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After young squad surprised in 2020, Class 1A, DII Walnut Springs Hornets aim to claim mythical Bosque County championship

WALNUT SPRINGS — As far as Walnut Springs football head coach Lonnie Flippen is concerned, it would be something special to win the mythical Bosque County Six-Man Football Championship. And after a surprising second place finish in the all-Bosque County District 12-1A, Division II last season, that’s exactly what the Hornets intend to do.

But despite 10 returning lettermen that include four offensive and four defensive starters, Walnut Springs (7-4 overall, 3-1 in district) has once again been picked to finish as runner-ups to the defending district champion and preseason 20th-ranked Morgan Eagles (9-3, 4-0).

“It’s great to have earned a little respect, so now we just have to live up to it,” said Flippen after the Hornets lost decisively to Morgan in last year’s district title showdown. “I would rather be the number two underdog than have that target on my back. But Morgan can probably handle the pressure. They are sort of loaded again, and I can only hope they don’t embarrass us again like last year.”

Thanks in part to the Covid pandemic, The Battle for the Bosque proved to be a bit anti-climatic last season as Kopperl decided to cancel its season, Iredell shut down its team before district, and Cranfills Gap struggled to stay on the field due to Covid and injuries. But if all goes well, the 2021 season could turn out to be something special.

“I always hesitate to talk about preseason district standings,” Flippen said. “But just listening to the other coaches, I think all three of the other teams are young with Kopperl being very young.

“You better not ever count Iredell or the Gap out, because they often rise to the occasion when least expected it. I have made that mistake to underestimate them in the past.”

Leading the Hornets in their quest to claim Walnut Springs’ first district title since 2011, senior running back Corey Hargrove returns after rushing for 809 yards and 12 touchdowns with an 11.1 yards per carry average.

Sophomores Diego Muniz and Adrian Chavez will also share the ball carrying duties as Muniz rushed for 463 yards and 10 touchdowns with an 11.6 average, while Chavez added 256 yards and two scores.

Despite having a dominant ground game, the Hornets will also throw the ball to a talented bunch of receivers in senior Jordan Ontiveros, along with juniors Victor Favela, Anthony Muniz and Eddie Davalos.

“I would like to think that we are at least in position to play for the runner up spot,” Flippen said. “I had 17 boys show up on the first day of conditioning, including three seniors who all played and contributed last year.

“We also have four juniors who I’m excited about. I have six sophomores who played a great deal last year, and all of them have matured some over the summer. We currently have four freshmen who will be expected to provide a little depth on occasion.”

As the dean of Bosque County six-man coaches, Flippen owns a career 169-136-2 win-loss-tie record as a head coach. 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 last season 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 2020 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.”

“In order for us to achieve what we should be capable of, our seniors and juniors will have to provide the leadership necessary from them,” Flippen said. “And I feel comfortable that they have the ability to do just that. We have a good bunch of sophomores who will provide us with some depth.

“We have a good work ethic, positive team leadership, some quickness and a desire to win. We must stay healthy and everyone must focus on their work in the classroom. I’m very excited about this season and the possibilities.”

Be sure to pick up a copy of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: 2021 BOSQUE COUNTRY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW published by The Clifton Record & Meridian Tribune on newsstands this week.

Photos by ASHLEY BARNER & courtesy of Bosque County Publishing

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