-by Julie Elrod
Disclaimer: This is not a sports article by a sports writer.. or even someone who is well versed in football. This is a write up by a person who has become a Strawn Greyhound fan while attending and live streaming every Strawn game for the past 9 seasons. So, pardon the lack of expertise, but here are the facts as I saw them and statistics as I researched them…
Coach Dewaine Lee and his Strawn Greyhounds made this season look effortless. They cruised through the first 13 games this season playing past halftime only twice. They stopped their opponents in every other game by halftime with at least a 45 point spread, triggering the mercy rule. I wasn’t sure if they were that good or they just weren’t being challenged much by their opponents. It turns out they were that good. Well conditioned, fast, and a wide field of talent can apparently make things look easy.
We hadn’t seen the magic they would show during the 2nd half of a game until the semi-final’s playoff against Milford. Facing Milford, the Hounds seemed to pick up steam as they moved from a close game at the half to leaving their opponent in the dust by the end of the game. They were an energetic, well-oiled machine and they really shined during the 2nd half of their 102 – 71 win over Milford. They repeated that performance, even stepping it up some when they defeated Balmorhea at AT&T Stadium Wednesday afternoon. With Balmorhea, they took command in the first half and kept the momentum going through the entire game. Strawn’s strong defense and fast offense seems to be a combination that is impossible to beat.
Balmorhea struck first less than a minute into the game with a 63-yard touchdown by Kyle Garcia and a good kick after by Marcos Mendoza lighting up their side of the scoreboard with 8 points. Less than two minutes later, Strawn answered back with a 35-yard touchdown run by Carlos Villanueva. After making history by being the first female to play in a State Championship game, Strawn’s kicker, senior, K-Lani Nava added another line to the books by being the first female to score in a State Championship game, tieing the game at 8. By the end of the game, 9 of the 10 points after attempts by Nava were good with one kick being blocked.
Balmorhea took possession of the ball but they were stopped by Strawn’s defense and turned the ball over on downs.
JW Montgomery led the defense with 10 tackles and 4 assists followed by Ivan Ruiz’s 5 tackles and 10 assists. Zavion Winegart, Marco Lopez, and Trey Hodgkins held up Balmorhea’s plans with a combined 16 tackles and 20 assists.
Strawn’s 30-yard drive ended with a touchdown by Tanner Hodgkins with 3:43 left in the first quarter. Adding Nava’s 2 points, and another turnover on downs by Balmorhea, the quarter ended with Strawn 16, Balmorhea 8.
Hodgkins started off the 2nd quarter with a 50-yard touchdown but Nava’s kick was blocked.
A 59-yard touchdown drive by Balmorhea and a blocked kick narrowed Strawn’s lead to 22-14.
Another Hodgkins touchdown, a touchdown pass by Villanueva to Gavin Duncan, two more successful Nava points after kicks, a Balmorhea Garcia touchdown and a Mendoza kick ended the first half with Strawn in the lead, 38-22.
Strawn started the 3rd quarter with a Villanueva touchdown and another two points, compliments of Nava. Balmorhea scored on a pass to Mendoza but Strawn’s Fraga blocked the extra points kick.
A 46-yard drive by Strawn ended with a complete pass to Hodgkins for a touchdown and Nava’s extra points brought the score to Strawn 54, Balmorhea 28. The quarter ended after Balmorhea turned the ball over on downs and Fraga scored a 40-yard touchdown for Strawn. Nava added her 2 points to strengthen Strawn’s lead, 62-28.
Balmorhea’s Kyle Garcia scored twice in the 4th quarter with only one successful kick by Abraham. Strawn scored twice with a Cervantes pass to Winegart and a recovered on-side kick returned by Villanueva. Those touchdowns were capped off with two successful kicks by Nava. These would be the final plays of her football career.
The Strawn Greyhounds end the game with a final score of 78-42 and end their season as the 6-Man 1A Division 2 State Champions!
JW Montgomery received the Defense MVP award and Tanner Hodgkins received Offense MVP award.
It was a blast following the team again this season and I look forward to next season. Thanks to Jeff Hopkins and his dad, Doug Hopkins for their descriptive view of each game for our listeners. Congratulations Coach Lee, Jose Cervantes, Michael Forester and the Strawn Greyhounds!
The following photos are a view of the game from the press box. Photos by Dan Elrod