Welcome to Varsity Preview, a new magazine from Zachry Publications that will provide a preseason look at area high school football and volleyball teams.
This will be three-times-a-year publication with a preview of the Big Country high school boys and girls basketball teams later this year and a preview of area baseball and softball teams next spring.
It is our hope that this fall will be a “normal” football and volleyball season. Last year, obviously, was anything but normal. As we looked back on the football and volleyball seasons a year ago, we were struck by the number of cancellations and forfeits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding photos revealed coaches and fans wearing masks. And there weren’t the usual number of fans in the stands, either. The start of the Class 5A and 6A football and volleyball seasons were delayed by a month and the football playoffs in those two classifications didn’t end until January, a first for the sport in Texas.
Seniors a year ago saw anything but a “normal” final high school season. But, of course, that was better than the previous spring when the 2020 baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track seasons were canceled, taking away the opportunity for those senior athletes to have their final season of high school competition.
So a “normal” high school football and volleyball season with no cancellations or disruptions of schedules would certainly be a welcome change.
Even though the football and volleyball season were unusual last year, there were some amazing accomplishments. None greater than Jim Ned’s Class 3A Division I state football championship, however.
The Indians scored on a two-point conversion pass in overtime to beat Hallettsville 29-28 in one of the most exciting finishes in University Interscholastic League history. With a number of starters, including quarterback Tate Yardley and running back/linebacker Xavier Wishert returning, Jim Ned is the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the state, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine.
Jim Ned wasn’t even ranked in the state preseason polls a year, which is what is so exciting about Texas high school football. Can Jim Ned repeat? Who will be this year’s Jim Ned?
Who will be this year’s other surprises? Remember Abilene High ending a playoff drought and going three rounds deep in the Class 6A Division II playoffs while head coach Mike Fullen was undergoing chemotherapy in his battle against cancer. Wylie made the playoffs a year ago for the first time since moving up to Class 5A? Can the Bulldogs do it again?
What about perennial powers such as Albany and Cisco? Can they make deep playoff runs again? There are a number of new coaches in new places this fall, including Russell Lucas who made the jump from Hamlin to Sweetwater and Britt Hart who moved from Merkel to Stamford.
Area volleyball teams found success last year, too. Albany made the Class 2A state semifinals, and Abilene Cooper won its first playoff game since 2002 and advanced to the Class 5A regional quarterfinals, the Lady Cougars’ deepest playoff run in school history.
We hope Varsity Preview will whet your appetite for an exciting, unpredictable and, yes, “normal” high school football and volleyball season.