Youngblood: It's finally football time in the Big Country
Daniel Youngblood, Abilene Reporter-News
http://www.reporternews.com/story/sport ... 609881001/
After months of impatient waiting, football season's finally here. And I, for one, am excited to see what 2017 has in store for us.
I hope you enjoyed flipping through and reading our football preview section, Kickoff 2017. If you missed it in print on Friday, make sure to visit ReporterNews.com, where all of that content will be posted by the end of the week.
With that publication behind us, it's time to shift our focus to what makes every season what it is : the games.
As part of our high school football coverage this year, I've decided to add this column as a vehicle to share some thoughts each week and better communicate with you, our readers, what we have in the pipeline.
This is the first attempt at what I hope will be a fun and informative read for you this season. And, as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In future weeks, this portion of the column will house my top observations from the previous week's games. Since we haven't had any games played yet, I'm going to stick to my biggest takeaway from the past seven days.
1. Some things are bigger than football.
As exciting as this time of year is for us and folks across the state, it's important to remember the many who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. If you can do something to help our friends in South Texas, please do.
You don't need games to have been played for this section. Here are some of the questions that have been bouncing around in my head all offseason.
1. Can the Abilene High and Cooper football teams reload after heavy graduation losses?
After graduating 42 seniors, AHS returns just 16 lettermen from last year's squad, while Cooper brings back even fewer at 12. Is that enough to maintain the tradition of success both have built in recent years?
2. How good can the Wylie Bulldogs be this season?
Last year, they were good enough to advance all the way to the Class 4A Division I state championship game, where they gave champion Carthage a run for its money. With five defensive starters back, Hugh Sandifer's squad should be strong once again on that side, but they'll have to replace nine starters on offense.
3. What type of team will Clyde field this year?
In his five years at Clyde, coach Rocky Smart's led the Bulldogs to a 35-20 record, including an 8-3 tally in 2015 and 9-2 mark last season. But he could face his biggest challenge yet this year with just nine lettermen back and two returning starters — including none on defense.
4. Who is the Big Country's best quarterback?
There are at least three players with a strong claim to that title in Sweetwater's Chris Thompson, Hawley's Quay Stokes and De Leon's Kevin Yeager. Thompson led the Mustangs to the Class 4A Div. II title game last season, Stokes is a four-year starter who's led the Bearcats to unprecedented success in his time at Hawley and Yeager is garnering Division I attention as a junior. Who's the best of that bunch? Your guess is as good as mine.
5. Who will be the biggest surprise in 2017?
It's common to see Cisco or Albany make a deep playoff run. But almost every season, the Big Country has at least one team catch fire that no one really expected. De Leon, which followed a 3-8 campaign in 2015 with an 11-3 season last year, is a perfect example. Who will be that team this year?
COMING THIS WEEK
If you've had trouble sleeping the past few nights — or even weeks — in anticipation of the coming season, you'll be happy to know we here at the Reporter-News are right there with you. And as always, we've got you covered.
Though you'll likely notice some changes to the nature and timing of our coverage, we're as committed as ever to providing the same type of comprehensive high school football content you've come to expect from us and can't get anywhere else.
Whether it's live scores and stats, great photo and video content, unique feature stories or in-depth analysis you're after, you can find it on one of our platforms. And that only scratches the surface of what we have planned for the 2017 season.
Since I don't have the space here to lay out our entire coverage plan for the year, I'll start with a few things you can expect to see this week.
• Wylie feature — Are the Bulldogs ready to return to the field for the first time since their state championship loss to Carthage?
• Cooper feature — Senior Ender Freeman takes the reins as the Cougars starting quarterback.
• Big Country Game of the Week — What is Evan Ren's pick for the top area game and how does he see this slate of games playing out?
• Staff predictions — What teams do the Reporter-News staff members see winning the week's biggest matchups?
• Big Country polls — Who do the Reporter-News sports staff view as the Class of the Big Country this season?
• Abilene High feature — The Eagles lost a lot of talent to graduation, but their linebacking corps is as strong as ever.
• Abilene High preview capsule — We get you ready for the Eagles' season opener against San Angelo Central.
• Cooper preview capsule — We tell you the keys to a Cougar victory over Class 6A foe Keller.
• Wylie preview capsule — We tell you what to expect from the Bulldogs' clash with Vernon.
• Game recaps from our three local games and the Big Country Game of the Week.
• Big Country Rewind — Your interest in high school football doesn't end with the game, and neither does our coverage. After giving you the details of what happened digitally Friday night, we dive deeper on Saturday, focusing on the who, the how, the why and the impact from the games you just watched. We break down the previous week and get you ready for the next with new content you won't want to miss.
As mentioned before, this is just a glimpse of all we'll have for you this season. We hope you'll bookmark and visit ReporterNews.com and GoFridayNight.com for the most complete experience possible.
Those who take advantage of all of our platforms will find we're doing more than ever to get you the information you want in the format you want it.
And just like you, we're excited to be talking about football again.