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.

Malakoff takes lead on Zee Bailey TD run. Miller run good. Drive set up by Ethan Snow INT .. 15-7 Malakoff .. 2Q 2:38

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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.

Malakoff ties it up as Jaquaylon Hart took a WR screen to the house. 7-7 1Q 7:05.

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– 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.

Malakoff coaching legend DeArtis "The Dean" Nickerson was at Friday night's game.

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AHS cross country medals

The Athens High School cross country team did well Thursday at the Midlothian meet, with many running personal bests, and six bringing home top-15 medals. There were anywhere from 76 to 91 runners in each division. Pictured, from left, are Cindy Lopez, 13th place, JV girls; Alexis Robles, 7th place, JV girls; Jesica Cleto, 8th place, JV girls; Aracely Castillo, 14th place, varsity girls; Daniela Jimenez, 15th place, JV girls; and Jose Escobedo, 8th place, varsity boys. (Courtesy photo)

No. 4 TVCC set to host No. 11 NEO Saturday night

(Listen to our podcast with Coach Smiley above.)

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

When the No. 4-ranked Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals (2-0, 1-0) kick off against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Saturday evening, it will be almost one year to the day since the Cardinals last lost a game.

To the same NEO Golden Norsemen (1-0, 1-0).

“Obviously we didn’t play well in that game,” said TVCC Coach Brad Smiley about the 30-29 loss, the Cardinals only loss of 2016. “That was our worst game of the year.”

Continue reading “No. 4 TVCC set to host No. 11 NEO Saturday night”

Malakoff gets ready for speed as Rusk set to visit

Coach Jamie Driskell talks to his team during the preseason. (Michael V. Hannigan photo)

(Listen to our podcast with Coach Jamie Driskell above.)

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

The Malakoff Tigers (1-0) stumbled a couple of times last week on the way to beating Bullard, 48-34, on the road. The Tigers will have to be better this week if they want another win when they play their home opener against Rusk.

Rusk (1-0) torched Center 48-21 to open its season last week.

The Eagles had two players combined for more than 370 yards rushing in their opener.

“The quarterback can really run,” said Malakoff Coach Jamie Driskell, “he’s just a really good athlete. And their running back can really run. They’ve got some speed on the outside with their receivers. We’ve got a challenge ahead of us and it’s a good challenge.”

Continue reading “Malakoff gets ready for speed as Rusk set to visit”

Athens Hornets prepare to host Fairfield for Civil Service Night

(Listen to the podcast with Coach Paul Essary above.)

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

Friday night, the Athens Hornets will be looking to beat Fairfield for back-to-back home victories to start the season. Last week, the Hornets outlasted Mexia, 6-0, to open the new Bruce Field.

Fairfield lost their opener to No. 5 La Vega, 46-7, but Athens Coach Paul Essary said fans shouldn’t read too much into that score.

“I looked at (La Vega) on film,” he said. “If there’s anybody any better than them, I don’t want to play them because they’re pretty salty. La Vega is a good football team.”

Fairfield’s quarterback, Kameron Ransom, is the focus of the Eagle offense. Against La Vega he ran 29 times for 95 yards and threw for another 36.

“He’s a very explosive runner and he can throw the football well,” said Essary. “He’s the guy that makes their offense go.”

As for the Hornets, Essary said his team is trying to improve every day.

“We’re practicing the little things,” he said. “The little thing are what really make you click.”

Friday night is Civic Service Night at Bruce Field. Police, firefighters, EMTs, first responders and military personnel in uniform will be admitted free.

“They put their lives on the line every day for us,” said Essary, “and Athens ISD, Athens Hornets football and Coach Paul Essary appreciates what they do. My hat is off to them.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

(Follow Michael V. Hannigan on Twitter/Instagram @mvhannigan)