Ballinger wins as Winters and Miles fall in week 1

Staff Writer
Runnels County Register
Ballinger's Garrett Dixon punches the ball into the endzone against the Jim Ned Indians on Friday.

It was a Friday of everything we’ve come to expect from west Texas football; Tough players, on tough teams, playing tough games in the Texas heat. All 3 Runnels County teams faced stiff competition, two the teams, 2A Miles and 2A Winters, playing teams that had been 3A last year.

Ballinger would be the only Runnels County team starting the season on the road as they traveled up to Tuscola to take on the Jim Ned Indians.

Ballinger Bearcats

The Ballinger Bearcats traveled to Tuscola to take on a Jim Ned Indians team that went 7-4 in 2019. The Indians were 5-0 in pre-district games but only 2-3 in district play, falling to Wall 14-7, Clyde 14-7 and Eastland 29-14, the 3 powerhouses in their former district.

Ballinger, meanwhile, is ranked #13 this year by Texas Football magazine, after going 8-3 overall last season, and 5-2 in district. This game was expected to be a grind for both teams.

The game lived up to the expectations as the Bearcats defeated Jim Ned 20-14. Ballinger showed that they are deserving of that #13 ranking.

The game was a full team effort from beginning to end. When starting quarterback Tyler Vaughn went down with an injury, junior Carter Arrott stepped in to helm the offense.

The Bearcats controlled every aspect of the game, including total # of plays (57-45), first downs (18-11), penalties (4-40 yards to 6-45) and possession time: 28:25-19:35.

The biggest leap for the Bearcats were the penalties. In 2019 the Bearcats were bitten by the penalty bug multiple times, giving up as much as 150 yards to penalties in a game. The game against Jim Ned showed a more mature team, well disciplined with solid fundamentals. The Bearcats kept the game close, going into halftime with a 14-13 deficit. Both teams scored a single touchdown in the first and second quarters, with Ballinger missing a conversion.

The third quarter was the grind that most people had anticipated. Both teams were held scoreless throughout the quarter, with limited penalties. It was a slugfest, back and forth, with neither team relinquishing ground. Arrott came in for an injured Vaughn late in the game and was behind center for the start of the 4th quarter, with Jim Ned still ahead 14-13.

Arrott, had the usual weapons cache of talent at his disposal; Weston Rollwitz, Joe Marcus Guerrero, Dylan Hostetter, Garrett Dixon, Aiden Busenlehner, Eric Toliver, Adam Winn and Bryce Foster. The offense did a commendable job of getting the sole touchdown of the 4th quarter. Arrott didn’t let the game get ahead of him and as the offensive line did an admirable job of blocking while Rollwitz and company helped move the ball down the field.

After a Jim Ned punt in the 4th quarter, the Bearcats took over around the 50-yard line. Arnott then proceeded to methodically lead the Ballinger offense down the field, and then punched the ball in himself on 20+ yard run. The Bearcats kicked off and while Jim Ned eventually managed to move the ball to midfield, their offense stalled around the 48-yard line and they turned the ball over on downs. At that point Ballinger knelt down and ran the clock out.

For the game, Vaughn went 7-14 for 105 yards on passing, and rushed for another 21 yards. Arrott came in and went 1-1 on passing for 11 yards. He rushed 3 times for 47 yards, including the winning touchdown. Dixon rushed 21 times for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. In all, Ballinger rushed for 179 yards and passed for 116 yards. Rollwitz led all receivers with 5 catches for 97 yards.

The Ballinger defense only gave up one big play when Jim Ned’s Xavier Wishert broke a 60-yard touchdown run. Overall, other than that one big run, the Bearcats held the junior running back to 10 carries for 40 yards. Without that run, the Indians only put up 115 yards on the ground. The defense showed that they can be counted on when needed. They played hard on every play and kept that Jim Ned offense in check for most of the game.

The Bearcats took a hit when starter Bradyn Bowman went down with a season ending injury in the scrimmage against Anson last week. Head Coach Chuck Lipsey and his staff did a remarkable job of preparing the Bearcats for a tough matchup on the road against Jim Ned.

This Friday the Bearcats (1-0) will host the Breckenridge Buckaroos (0-1), who dropped their first game, 13-0, to Jacksboro. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. The Breaking the Huddle pregame show, with analysis and updated injury information, will air on KRUN, 1400 AM, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Winters Blizzards

The Winters Blizzards hosted the Anson Tigers, a 7-4 team in 3A last year, that dropped to 2A this year. It was never expected to be an easy game for a Blizzards team that was 5-5 in 2019.

The Blizzards ended up losing the game, 34-22. The Anson Tigers are on the upper end of 2A football in both size and speed. The Blizzards never threw in the towel, playing until the last down. It was still anyone’s game with 9 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, with the Blizzards down 28-14. Anson scored a touchdown to bring the score to 34-14. The extra point snap was muffed, which Oats scooped up and ran 97-yards for 2-points, bringing the score to 34-16. During the rest of the 4th quarter, Winters was eventually able to move the ball down the field and put another touchdown on the board, bringing the score to 34-22.

Senior quarterback Alex Salas is running the offense for the second year in a row and has improved in the passing game. He was 6 of 7 for 55 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Tigers. He also led the team in rushing with 103 yards on 20 carries, scoring 1 touchdown.

Matt Jacob, one of the senior running backs on the team, rushed 10 times for 95 yards. In all, the Blizzards had 9 players rush the ball at least once, including Malaky Kelly (5-28), Jon Kullen Busher (2-9), Aidan Leamon (1-12), Maddos Rodriguez (3-6), Houston Esquivel (1-7) and Dayvin Oats (1-9).

The receiving corps was led by Esteban Gonzalez with 3 receptions for 26 yards. Dayvin Oats pulled in 2 receptions for 24 yards while Busher hauled in one catch for 5 yards.

Friday will be another tough game for the Blizzards as they travel on the road to take on a strong Eldorado Eagles (0-1) team. The Eagles were 10-2 for the 2019 season but dropped their first game this season to the San Saba Armadillos (1-0), 56-14. In that game the Eagles gave up 165 yards through the air and 375 yards on the ground. This strong Blizzards team, behing the accurate arm of Salas and the legs of a powerful running game, should be expected to match those numbers and could roll out of Eldorado with a win.

Miles Bulldogs

The Miles Bulldogs hosted another former 3A team, the Coleman Bluecats, that went 5-6 in 2019. The Bulldogs are getting used to a new head coach, Jayson Wilhelm, after former head coach Charlie Boles left for Cumby in the offseason. Coleman is a big, strong team with coach John Elder who has been with the school since 2014. Overall, Elder has gone 41-30 overall since taking the helm of the Bluecats in 2014.

The Buldogs have a lot of weapons on both sides of the ball, including TE Brandon Rodriguez, OL/DL Joel Garcia, T/DT Christian Gutierrez and RB/MLB Brayden Dunlap. It would take a flawless performance to defeat a bigger, stronger team.

While the Bulldogs ended up falling to the Bluecats, 32-0, there were several positives in the game for Miles. Rodriguez is the team captain and was used heavily on offense and defense during the game. He proved himself to be a rugged, resilient leader that the team can depend on, especially when the chips are down.

The Bulldogs’ defense was doing a great job holding the powerful Bluecats offense during the first quarter. Coleman would score on a big play, a 70-yard pass play in which the receiver was able to get behind the defense. The cornerback was beaten from the line by the receiver and there wasn’t any help over the top. A pinpoint pass by the Bluecats quarterback on the corner route fell into the receiver’s hands like a gift.

The 2nd quarter wasn’t kind to the Bulldogs. They gave up another touchdown to the Bluecats’ offense, but also gave up a fumble return for a touchdown to the defense. The Bulldogs players had trouble getting into the Coleman backfield to disrupt the plays and timing. Coleman, on the other hand, was able to penetrate the Bulldogs’ offensive line and get several sacks and tackles for loss. They also did a fine job of stopping running plays at the line of scrimmage.

Thing settled down in the 3rd quarter, and while the Bulldogs didn’t put any points on the board, they were able to hold the Bluecats to 6 points in the 3rd and 6 points in the 4th.

While getting shut out is never a good feeling, the Bulldogs can take some solace in their defense, that kept pounding away at the Coleman offense until the last second clicked down. There are always improvements to be made and it’s only the first game of the season.

Friday the Bulldogs will welcome another strong opponent, the Coahoma Bulldogs (1-0). Coahoma is coming off of a 15-13 win over Forsan last Friday. Coahoma went 9-3 in 2019.

The game will be a good indicator of whether or not Miles is moving in the right direction. Miles is still fresh under new head coach Jayson Wilhelm and new starting quarterback Hayden Johnson. The Bulldogs have drawn a tough schedule this year. Ultimately a tough non-district schedule could benefit them when it comes to district play.

Kickoff is at 7:30 at Miles High School.

The Miles Bulldogs never stopped playing hard against the Coleman Bluecats. Here the defender takes down the runner before he can get to the line of scrimmage.