Football district play begins October 9.

Staff Writer
Runnels County Register
Runnels County Register

The Runnels County teams, Ballinger, Winters and Miles, will all begin district play with road games on October 9. The 1st half of the season held some surprises in one way or another for all 3 teams in Runnels County.

Ballinger Bearcats

Ballinger began the season ranked #12. Their first game of the season was against Jim Ned (4-1) and it was expected to be a test of whether or not Ballinger deserved that #12 ranking. The challenge was in Ballinger losing their primary running back, Bradyn Bowman, in a scrimmage against Anson, prior to the Jim Ned game. During the game, starting quarterback Tyler Vaughn went down with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Carter Arrott.

The Bearcats ended up winning the game, 20-14. The Ballinger defense held the Indians to a turnover on downs on their last possession. It was a testament to a defense that is considered to be one of the toughest defenses in 3A football.

The Bearcats would then go on to defeat Breckenridge (0-5) by the score of 13-0. After Breckenridge, the Bearcats pouned the Colorado (City) Wolves (0-5), 34-2. After the Wovles, the Bearcats faced the Clyde Bulldogs (1-4) and took them down, 21-14.

On September 25, the Bearcats traveled to Llano to face a determined Yellowjackets (5-0) team. The Yellowjackets are a balanced team that win games through the air and on the ground. Their senior quarterback, Case Kuykendall, has passed for 1,155 yards this season, while throwing 18 touchdowns to just 1 interception. In the end, Ballinger wasn’t able to get anything going as Llano stopped the Bearcats’ running and passing game. Llano won the game 34-0, handing Ballinger it’s first loss of the season. Last week, Ballinger, like all of the Runnels County teams, had a Bye week. The game against Llano might have been the eye-opener that Ballinger needed as they head into district play against Brady (2-3) this week.

Brady’s 2-3 records is mediocre at best. The 2 games that the Bulldogs won were against TLCA, 81-8, and against Dublin, 38-24. Their losses have come at the hands of Comanche, 28-7; Coleman, 15-12; and Ozona, 20-14. Other than Comanche, all of Brady’s losses have been by one score or less.

The Bulldogs always play tough against Ballinger and this game should be no different, especially on the Bulldogs’ home field. The Llano game showed Ballinger that they had some things to work on if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs. With 2 weeks to get their players tuned up for district play, there isn’t any reason that the Bearcats shouldn’t come home with a victory if they can get their offense and defense performing to their full potential.

The district schedule isn’t intimidating, but there could be some surprises in store for the Bearcats. On October 16, the Bearcats will host the (1-4) Grape Creek Eagles. This is a team that Ballinger handles pretty easily every season.

The following game is on the road against new and unbeaten district opponent, Ingram Moore (5-0). The Warriors have put up an average of 33 points per game this season, while only surrendering 10 points per game. Ingram Moore is primarily a rushing team, having only passed for 317 yards this season. The team has had 8 different players run the ball for a total of 723 yards. Senior quarterback Timothy Leatherman has been the primary rusher, carrying the ball 48 times for 367 yards and 7 touchdowns. Leatherman will be the main threat that the Bearcats will have to deal with, just as Kuykendall was with Llano. But, in that game, the Bearcats couldn’t contain him as he passed for 229 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and rushed for an average of 9.4 yards per play. The Ingram Moore game could prove eerily similar to the Llano game, especially being a road game. If the Ballinger defense can hold up, the Bearcats have a better-than-average chance of winning this game.

After Ingram Moore, the Bearcats will host the Bangs Dragons (4-0). This will be another game where Ballinger will need all of its weapons to live up to their potential if they want to win. Bangs has a strong defense that has dismantled offenses this season. The defense is big, strong and fast. They’ve only allowed a total of 34 points this season. They haven’t faced a team that has given them any problems. The Dragons defeated Early, 28-0; Florence, 55-0; Winters, 42-19 and Hawley, 39-15.

Bangs is a team with, perhaps, the most prolific passing game outside of Eldorado. Their senior quarterback, Ethan Cortez, has passed for 622 yards this season. He’s averaging 155.5 passing yards per game. Their main rusher has been Ethan Sanchez, who has 59 carries for 714 yards and 8 touchdowns. As a team, the Dragons have rushed for 1,278 yards and 13 touchdowns. The edge would, seemingly, go to Ballinger. This game is on their home field and they’ve played some tough opponents this year. By the time the Dragons roll into Ballinger, the Bearcats should be just about ready for everything, offensively and defensively.

After Bangs, the Bearcats will finish off the season on the road against (1-4) Sonora. The Broncos haven’t had a great season and going up against a bigger and stronger team like Ballinger could see the Bearcats playing their second-string players after halftime.

Winters Blizzards

The Blizzards (1-4) have had the most surprising season of any Runnels County team. They dropped their first four games and couldn’t seem to get anything going on either side of the ball. They opened the season with a loss to Anson, 34-22. After that game, the Blizzards fell to Eldorado, 51-19; Bangs, 42-19; Hawley, 36-13.

Winters defeated a hapless Hico team, 41-0, before the Bye week.

The Blizzards have not changed their offensive game plan, continuing to rush the ball for an average of over 260 yards per game. The defense has had problems stopping opposing offenses all season but going into district they should be ready to grind out some wins in big games.

Friday the Blizzards will travel to Cisco to take on the 2-3 Loboes. Cisco’s only wins came against Clyde, 39-14 and Breckenridge, 14-0. They lost their games to Wall, 35-14; Jim Ned, 39-20; and Comanche, 14-7. Strong rushing games have been the Achilles Heel of the Loboes defense this season, which bodes well for Winters.

After the Cisco game, the Blizzards will host a dynamic San Saba Armadillos team (3-2). San Saba’s passing game is about average but their running game borders on elite. They’ve put up just shy of 1,300 yards on the ground this season. This game could see fewer than 15 pass attempts, for both teams combined.

On October 23, the Blizzards will travel to Goldthwaite to battle a 2-3 Eagles team. Winters’ running game could quickly wear down the Eagles’ defense, but Goldthwaite has a deep roster with experienced players on the line.

The Blizzards follow the Goldthwaite game with another road game, this one against the De Leon Bearcats (1-4). After 3 tough district games, this could be the game that shows just how deep the Blizzards can dig and how strong their resolve is. The Bearcats, like the Blizzards, haven’t had a great season, but Winters has shown tenacity against struggling teams. Winters should win this game.

Winters will finish off the season at home on November 6, against the Coleman Bluecats (4-1). This game is the perfect cap to a Blizzards’ season that has saw them play the toughest schedule of any Runnels County team. Coleman is a strong team, their only loss coming at the hands of Anson, 38-14. The Blizzards will have to work hard to earn a win in this game, but, given their season and schedule, they should be ready to cap things off with a win.

Miles Bulldogs

We’ve discussed, ad nauseam, Miles (2-3) having a new head coach and quarterback. Things seem to have settled down as the Bulldogs have searched for their identity. They dropped their first 2 games of the season without scoring a single point. Miles then won their next 2 games, before losing on September 25, to the Cross Plains Buffaloes, 41-12.

The Bulldogs will open district play on the road against an Eldorado Eagles (1-4) team that has been a conundrum all season. The Ealges have passed for over 1,330 yards, 17 touch downs and 1 interception, while rushing for only 591 yards. If you looked just at the stats, you’d think Eldorado would have a record of 4-1. Their weakness has been their defense. They gave up 56 points to San Saba, 59 points to Coahoma, 61 points to Wink and 44 points to Sonora. This will be a tough game for the Bulldogs if they can’t do something to slow down the Eagles’ air attack. If the Miles offense can get some momentum, the game could end with both teams putting up almost 50 points.

After the Eldorado game, the Bulldogs will host the Junction Eagles (3-2). The game should be an evenly matched affair. A solid ground game for the Bulldogs, behind rushers Brayden Dunlap and Carson Ellison, could be the key to coming away from this game with a victory. The offensive line will have to have some strong run-blocking to open up lanes for the running backs.

On October 23, Miles will travel to Menard to face a Yellowjackets team that was 0-5 before the Bye week. While this game will not be a cake-walk for the Bulldogs, they should come away with a convincing win. Menard has given up over 30 points in every game this season. In one game, they gave up 46 points. They gave up over 50 points, twice.

The Bulldogs’ next game will also be a road game, as they travel to take on the Rocksprings Angoras (4-0). Rocksprings is a strong team with a stingy defense that is only giving up an average of 12 points per game this season. If Miles allows the Angoras to pull ahead early, it could be a very long night for the Bulldogs. On the other hand, if Miles can dominate early on and doesn’t commit turnovers, they could come back from Rocksprings with a big win. They’ll have to find ways to penetrate that defense on the ground. Opening up the ground game behind an effective passing game will be a key to winning the game.

The Bulldogs will finish off their season at home, against the Christoval Cougars (4-1). The Cougars are a team that strikes fast and the game can get away from the opponents in the blink of an eye.

Cougars’ Quarterback Brayden Wilcox is experienced and equally capable of passing and running the ball. He was a problem for Miles last year and could be again this year. The Cougars are putting up almost 36 points per game this season. Miles will have to score often to match Christoval blow-for-blow. Shutting down Wilcox is easier said than done. The Bulldogs will need to break up plays in the backfield and seal off the ends on Wilcox’s end runs. The Miles defense is more than capable of winning this game, as they showed in 2018, when the Bulldogs defeated the cougars, 21-20. The Bulldogs always play hard against the Cougars and this could be a great game to end the regular season on.

Runnels County Register