversity and if Johnson can turn this program around then the possibilities are endless.

“I consider myself a builder and a rebuilder. Prairie Lea seemed like the perfect opportunity for this. I really felt the Lord placing me in a school like Prairie Lea for this season in my life. Football for me is more than x’s and o’s and I felt/feel like I could really make an impact here,” said Johnson. “I had known the AD at Prairie Lea for a few years now and she was a big part of me wanting to join this community. We also really like the Hill Country Area as we vacation in New Braunfels a lot.”

Prairie Lea will resume play on October 4, 2019 as they host an Oglesby team who is reeling. The Indians play four of their next six games at home and are looking to end their playoff drought.

Johnson is confident that playing at home will help provide a boost of energy for Prairie Lea.

“Playing at home probably gives us a little bit more confidence as we know we will have more community when we are playing in town.”

Changing the culture of a program is something that takes time and it doesn’t begin at the varsity level.

When you look at the programs across the state who have consistent success, it’s because the kids in elementary and junior high have bought in and understand what’s expected of them before they enter high school.

Johnson is fully aware of this concept and believes that with time he can implement that mindset at Prairie Lea and turn the Indians into playoff contenders.

“Coaching staff stability, continuous buy in and improvement of our JH programs across the board are what it’s going to take to get Prairie Lea in playoffs.”

Cowboy’s Sixshooter 2019 Dark Horse

Last year, I picked Leakey as my dark horse team, and it proved to be a wise decision. Hopefully I’ll do as well this time.

My dark horse this year is from the West, and their overall team speed is impressive. In fact, the coach decided to use F.A.S.T. as their team slogan. Not only does it describe their athletic strong point, it also stands for
Family, Attitude, Sacrifice, Toughness.
Some of you will have figured out who I’m talking about. For those that haven’t, it’s the Spur Bulldogs. They finished last season with a 7-3 record- a ten point loss to Aspermont ended their chances of a playoff spot. This year, it looks like team chemistry has improved and I think that, combined with their talent and drive, will give them the potential to be giant slayers.
I spoke with Coach Clark about his team. “We barely missed out on a playoff spot in a tough district last year. This season, we are hoping to get better each week and prove to ourselves we are capable of being an elite group.”

Keep an eye on this team, I they may shake things up a bit.

Cowboy’s Sixshooter UIL Division I Top Teams

I could be way off, but here’s my thoughts on the preseason top 10.
I have 11 teams listed because I believe there is a tie for the number ten spot.

1. McLean Tigers
In 2018, the Tigers were the single most dominant team in six-man. Graduation removed a lot of top-notch talent from their roster, but that doesn’t mean they’re done. Ben Crockett will be back for another season, and he has proven that he can’t be easily stopped. McLean also has several players ready to step into starting positions and prove themselves.
Before two-a-days began, Coach Linman told me “we’ll have six good kids on the field”. A knowledgeable friend attended McLean’s second scrimmage and verified it. In his words “they are scary this year. I don’t think there’s anyone in D1 that is going to challenge them.”

2. Milford Bulldogs
Milford finished last season in the number two spot, losing the championship game to McLean. The loss of Smith and Schrotke will have an impact on the Bulldogs, but there are still enough talented players who can fill their spots. If this team can become fundamentally disciplined, they’ll have a shot at winning it all this year.

3. White Deer Bucks
The Bucks had a good season in 2018, unfortunately district foe McLean had a better season. White Deer lost twice to McLean- once in district and again in the quarter-finals.
White Deer returns the bulk of a very talented squad, and will be looking to redeem themselves. This is definitely a team to keep an eye on.

4. Balmorhea Bears
If you follow Texas six-man, you know Vance Jones has turned Balmorhea into a perennial powerhouse. The Bears have been a quarter-final, or better, team since 2015. Every year they lose high end talent to graduation, but someone always seems to step up and fill the spot. I don’t expect this year to be any different.

5. Ira Bulldogs
Ira is consistently a playoff team, but they don’t seem to be able to get past the quarter-finals. Coach Goodwin hopes he can lead his team over that hump this season, and with five returning starters on both sides of the ball he may be able to do it. The Bulldogs’ experience will help, but they’ll need to be fundamentally sound to get where they want to be.

6. Leakey Eagles
Leakey was my dark horse team last year, and they didn’t disappoint me. The players bought into Coach Williams program, and were rewarded with a trip to the semi-finals their first year in six-man. The Eagles will be returning enough experienced players to give them a good shot at returning to the semis, but don’t expect them to be satisfied with stopping there. They will be hoping for a trip to AT&T Stadium.

7. Sterling City Eagles
Sterling City finished 2018 at 9-2. They return five offensive and four defensive starters. If they can stay healthy, and improve every week, they should be able to win a district title- and make a good playoff run.

8. Borden County Coyotes
The Coyotes only made it two rounds deep last year, and will have just three starters returning. I’m including them in the top ten because of tradition and coaching, but they will have to really step up if they hope to make a deep run this year.
Coach Richey sounded optimistic about his team. In his words “I really like our team chemistry and work ethic. This has been a very good preseason working group.”

9. Blum Bobcats
I asked Coach Thornhill if there was anything he wanted to say about the upcoming season, and he outdid himself. “We have five starters returning on both sides of the ball. This group has worked extremely hard from Nov 23 of last year. When you have a group that comes in the Monday after a loss and genuinely asks what they need to do to not have to ride the bus home as a loser, you know it is step in he right direction. After the first step comes the work, and we were 96 percent attendance this summer. These kids work and they work hard. We have as much talent as anyone in the state and work as hard than any of them. The only problems will be can we stay healthy and continue to our work people during the week? Can we keep this train on the track through the storms that develop through the year with 16 year old young men? We will be noticed but I’m not sure if they will be worried about us- we will see Saturday on the largest stage of the week.


10. Garden City Bearkats
Garden City only has one returning starter, but they have ten seniors who have been waiting for their chance to shine. Like many of the other teams in this list, coaching and tradition keep them among the top teams. Coach Jones verified my thoughts. “We are confident that a few of these seniors will step in and fill those spots.”

10. Gorman Panthers
The Panthers will have three returning players on each side of the ball- including an All-state player on both sides. Coach Dixon put things into fewer words than I would have. “Both of my All-staters will have to have big years, and some young guys have to step up for us. We will learn a lot the first two weeks- we start the season with Milford and Strawn.”

Cowboy’s Sixshooter

Top Teams in Texas UIL Division II

The season is drawing closer, so I decided it was time to dust off the sixshooter. As always, these are my opinions.

1. Strawn Greyhounds
The Greyhounds lost a load of talented players to graduation, but that doesn’t mean they’re done. They still have several battle tested young men who are ready to prove themselves. They also have some other attributes of a number one team- tradition, program, and top-notch coaching. I will keep the back-to-back defending champions at number one until they give me a reason to move them down the list.

2. Jayton Jaybirds
Last season didn’t start well for Jayton, but they obviously learned from their mistakes. They turned things around and made it to the semi-finals.
The Jaybirds return the majority of their starters so I expect them to have a better start this year. They will face some tough tests along the way, but I expect to see them at AT&T Stadium in December.

3. Richland Springs Coyotes
The Coyotes made it to the quarter-finals last season, and they are loaded once again. This team will be hungry for a ninth championship win. Tradition, talent, and the return of a proven coaching staff will make them contenders. They won’t have an easy playoff run, but a trip to the big dance is possible.

4. Oakwood Panthers
Coach Tritz summed it up well when I asked about Oakwood’s returning starters and their expectations for the upcoming season. ” We only return three starters from last season, but they are talented, dependable on-field leaders. (Davis, Sargent, and Edgemon) Our expectations are to return to the semi-finals and give ourselves a chance at winning a State Championship. We know it won’t be easy, we’ll have to face quality teams, but I have faith in my boys.”
There’s really not much I can add to that.

5. Grandfalls-Royalty Cowboys
The Cowboys finished 10-3 last season, losing to Jayton in the quarter-finals. They return a host of good players who will remember that heartbreaking loss. They have the potential to get some upset victories this season, and a rematch against Jayton is possible.

6. Motley County Matadors
Any discussion about perennial powerhouses has to include the Matadors. 2006 was the last time they weren’t in the playoffs. Coach Bigham led his team to the quarter-finals last season, but lost to state runner-up Follett.
Coach Bigham’s take on the upcoming season- “Expectations are high as usual here at Motley County!! We will be young another year but we will have the kids playing hard for their school!”
I don’t see anyone stopping this team before the semi-finals.

7. Blackwell Hornets
In 2018 I predicted that Blackwell would face Strawn for the Division II title, but Jayton took them out in the second round. The Hornets will still be a very good team, but they won’t have an easy time in the playoffs.

8. Calvert Trojans
The Trojans always seem to be loaded with talent, but lack the fundamentals to win the tough playoff games. Coach Ashley has been trying to change that, and if he can Calvert will likely start working their way up in the rankings.

9. Blanket Tigers
Blanket was reasonably strong last season, but a key player was recovering from an injury. This year, everyone looks to be healthy. It’s hard to predict how far they will go without seeing how they do with all starters playing, but I’m expecting a top ten performance.

10. Groom Tigers
Groom should take the district title this year, which will give them a much better road in the playoffs. This could easily be a quarter-final team, but they’ll need to play mistake free to go farther than that.

Cowboy’s Sixshooter Texas Finals

Other states, and the Texas private school leagues, have crowned their champions.  That leaves us with only two games this year- UIL Texas.  Both games will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Wednesday December 19.  Division II will kick off at 11:00 AM, Division I at 2:00 PM.


Division II
#1 Strawn vs #3 Follett

Saying that the Strawn Greyhounds are battle tested would be an understatement.  They are the defending Division II champions, and they haven’t had an easy road this year.  Six of the teams they played are in the top fifteen in Texas, and two of them will be facing off for the Division I title.
The Greyhounds have a multi-threat offense.  Follett will have trouble deciding who to key on when Villanueva, Fraga, Hodgkins, Ruiz, and several others are capable of making big plays.  Strawn is strong on the defensive side as well.  No team outside of the top ten has scored more than one touchdown against them.

Follett is the surprise team this year.  Not many people considered the Panthers to be a contender, but they proved us wrong.  Their quiet advancement to the finals has been impressive.
Barber is obviously the stud of the team, but Follett has several other weapons in their arsenal.  All six offensive starters have scored this year.  Barber, Howard, Loya and Stuart tend to stand out, but Rohan and Gregory play vital roles.

There is no doubt that Follett is a quality team, but I feel Strawn is on another level.  The Panthers won’t give up, but Strawn will be more than they can handle.  I’m predicting that the Greyhounds win by 45.


Division I
#1 McLean vs #3 Milford

This one has the potential to be great, but I’m not sure that it will be.
Ta’ron Smith is the first name fans think of when talking about Milford, but he isn’t the only stud on the team.  The Bulldogs are loaded with raw talent.  Ricky Pendleton stepped up big in the semi-final game against Leakey, but he is the only Milford player that did.  The Bulldogs’ lackluster performance last week has me doubting their desire to do what will be needed to compete with McLean.

McLean is Milford’s polar opposite.  The Tigers don’t have as much natural athleticism, but they have something better.  They have Ben Crockett and a group of above average athletes who are driven and willing to work to reach their goals.  The Tigers’ intensity may be more than Milford can handle.

I’m taking McLean by 30, but if Milford shows up hungry for the win, they can make it a battle.

Cowboy’s Sixshooter 12/5/18

As usual, it’s Wednesday and I’m just getting this out.  All season, I’ve aimed for Monday, hopes for Tuesday, and actually finished on Wednesday.  Maybe I’ll do better next season.  Anyway, let’s get on with it.

Last week, I was correct on seven of the eight games.  Not bad for a man that can’t tell the difference in a gut feeling and indigestion.  I’m going out on a limb this week and picking the TAPPS games as well.  With my limited knowledge of the private school teams, I’m running the risk of having a terrible percentage.

#1 Strawn vs #4 Oakwood
6:00 PM Thursday at Alvarado

Oakwood has been playing well, and they kept me from going 100% last week.  They defeated Richland Springs 65-55, but appeared winded late in the game.  They’ll have to dig deep to have a chance to win this week because Strawn is on another level.
Most expect this game to be over at halftime.  Personally, I think Strawn wins, probably by the mercy rule, but I’m giving Oakwood a little credit- I think they can take it into the second half.

#3 Follett vs #7 Jayton
6:00 PM Thursday at Amarillo Highland Park

I’ve known Follett was good, but I didn’t realize how good.  Follett’s scores have been deceiving because of Coach Copley’s plan for building a program.  Instead of fortyfiving opponents, he gave younger players game time.  They’ll be depending heavily on Barber, but he won’t be the only player Jayton will need to worry about.
As I said in a previous article, Jayton destroyed my playoff bracket with their domination of Blackwell.  I said I wouldn’t pick against them because of that, but I’m doing it anyway.  I think Jayton will go down swinging, but their season ends here.

#3 Milford vs #17 Leakey
7:30 PM Friday at Burnet

Leakey was hesitant to make the switch to sixman, but this season has them wishing they had done it sooner.  Their 12-1 record is the best in school history.  (They won the 8-man championship in 1975 with an 11-1 record)  Sadly, the clock is about to strike midnight on the Eagles’ Cinderella season.  Coach Williams will have them as ready as he can, but their schedule hasn’t prepared them for a game like this.
Milford is loaded on offense, and has one of the best defensive players I’ve seen in six-man.  Corbin Schrotke seems to feed on contact, and will likely be in on over half of the tackles.
I expect Milford be the victor at the half.

#1 McLean vs #2 Garden City
2:00 PM Saturday at Levelland

I predicted this game long before the season started. Garden City is good, really good, but McLean is in a league of their own.  I think Garden City can make this game go the distance, but I doubt their ability to stop Ben Crockett and company.  McLean wins and earns the right to play for the big trophy.
With snow and ice predicted for this weekend, this game may get rescheduled to Monday at 6:00 PM.

TAPPS Championship games
Instead of saying “limited knowledge of the private school teams”, I should have said “no knowledge of private school teams”.  I’m going to predict the games, but my picks will be purely guesswork.

Division II
#1 Bulverde Bracken vs #3 Huntsville Alpha Omega
11:00 AM Thursday at Waco Midway

Bracken by 45+

Division I
#1 Austin Veritas vs #4 Gainesville Lone Star North
3:00 PM Thursday at Waco Midway

Lone Star North by 10

Division III
#1 Baytown Christian vs #3 Weatherford Christian
7:00 PM Thursday at Waco Midway

Baytown by 45

Cowboy’s Sixshooter 2018 Texas Quarter-finals

I usually give six games that I think will be worth watching, but I’m changing things up a bit. There are only eight public school games this week, and I can’t decide which ones to cut so I’ll mention them all. Private school folks, I haven’t talked about your games because I don’t have enough information about the teams. Maybe the coaches will send me some stats next season.

I have to mention some of last week’s games because UIL division II West was crazy.
Grandfalls-Royalty mounted an epic comeback to defeat Lueders-Avoca in the final seconds of the game. The anguish in the faces of some of the L-A players was heartbreaking, but those boys need to hold their heads up because they left it all on the field.
I said I was beginning to wonder if Jayton would be the team to mess up my division II bracket. I don’t need to wonder anymore. They destroyed it with their huge upset win over Blackwell- forcing me to rethink a few things.

Let’s get into this week’s games. The # is the ranking in their division.

#3 Follett vs #8 Motley County
7:00 PM Thursday, Nov 29 in White Deer

This is a tough game to pick. Motley County has beaten the spreads several times this year- proving what an established program can do for a team. Coaching, hard work, and grit have gotten the Matadors here, but will that be enough to get another win?
Coach Copley hasn’t been at Follett long enough to truly establish his own program, but the Panthers have a rich tradition in six-man.
My gut tells me to pick Motley, but those gut feelings haven’t been working out for me this year. I’m going with the numbers and taking Follett.

#21 Leakey vs #25 Gorman
7:00 PM Friday, Nov 30 in Brady

You can tell by the rankings that this wasn’t the hardest region in Texas, but these teams won the games they needed to win.
Leakey was my dark horse team this year, and they have proven why. The Eagles have done a great job transitioning to six-man, and have only lost one game this year. They have good speed and decent size, and use both to their advantage.
Gorman has had a good season offensively. They are averaging 57 points per game. Their defense isn’t doing as well. The Panthers are allowing an average of 44 points per game. They’ll need to find a way to improve defensively to have a shot of moving on.
I think Leakey wins this one.

#4 Richland Springs vs #7 Oakwood
6:30 PM Friday, Nov 30 in Gatesville

Perennial powerhouse Richland Springs is in the mix once again. The Coyotes aren’t as dominant as they have been in years past, but that doesn’t mean you can count them out. This is a young & hungry team with a strong tradition of winning.
Oakwood is loaded with talent, and they’re riding the momentum of five straight wins. However, their lack of deep playoff experience could be a huge obstacle.
I would like to see Oakwood pull of an upset, because everyone knows I love the underdog, but I don’t see it happening. Richland Springs comes out of this one as the victor.

#1 Strawn vs #2 Iredell
7:00 PM Friday, Nov 30 in Hico

Some people are calling this the “true state game”.
Strawn is the defending division II champion and they’ve had a wickedly tough schedule this season. The only teams able to compete with, or defeat, them are in the division I top five.
Iredell is undefeated, but they haven’t played the same caliber of competition that Strawn has. They will be depending heavily on Whitfield, but it will take a mistake-free team effort to have a chance at victory.
The Dragons will put up a fight, but I think Strawn will be a little more than they can handle.

#5 Jayton vs #13 Grandfalls-Royalty
6:30 PM Friday, Nov 30 in Sterling City

Last week, Grandfalls-Royalty showed the kind of determination a team needs to succeed in tough games. Heart and determination are important, but they’ll only take you so far. The Cowboys will need to avoid mistakes and hold on to the ball if they want a chance to win this week.
Jayton took out my pick to come out of the West, so they took the spot. There really isn’t much else to say on this one because I’m not picking against the Jaybirds.

#4 Milford vs #6 Union Hill
7:30 PM Friday, Nov 30 in Kaufman

The winner of this game will likely play in the championship game. It’s an interesting matchup, and as with any big game, it is drawing a lot of attention. Milford is more athletic and they have an explosive offense. Union Hill is more physical and more disciplined.
Neither team can afford a slow start. They will have to execute well from start to finish. I expect this one to be so close that even one turnover can make the difference. I’ll take Milford in this one.

#1 McLean vs #5 White Deer
6:00 PM Saturday, Dec 1 at Amarillo Highland Park

These teams faced off in district play, with McLean coming out on top 56-18. I expect a similar result this time. Don’t get me wrong, the Bucks are good- but McLean is elite.
I attended the district game thinking White Deer’s speed would give them a chance, but I underestimated the speed of the Tigers. I won’t make the same mistake this time. McLean is big, strong, and fast. Expect them to use everything in their arsenal in an attempt to end this one early.

#2 Balmorhea vs #3 Garden City
6:00 PM Saturday, Dec 1 in Rankin

I have been predicting that Garden City would face McLean in the semi-finals, but now I’m questioning that. The Balmorhea Bears are peaking, while the Bearkats seem to have leveled off.
Garden City won the early season matchup, with Balmorhea, by 21. However, Balmorhea turned the ball over at crucial times. If the Bears can do a better job of controlling the ball, they have a shot.
The Bears may end up being a bracket-buster, but I’m staying with my earlier prediction and saying Garden City moves forward.