Youthful Walnut Springs Hornets coming of age as battle for supremacy in the Bosque County league of their own begins
CRANFILLS GAP – With a league all their own, five six-man squads began the battle for the mythical Bosque County championship that has now become the feud for the District 12-1A, Division II title. And in the opening clash, the youthful Walnut Springs Hornets stung the Cranfills Gap Lions, 50-18, to dethrone the defending district champions last Friday night.
Senior quarterback Abraham Lares ran for two touchdowns and passed for another while junior running back Corey Hargrove rushed for 206 yards and two scores to lead the 23rd-ranked Hornets (1-0 in district, 5-2 overall) to a convincing district opening victory over Cranfills Gap (0-1, 1-4).
It turned out to be the only league game on tap as the 16th-ranked Morgan Eagles (4-2) had an open date, and the Iredell Dragons (1-0, 2-2) posted a forfeit win over the Kopperl Eagles, who decided to cancel their season due to Covid-19 concerns.
“It’s great to start the district with a win as it requires two wins to put us in the playoffs,” said Walnut Springs head coach Lonnie Flippen, who returned to the sideline after a seven-year absence to replace retiring long-time coach Tim Trotter. “We know that the road will still be difficult with Iredell and Morgan yet to play. Both teams are well-coached and loaded with talent.
“But I’d like to think that we are starting to gel at the right time.”
After battling through a hard-fought first quarter, Walnut Springs began to open it up behind two unanswered rushing touchdowns by Lares to build a 24-6 advantage before halftime.
Then following intermission, the Hornet defense took control of the game as freshman Diego Muniz returned a fumble recovery 30 yards for a touchdown before freshman Brenden Shuemake returned an interception 35 yards for a score to take a commanding 36-6 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Defensively, it was our most dominating game of the year,” Flippen said. “Three freshmen – Diego Muniz, Brenden Shuemake and Adrian Chavez – played outstanding. Only disappointing factor of the game was missing seven extra points.”
With Walnut Springs forcing five turnovers, senior Christian Aguilar led the Hornet with14 tackles, followed by Lares with eight takedowns, Shuemake with seven, Muniz with six and two fumble recoveries, Hargrove with six and a fumble recovery, and Chavez with six and a fumble recovery.
“We started well, but just had too many turnovers to keep up with Walnut Springs,” said Cranfills Gap head coach Adam Carroll, who now leads the Lions against state-ranked Morgan in a key district showdown this Friday. “The Morgan game will be a tough one. We have half our team out with injuries. Hoping to take care of the ball and pound the ball. Goal tomorrow is to play hard for the whole game.”
The Hornet offensive attack went back to work in the fourth quarter to close out the victory as Muniz cashed in on a two-yard run before Hargrove raced 38 yards for a score. In the first quarter, Lares opened the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown pass to junior Jordan Onterveros before Hargrove scored his first touchdown on a five-yard run.
“We now have open dates between the last two district games, which may or may not be a blessing,” Flippen said. “Right now, we’re pretty healthy and will get Pablo Gonzalez back for sure for the Iredell game. We would like to see Bryan Chavez back before the end of the year, but his return is still questionable.”
With 33 years of coaching experience, Flippen has seen plenty, but never all five Bosque County teams playing in the same district. Returning to Walnut Springs for a second stint after coaching the Hornets from 1983-91, Flippen has spent plenty of time in Bosque County, graduating from Cranfills Gap High School, coaching at Morgan on two separate occasions in the 1980s and again in the 1990s along with his terms at Walnut Springs.
“It only makes sense that five schools within basically 25-30 miles of one another should have been in the same district through the years,” Flippen said prior to the season. “It should be good for the schools as well as the county. It should give one school bragging rights within the county as to having the best program, at least for one year at a time.
“I think it’s great. Our kids know one another for the most part, which I think only makes the competition improve.”
Coming into the season, the Hornets were not expected to challenge for a playoff berth, let along the district title. But with a contagious desire to win, Walnut Springs finds itself right in the middle of the title chase conversation.
“It would also be great to win the mythical Bosque County Championship,” said Flippen, who owns a career 168-126-2 win-loss-tie head coaching record. “And this is only the second time anyone can remember all of the six-man schools in the county playing in the same district. But we’ll focus on our next game with Iredell right now.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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