Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


July 11, 2014

Phillips: A year in the Can

Looking back on my first year in Corsicana

Corsicana — Whew!

That went fast.

Hard to believe I recently celebrated my first year in Corsicana.

It's impossible to go over a year of memories in one column because there are so many that rush at me at once.

I got here just in time to celebrate the reunion of the 1963 Corsicana Tiger football team in what is still one of my best nights as a sports writer — of this year or any year.

You can't be around the men who played on that team without admiring what they did and who they are, and respect the way they feel about that magical ride in the Blue Goose and how they feel about each other.

Those feelings are at the heart of high school sports, and how they stay with you for a lifetime. Games and moments really do last forever in sports, and I honestly believe they run deeper and are so much richer in high school.

I've covered just about everything in pro sports, and still feel that way. No one believes me when I tell them I had more fun covering the Kerens LadyCats and their playoff run to the Class 1A state title game than I had the year I covered the Miami Heat.

Honest, it's true.

I loved covering pro and college sports, but it has never compared to covering town-ball, and there's no better place to cover town-ball than in Texas.

I still hold a special place in my heart for the Cayuga baseball team, the Palestine boys' basketball team and the Grapeland Sandiettes basketball teams of the early 1980s when I began my career at the Palestine Herald Press.

I've got long list of high school teams that I fell in love with in my years in Georgia, and now I've got a new list of Texas teams to add to the list.

In the end, it's all about people, and I've met so many wonderful and gracious people in one year here and can't think of a bad moment covering sports for the Daily Sun.

I'm still mad about the state title game that the Kerens girls lost (I use the word lost because I still believe they were robbed), and the Hubbard girls softball team captured my heart on their run to Austin.

Then there were the Dawson boys and their “Hold the Rope” march to the state baseball tournament in Round Rock. When the Dawson fans started chanting “Hold The Rope” in the region final game against Trenton in Saginaw, it gave me goosebumps.

There's nothing like those runs in the playoffs, those hold-your-breath runs that capture everyone in the school and the community. Trust me, when the community jumps onboard for the ride it changes everything.

I've seen it in the World Series and at Super Bowls when the city catches fire for its team, and that's its own chapter in Americana. That's exciting and can be heart-rendering. But it's just different when it's town-ball.

Those Dawson kids on the diamond – that's Dawson, the kids, the parents, the town — and they're playing for everyone and everyone gets a ride of a lifetime.

It was the same with Kerens and Hubbard and with all the teams in the Golden Circle, because they are playing for so much more.

Take a look at that sea of green that showed up in Austin to see the LadyCats represent Kerens, where everybody bleeds Kelly Green for the teams that represent the high school there.

I've never covered any team at any time that had the resolve and determination those Kerens girls had. They just didn't talk about “Unfinished Business.” Those words became far more than a slogan or motto — they became their identity as the Kerens kids played an unrelenting brand of basketball that just blew teams off the court.

The Hubbard softball team had its own burning desire in the playoffs and the comeback wins and pressure-cooker games just made those kids want it and appreciate it that much more.

My favorite moments are when Dawson beat Trenton to reach the state tournament and when Hubbard, which had lost on Friday night in China Spring, came back and won back-to-back games in a doubleheader to beat Bosqueville to reach the state softball tournament.

And of course, my favorite moment had to be when Kerens beat Martin's Mill in Tyler to reach the state tournament. The build-up to that game and all the revenge and pain Kerens took into a game against the defending state champs and the school that had beaten Kerens at state two years earlier made it the game of the year for me.

I couldn't have been happier for the kids and the town when Kerens won.

I had the same feelings for the Dawson baseball team and Hubbard's softball team. Those playoff runs highlighted my first year. It was so much fun to be a part of it. Don't tell Raymond Linex, but I should have paid him to cover those games.

The playoff runs and the '63 Tigers were the highlights, but there were a ton of other moments.

Watching Tyler Ellis kick his 48-yard field goal with seven seconds left to lift Blooming Grove over Jacksboro and give the Lions their first playoff win since 1977 was priceless. It goes hand in hand with  covering Corsicana's girls basketball team that won 20 games and reached the playoffs for the first time in 23 years.

I don't even have words for covering Corsicana's baseball team. What a great, scrappy bunch of kids, and just being around Heath Autrey is a joy. He's a baseball man from head to toe and a great teacher of the game.

Football is a different animal, and I love everything about Texas high school football. It was a tough year for most of the Golden Circle teams, but it was a great year for me getting to know the coaches and players.

I still can't believe the Navarro softball team didn't win a national title, and I still believe if the Bulldogs women's soccer team had played the title game on a dry field that Debbie Bonner's kids would have been the national champs.

I can guarantee you they will win it all this year.

I'm already excited about the upcoming football season. It's hard to realize I covered a game where the final was 77-65, and even more unbelievable is that Tray Owens rushed for 467 yards that night.

Football always produces everlasting moments.

Just like my first year in Corsicana ...

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