TVCC Cardinals finish up spring practices at Bruce Field Saturday

Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

While the NFL was at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Saturday, wrapping up the annual player pageant called the draft, an elite Texas football team was actually using its field for its intended purpose.

And, no, I don’t mean the Cowboys.

The TVCC Cardinals finished their spring practice schedule with the Annual Spring Game at Bruce Field in Athens Saturday morning.

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No. 3 TVCC is set to take on No. 14 Blinn Saturday night

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

This is what it means to play in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference: a third straight week against a nationally ranked opponent.

No. 3-ranked Trinity Valley Community College (3-0, 2-0) will travel to Brenham Saturday night to take on the No. 14 Blinn Buccaneers (2-0, 2-0).

“I expect it to be another great game,” said TVCC Coach Brad Smiley. “I tell our kids every week, ‘Hey all you freshmen, every week’s a game.'”

Saturday night will match two teams that are leaning on their defenses early in the season.

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Athens gets ready for first road trip, Red Oak

(Podcast: Listen to Coach Essary talk about last week’s loss to Fairfield and the upcoming game against Red Oak above.)

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

The Athens Hornets will hit the road for the first time this season, traveling to Red Oak to take on the Hawks Friday night.

Both teams are 1-1 to start the season.

The Hawks will provide a good challenge for the Hornets.

“Red Oak is a good football team; well coached,” said Athens Head Coach Paul Essary.

Essary said Red Oak will be the biggest team the Hornets have seen so far this season.

“The play hard and the execute well,” Essary said.

The Hawks like to run the ball and stopping that will be a key for the Hornets.

“We’re going to have to be physical on the defensive side,” Essary said. “On the offensive side we’re going to have to stay on our blocks and execute. We’re going to have to start catching the football a little bit better, and we’re working on that.”

The Hawks are a Class 5A school, so they have a bigger student population, but that doesn’t worry Athens.

“They’re going to dress out 50 to 60 players on the sideline. They’re twice the size school we are,” said Essary. “But that’s OK, you only put 11 out on the field at a time. It doesn’t matter how many are on the sideline.”

“We’re going to line up and get after it,” he said.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday in Red Oak.

TVCC moves up to No. 3; set to face third straight ranked team

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

The Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals (3-0, 2-0) moved up a spot to No. 3 in the nation when the NJCAA Football Poll Committee rankings came out Tuesday. 

Those same rankings, however, ensured that the Cards will play a nationally ranked team for the third consecutive week. Blinn entered the rankings at No. 14 this week.

TVCC will travel to Brenham, Texas to take on Blinn (2-0, 2-0) Saturday.

“We are blessed to have another opportunity to play an unbeaten team, and our third consecutive to play a team ranked in the top 14 in the nation,” said Coach Brad Smiley. “As for our ranking, it is good to be recognized as a program, but we all know rankings only matter at the end of the year. We will just focus on going 1 and 0 this week.”

Kickoff Saturday is scheduled for 7 p.m.

I will be in Brenham Saturday night and plan to live stream the game on Henderson County Now’s Facebook page.

Eight observations as Malakoff edges Rusk, 29-27

(Michael V. Hannigan photo)

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

MALAKOFF — Interview as many football coaches as I have and you will eventually hear that games, especially close games, come down to a handful of plays. Those plays can happen at anytime, on offense, defense or special teams and you never know which plays are the crucial ones until the game is over.

Friday night, that truism came to life in Malakoff.

In the second quarter, Malakoff’s Ethan Snow intercepted Rusk quarterback Andreas Garrett and the Tigers took the ball down the field and scored on a Zee Bailey run. On the ensuing PAT kick attempt, Rusk was called for a penalty and the ball was moved to the 1 yard line. Malakoff Coach Jamie Driskell immediately sent his offense back out for a 2-pt attempt, which Judd Miller converted running up the middle.

That was one of those plays. Because of that second quarter 2-pt conversion, Rusk was down 2 after scoring a touchdown with just 20 seconds left in the game. The Eagles had to try for the 2-pt attempt and failed.

Final score: Malakoff 29 – Rusk 27.

Which goes to show you, there’s a reason coaches say the things they say.

Here are some of my other observations from the sidelines in Malakoff Friday night:

– The Tiger defense came up big against a very good Rusk offense. There were five times throughout the game that Rusk had the ball inside the Malakoff 30 yard line and the Tigers turned them back.

– In addition to Ethan Snow’s pick, the Tigers got interceptions from Zee Bailey and Iverson Sparks. Sparks took his to the end zone, but it was called back for an illegal block on the return.

– Speaking of Sparks, he laid a hit on a Rusk receiver in the third quarter that brought the Malakoff crowd to life with one, massive “Ohhhhhhhh.” It was a perfect form tackle, just the way they teach.

– The Malakoff offense got moving in the fourth quarter behind a physical running attack, led by Judd Miller, Zee Bailey and R.J. Carr. Miller scored two rushing touchdowns in the fourth, including a 10-yard run where the Rusk defense had him at the 3, but he refused to go down.

– You might have noticed Zee Bailey’s name all over this column. That’s because he was all over the game and was a vital component on both offense and defense for the Tigers.

– The first touchdown of the night for Malakoff came on a wide receiver screen to Jaquaylon Hart. Hart is another one of those players who had a big game on both sides of the ball.

– Sometimes it is hard to see a coach’s influence on the game unless you are part of the inner circle and have actually seen the game plan, but there were some overt coaching decisions tonight. First, you could see Malakoff wanted to keep their players as rested as possible, so from the very start of the game players were rotating in and out on almost every play. Then there was Driskell’s decision to go for 2 in the second quarter. Finally, the decision to pound the running game in the fourth quarter. All three moves were key in a close game.

– Finally, Malakoff basketball and cross country coaching legend DeArtis “The Dean” Nickerson was at the game. That doesn’t have anything to do with the football game, but Coach Nick is worth mentioning whenever I see him.