Looking back at the year 2021 in sports
We’ve reached the end of the calendar year where game action slows down over winter break. While there are still basketball games being played during the final two weeks of 2021, local teams had a week off from games. This pause gives time for reflection on 2021 in regards to sports at Graham High School as well as Young County. In no particular order, here are five memorable moments of 2021 in Graham and Young County sports.
County of Champions
If this were a ranked list, this historic moment would make a strong argument for the top moment of 2021 in all of Young County. When the dust was settled on Bi-District weekend in the UIL football playoffs, Graham, Olney and Newcastle high schools all emerged as bi-district champions at the same time for the first time in county history.
The feat started Nov. 11 when the Olney Cubs met Ralls. The Cubs broke a school record for total rushing yards with 533 yards on their way to a 49-14 win and their first Bi-District championship since 2000.
Four players combined for six rushing touchdowns, led by 224 yards and three touchdowns from Gatlin Guy. JoVani Rockmore had 108 yards and two touchdowns. Cole Turner had 58 yards and one touchdown. The Cubs did not attempt a single pass in the game.
That same day Newcastle football coach Julian Menchaca and his Bobcats were looking to break their own playoff drought. The Bobcats entered Thursday’s matchup against Union Hill after missing the playoffs via tiebreaker in 2019 and a third-place district finish in 2020. Their 56-14 victory marked the Bobcats’ first bi-district championship since 2016.
After giving up 14 points in the first quarter to the Union Hill Bulldogs, the Bobcats’ defense held the Bulldogs scoreless for the rest of the game as Cash Strawbridge and Mac Cabera and the Bobcats offense ran away to a bi-district championship. Strawbridge and Cabrera combined for 301 rushing yards. Strawbridge added 117 yards passing, including 110 yards and one touchdown pass to Hunter Martinez.
The feat was completed by the Graham Steers.
It was a complete team effort, as the cliche goes. The Steers’ offense kept the Indians’ defense off the field. The Steers’ defense made plays when it needed to, including three turnovers. The game opened with a near-six-minute drive by the Steers that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by junior Noah Jilek. He had his second 200-yard rushing game to match his second three-touchdown game of the season.
The Steers’ defense gave up 315 yards through the air but held their ground in the running game. The Indians could only gain 2.3 yards per carry on 77 yards and 33 carries.
The celebration was short-lived. All three teams lost the following week in the area playoff.
Steers open season in last-minute thriller
The first game of the season lends itself to more mistakes than you will typically season in a season. When you add the fact that both the Steers and Alvarado are young teams, mistakes are inevitable. The Steers looked strong for the first 14 minutes of the game. This year’s season-opener looked poised to be a repeat of last year’s blowout win. It was not perfect but the Steers were running away with the game. Or, they seemed to be.
After starting fast with two touchdowns in the first quarter. The Steers did leave points on the field with a botched snap on a field goal attempt on the team’s first drive.
Fast forward to the Steers’ final drive of the game. Freshman quarterback Ty Thompson was tasked for his first game-clinching drive in his first start at any level of high school football with less than two minutes left on the clock and his team trailing 35-28.
For the rest of the story, see the Dec. 29 edition of The Graham Leader.