Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Angelo State Softball: Rambelles vs. Texas A&M-Kingsville

The Angelo State University softball team is having yet another fantastic season as they march toward the Lone Star Conference tournament. This last Saturday I had the opportunity to photograph a doubleheader at the newly turfed Mayer Field in San Angelo as the Rambelles hosted Texas A&M-Kingsville. ASU's record going into the weekend was 33-9 overall and 16-3 in Lone Star Conference play. Texas A&M-Kingsville's record wasn't so hot, 10-34 overall and 2-18 in conference play. This could end up as a blowout.

And it was.

The Rambelles won the first game 10-4 and the second game 13-1 in five innings due to a run rule. Even though the scores didn't reflect much competition, it was a special day nonetheless because six graduating seniors played their final games in front of the home crowd. ASU senior slugger Morgan Spearman went 4 for 5 with 7 RBIs, while senior pitchers Mary Kate McKay and Sandra Serna threw rockets in Game 1 and 2, respectively, to aid in the doubleheader sweep.

The next real challenge for the Rambelles will take place in two weeks when they travel to Canyon to play West Texas A&M in back-to-back doubleheaders to determine who will host the Lone Star Conference tournament. Who knows, with the way ASU is playing, perhaps those six seniors will get one more chance to play in front of the San Angelo crowd.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 1st Quarter Newspaper Clips

Well, the first quarter of the year has come and gone and that means putting up a post of the my favorite newspaper clips from the Standard-Times. As usual, the clips are dominated by sports (rodeo and basketball coverage) but we did have a pretty big event at the beginning of the year with the ordination of a new bishop. I was really hoping to blow out the inside of the A-section with photos but we just didn't have the space. It was a cool event though and I thought we did a good job of portraying the event visually.

The ordination took place at the Junell Center on the campus of Angelo State University back in January. Even though it was just a one-day event (an all-day event) it was a good warmup to the coming tide of rodeo coverage slated to start in mid-February. The format of the rodeo changed a little this year, going from a two-week schedule to a three-week program. Typically, we will have a rodeo and/or stock show page everyday on the inside of the A-section with a photo, space permitting. We weren't able to manage that everyday, but we did sneak in a few photo pages to make up for it. We even managed to publish two rodeo special sections.

Th remaining clips come from playoff basketball coverage. The Wall High School Lady Hawks had a fantastic year, earning another birth to the Class 2A state tournament in Austin and hoisting the championship trophy at the end of it. That was a fun assignment to cover, actually any assignment in Austin is fun, but this one especially because of the importance to Wall. Plus, it's always easier to cover a team going out on top rather than a team ending their season with a loss.

High School Playoff Soccer: Central vs. Keller girls

Toward the end of the regular season, The Central High School Lady Cats had to tie or win their last few soccer matches just to make it into the playoffs. After accomplishing that, the squad had to face undefeated El Paso Franklin, who had previously only allowed five goals scored all season, in the bi-district match which many people thought was not going to work out so well for Central. The Lady Cats dispatched them 2-1. Now, in the area round at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene, the team would have to face Keller High, a high-octane scoring juggernaut who netted 15 goals in their last three matches.

The first half of the game seemed to be going all Keller's way. In the game story written by reporter Carlos Silva he quoted the Keller coach Bill Griffiths saying, "We constantly wanted to try to get the ball behind them and keep them under pressure, which would make it harder for them to attack us." Griffiths' plan seemed to work as Keller scored two goals in the first 27 minutes. The Lady Cats didn't fare much better in the second half despite having a few chances in front of the net. In the 49th minute, Keller scored again giving them a 3-0 lead and the eventual win. Central finished the season with a record of 12-7-2 and will only graduate four seniors. Fifteen players will return from this year's roster.

Monday, April 7, 2014

After 70 Years, Man and Machine Reunite

When Ludwid Havlak walked into the hanger at Skyline Aviation Monday, March 31, at San Angelo Regional Airport he appeared to be your typical West Texas farmhand. Born to Czech immigrants and raised in Rowena, just a few miles east of San Angelo, Havlak grew up in the cotton fields with his father working the family plot. But when war broke out in the 1940s, Havlak made the decision to enlist rather than wait to be drafted, so he headed down to the recruiters office and joined the Army Air Corps. After boot camp and training as a radar operator, Havlak headed to the Pacific first as a ball turret gunner in a B-24 Liberator. "I flew in high altitude missions at first and thank god I got out of there," Havlak said with a chuckle. "I climbed down into that thing and on the first mission and a flash and explosion went off right next to me and I said to myself 'This is not for me.'" Havlak flew five missions in that position.

Eventually, Havlak was reassigned to his original position on the radar after one of the crews lost a man. He went on to fly 38 more missions, over 600 combat hours, on bombing runs over the islands of the South Pacific. "I could have quit at 35, but I told them I wasn't going to quit, not until they had somebody else to take my place," Havlak said. "I flew three extra missions I didn't have to and thank god it worked out." April 1945 would be the last time Havlak set foot on a B-24. But now, almost 70 years later, Havlak, now 92, would have one more chance to reunite with the machine that carried him through hell and back thanks to the Collings Foundation, an educational organization that has restored several WWII-era planes including a B-24 Liberator. Three planes, a B-17 Flying Fortress, a P-51 Mustang and a B-24 Liberator were on display at our local airport, and Havlak wanted to come and pay homage.

For being 92-years-old, Ludwig Havlak moves around as if he was 30 years younger. His step was a bit slower perhaps, his voice feeble, but his memory, tack sharp. As he walked across the tarmac passing the B-17 and P-51 without a second glance he began recalling his first combat mission. "It was April 17, 1944 and I was strapped down in that ball turret with nothing but my guns out in front of me and I was hanging out there by myself with all those flashes and smoke around me," Havlak said. "And I'll be honest with you, I was ready to go home right then." I asked him if he had served on any other aircraft during the war and in his Czech accent he said, "Oh no, that was the only one, just the B-24." His pace began to quicken, eyes fixed as he approached the parked bomber. And as if he was talking to himself he muttered, "and I'm going to over there and kiss that baby."

As Havlak neared the plane he put out an outstretched hand and lightly touched the olive green fuselage feeling the rivets of the side panels glide under his fingertips. He leaned in close and carefully pressed his weathered lips on the side of the aircraft and said, "This is it, this my plane." Now, I don't if it was the sting of the hot wind blowing around and the heat radiating up from the ground or past memories of his time in the service, but I thought I detected a few tears welling up in his eyes. He continued to walk the length of the aircraft never taking his hand off of it, followed by a few his his children that were there to witness the reunion. They began to ask questions about the plane, where he sat and and what his role on each mission was. Without hesitation Havlak began rattling off answers as if he had just landed from one of those missions. It was an awesome moment to witness, one I'll never forget.

After making a lap around the bomber and answering a few more questions Havlak asked in an almost boyish tone, "Can I go inside?" To the credit of the Collings Foundation, inside tours of the planes were free to WWII veterans, so Havlak crawled through the tiny hatch opening at the rear of the plane and made his way to the side gunner position he would have taken if his craft had been attacked by Japanese fighters. I tried to quickly follow after him but because of my large frame it took a minute to negotiate the narrow ladder into the plane with all of my camera gear. I'm convinced that all of the crew members that served on a B-24 were no taller than 5'9" and weighing a 120lbs. soaking wet.

Havlak posed for a few photos for his family and then they joined us in the plane. It was a tight squeeze, but Havlak began explaining all the bells and whistles of the aircraft, showed where the radar unit and his seat would have been all the while gingerly stepping around components of the plane with the ease of a 20-year-old. After about 20 minutes, Havlak exited the craft though one of the open bomb bay doors. Havlak stood back from the plane a few feet and looked at it with admiring eyes before saying, "She was a good aircraft flown by an amazing crew. We went through a lot of scary moments, but fortunately everything came out alright. I'll never forget that time in my life for as long as I live."

And history will never forget you, Mr. Havlak.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

High School Playoff Soccer: Lake View vs. Canyon High boys

The high school soccer playoffs is now underway and last Friday sports writer Quinton Martinez and I headed up to Lubbock (my hometown) to cover the Lake View High School Chiefs play Canyon High School in an area playoff game. Lake View was fresh off a district title and looking for a deep run in the playoffs. But the Chiefs would have to contend with Canyon's height advantage and control the ball if they wanted to advance.

For the first half Canyon had an advantage with the wind at their backs. That's one thing I don't miss about Lubbock, the wind. But, if you are playing soccer, the wind can be your best friend when trying to get the ball in the back of the net. However, the wind is not a factor when a team relies on stout determination and defense, as Lake View most certainly did. In the 15th minute, the Chiefs' Jordan Reyes chased a long pass from Anthony Moreno down the field, past two Canyon defenders and put the ball between the Canyon goalkeeper and the left post. The Chiefs took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

The second half of the game looked as if Canyon wasn't going to go down without a fight and controlled the ball for much of the time. Finally, in the 54th minute Canyon's Bretton Strickland found the back of the net to equalize the game 1-1. Now with just 26 minutes left in regulation, both teams cranked up their offensive play to avoid extra minutes.

In the 63rd minute Canyon was called for a foul for taking down Erik Rivera. Lake View's Ethan Brown sent the free-kick into the box where Julio Salas tapped the ball over to Anthony Moreno who slammed the ball into the net to give Lake View a 2-1 lead. Canyon would have their chances to tie the game later in the second, but to avail. Lake View won 2-1 to advance to the Class 4A sectional playoffs. This is the fourth consecutive year the Chiefs have won a playoff match. They will play again this Friday against Amarillo High in the sectional round.