Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 High School Football Playoffs: Mason vs. Centerville, State Semifinal

To quote the first line of Quinton Martinez's game story, "It's hard to win a football game when you don't have the ball." Last Friday's Class 2A Division I state semifinal game between Mason and Centerville was a pretty vanilla or you can look at it as Mason using their offense perfectly. Either way, Mason has once again punched their ticket to the state championship game for the second time in four years after dispatching Centerville 27-7.

Mason's offense dominated the clock, getting first-downs when they needed to, held Centerville to just four plays and led the game 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. It was pretty much second verse, same as the first in the second quarter as Mason held Centerville to just five plays this time and boasted a 17-0 lead heading into the half. Like I said, pretty vanilla.

To start off the second half, Centerville managed to move the ball a little, but mishandled a pitch back which Mason recovered near midfield. Mason would have to settle for a field goal by Go Chanriang making the score 20-0. Chanriang is a really cool kid by the way, originally from Thailand and moved the United States with his mom and step-dad. He kicks barefoot which is a bit unusual, kind of a throwback to the old days, but the kid doesn't miss. If you want to read a little more about him, go HERE.

Long story short, Mason's offense was a clock-eating monster, limiting Centerville's opportunities to score. Mason scored another touchdown in the fourth quarter with 8:32 left to play. Centerville did manage to score, which was pretty much the only highlight of the game for them. With the win, Mason is headed back to Arlington to play for another state championship. They won their first championship back in 2011. So that's where I'll be this Thursday. It should be an exciting game.

Monday, December 15, 2014

On the Hunt to Honor Our Heroes

Every once in awhile, you come across something that brightens your day, lifts your spirits and restores your faith in humanity. It's the little things that keep you going in life as the big things are few and far between. On Thursday afternoon, I headed out to our regional airport for a quick assignment that was brought to our attention by one of the instructors at Goodfellow Air Force Base. A group of wounded combat veterans were going to be flying in for a weekend deer hunt sponsored by Lone Star Warriors Outdoors, a Tyler-based organization that finds ranches around the state willing to host a hunt for veterans.

That in and of itself was a nice story and area ranches around San Angelo are no strangers to hosting these types of events annually, but it's not the basis for this blog post. What most impressed me about this event was the fact that everyday citizens of San Angelo came to offer thanks and show their gratitude for the veterans that are participating in this year's hunt. There weren't many, about 50, but the fact that they took time out of their day to show their support was heartwarming.

As I wandered through the crowd I came across two ladies holding American flags casually talking to one another. Cynthia Rutledge and Carrie Scott didn't know any of the veterans who were coming in, but wanted to be there to say welcome. "I heard about this on the radio and thought I would come out to show some support," Cynthia said as Carrie nodded in agreement. "These men and women were all volunteers when they joined the military and it can be tough when you are asked to put yourself in harms way and are injured. These are special people and they deserve our thanks," Cynthia added.

Like I said, we found out about this event through an active service member, Air Force Master Sgt. Chris Doggett, an instructor at the base. I was able to meet up with the good Master Sgt. at the airport and also got to meet his wife Brook and his two young daughters, Zoey and Mayzie. It was my conversation with Sgt. Doggett that really prompted me to write this post. Sergeant Doggett has been in the Air Force for just over 20 years and is due to retire in 28 days. We didn't go into detail about where all he and his family have been stationed, how many years they've had to move from place to place following orders or how long the family has been separated due to combat deployment. Our conversation centered around the city of San Angelo.

"San Angelo is a city with a small town feel," Chris said. "It's by far the most military-supportive city we have ever been to." This isn't the first time I've heard this said, but for some reason it just stuck with me that day. "I'm due to retire in a month and after just four years here, this is where we are going to stay, we are going to make San Angelo our permanent home." If that's not the best endorsement for a city then I don't know what is. "It's the people, the friendly smiles you get from perfect strangers on the street that really set this place apart," Chris said. "This is where we want to raise our kids."

I am a community photographer and San Angelo is the community I have the privilege to cover. I have lived here for almost 11 years now, far longer than I originally anticipated when I first moved here as a young aspiring journalist back in 2004. And who knows, my wife and I may decide to move away to another city in another part of the country. But for now, this is home. And, as I have  learned over the last decade, I couldn't have picked a better place.

Monday, December 8, 2014

2014 High School Football Playoffs: Mason vs. Refugio, State Quarterfinal

We are getting closer to the state championship games for high school football here in Texas and, amazingly enough, we here at the Standard-Times still had two teams left in the playoffs as of last Friday. Sonora High School, about 70 miles south of San Angelo on I-10, and Mason High School, about 100 miles southeast of San Angelo, were going to be competing in the state quarterfinals. Sports writer Charles Bryce and I were to cover the game between No. 5-ranked Mason and No. 1-ranked Refugio at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio.

No one in the office really knew how the Mason/Refugio game would turn out because there some interesting story lines at play here. Mason played an undefeated Three Rivers team in the regional final and shut them out 42-0 so they obviously had a defense that could hold up. And, Refugio's top running back was going to be out for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Really it was anyone's game to win.

Even though Refugio's star running back, Isaiah Perez, was out of the game, Mason had to contend with the Bobcats' quarterback Jaylon Mascorro who could pass and run the ball with the best of them. Refugio took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 7-yard Mascorro pass to Jonathan Rosas. Mason answered back with a score of their own in the second quarter on a 10-yard run from Seth Hudson, but the Punchers failed to make the point-after-attempt on a bad snap and trailed 7-6. Refugio scored again on yet another pass to go up 14-6 with 7:22 left in the half.

But when your season is on the line, big plays can spark a comeback and turn the momentum of the game. Just 13 seconds after Refugio scored, Mason's Miguel Castillo sprinted to the far end of the field for a 65-yard touchdown to give the Punchers new life. Instead of settling for a PAT, Mason elected to go for a two-point conversion as Castillo connected with Hudson to tie the game at 14-14. Mason then held Refugio to a three-and-out and drove almost the length of the field before giving kicker Go Chanriang a chance for a 32-yard field goal. The ball split the uprights down the middle and looked as though Chanriang could have hit a 50-yard field goal without batting an eye. Mason led 17-14 heading into the half.

Refugio, who won a state title back in 2011 and lost in the title game last year, wasn't going to go away quietly and with 9:14 remaining in the fourth quarter scored on a 5-yard run from Omri Oliver. However, they missed the point-after-attempt which meant that Mason was only trailing by a field goal. If Mason could control the ball and manage the clock, they could have a chance to tie the game or even take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, Mason wouldn't have to worry about that as Seth Hudson was able to run the ball into the end zone from 4 yards out to take the lead 24-20 with 7:31 remaining in the ball game.

The Mason defense was going to have to stand strong and not let the Refugio offense gain momentum late in the game. Refugio was making a good drive down the field but Omri Oliver fumbled the ball deep in Mason's territory which was recovered by the Punchers with less than two minutes remaining. All Mason had to do now was milk the clock and they would be heading to the state semifinals the next week. It was a fantastic win for Mason who knocked off Refugio 24-20. The Mason sideline went nuts as they ran out onto the field. Photographing a happy team is so much easier than a team that just saw their season come to end. Hopefully, we'll get the same kind of result next week when Mason meets Centerville in Georgetown.