ENDING ON A POSITIVE NOTE

in Football

For two proud football programs in Class 2A, the Division I Valley Mills Eagles and DII Meridian Yellow Jackets hope to wrap up the regular season with something to build on in the future

With the third-ranked Crawford Pirates and seventh-ranked Tolar Rattlers grabbing the Class 2A, Division I spotlight in the Heart of Texas while the top-ranked Mart Panthers once again rule Class 2A, DII, a pair of once proud programs have fallen on hard times.

After making back-to-back playoff appearances in 2018 and 2019, the Class 2A, DII Valley Mills Eagles stand on the brink of missing the postseason for the third straight season. And even after the UIL realignment last February, the Eagles found themselves once again playing in one of the toughest districts in Central Texas.

Likewise for Bosque County arch-rival Meridian as the Yellowjackets have not posted a winning record since 2016. After undergoing their third head coaching change in four seasons, the Jackets were hoping to compete for their first playoff berth in five years. But with diminishing enrollment numbers, Meridian battled through the 2022 campaign as the smallest school in the state playing 11-man football, opting to play up rather than accept moving down to six-man football.

With that being said, both Valley Mills and Meridian entered their regular season finales hoping for some positive outcomes to build on for the future.

VALLEY MILLS 20, BOSQUEVILLE 13

Facing a do-or-die situation to keep their slim postseason hopes alive until the final game of the season, the Valley Mills Eagles surprised perennial powerhouse Bosqueville, 20-13, in a key District 8-2A, Division I showdown last Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.

Senior running back Joe Taylor rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown, junior quarterback Cason Johnson connected with junior wide receiver Thomas Perez on a 42-yard scoring strike, and junior K’Shawn Montgomery returned an interception for a touchdown to lead the Eagles to their second win in three games.

“We’ve won two out of the last three, so there is a very small window of a three-way tie,” Valley Mills head coach Bob Featherston said. “The defense played one of their best games of the season against Bosqueville. Multiple goal line stands and an interception for a touchdown made the difference.”

The Bulldogs (2-4, 3-6) struck quickly on a 55-yard touchdown pass, but Valley Mills responded by scoring 20 unanswered points to take a shocking 20-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Bosqueville burned the Eagles defense for a 45-yard scoring strike, but it proved to be too little, too late.

Defensively, junior Will McDonald led the Eagles with 13 tackles, followed by sophomore Joshua McKain with seven takedowns, and sophomore Fred Sadler with a fumble recovery.

Although they will need help, the Eagle victory set up a possibility for a three-way tie for the final fourth place playoff berth from District 8-2A, DI as Valley Mills wraps up the regular season by hosting runner-up Marlin (5-1, 5-4) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. If the Eagles win, Bosqueville knocks off the Riesel Indians (3-3, 4-5) on the road, and Moody (2-4, 4-5) upsets third-place Rosebud-Lott (4-2, 6-3), it would actually create a four-way tie for fourth place.

“It was a great win for our kids,” Featherston said. “And hopefully, we can use that momentum to play well this week against a very good Marlin team.”

HICO 45, MERIDIAN 13

Looking to lock down a playoff berth, the Hico Tigers came ready to play to storm past the Meridian Yellow Jackets, 45-13, in a District 10-2A, Division II matchup Friday on Senior Night at Jacket Stadium.

With the win, the Tigers (3-3 in district, 4-6) clinched the fourth-place playoff berth behind Class 2A, DII’s top-ranked and district champion Mart (5-0, 9-0), as well as playoff-bound Dawson (4-1, 8-1) and Wortham (4-1, 7-2), who will battle for second place this Friday. The Jackets (0-5, 0-9) will travel to Frost to take on the Polar Bears (1-4, 2-7) in the regular season finale in hopes of avoiding a winless campaign.

The Tigers scored early to take control of the game, but Meridian battled back late as junior Brayden Wehmeyer rushed for one touchdown and threw for another, connecting with senior Brady Taylor on the scoring strike.

“We dug ourselves into a hole early in the first quarter,” Meridian head coach Jim Kerbow said. “We did some good things later in the game. However, it was too late to recover.”

Hico shut down the Jacket offensive attack for most of the game, limiting Meridian to only 149 yards of total offense. Wehmeyer completed 10 of 17 passes for 81 yards and led the Jackets in rushing with 54 yards on nine carries. Alex Rodriguez led Meridian receivers with three catches for 36 yards.

“Offensively, we struggled early,” Kerbow said. “We turned the ball over twice deep in our territory. We were finally able to get the ball out on the perimeter, which opened up our inside run game in the second half.”

In the meantime, Hico moved the ball at will and capitalized on turnovers, scoring early and often to take control of the game and clinch a playoff spot. Defensively, senior Alejandro Rodriguez led the Jackets with 14 tackles, followed by junior Noah Alvizo and Taylor with nine each, and freshman Jesse Scott with seven tackles and an interception, while Alex Rodriguez recovered a fumble.

“Defensively, we had our backs up against the wall early due to turnovers,” Kerbow said. “We struggled with their offense and the weather conditions the first half. But we came out in the second half and played a lot better.”

The Jackets wrap up the season on the road against the Frost Polar Bears at 7 p.m. Friday. Frost will be coming off their first district win for the season with an impressive 44-12 victory over Hubbard (1-4, 1-8).

“Frost will have some size,” Kerbow said. “They run a multitude of formations offensively. Defensively, they are very multiple as well. However, we feel like if we can get lined up to their formations defensively, and we can dominate the line of scrimmage on offense, we can be successful Friday night and end of season on a positive note.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO & courtesy of VALERIE KENDRICK PHOTOGRAPHY

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