Sports and Outdoors


Area teams get new loop in ’06
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Following an eventful 2005, area teams looked forward to 2006 and the biennial University Interscholastic League realignment.
For Mabank, there was hope the UIL would draw the Class 4A line a little higher, so the school – one of the smallest 4A districts in the state – would drop back down to 3A, and get out of arguably one of the toughest districts in the state.
Eustace had the same hope, only to be dropping down from 3A to 2A, where the school’s enrollment would be at the top of the classification, instead of near the bottom.
As it turned out, the February UIL realignment did local parents and fans a favor, putting Mabank, Eustace and Kemp in the new District 13-3A, where no one had to travel farther than Ferris to play, and that began to pay off in the fall with higher gate receipts.
District basketball competition opened in January, and it quickly became apparent the Kemp Yellowjackets (the loop favorite) would be one of the better teams in the area.
Both the Mabank girls and boys found themselves in the middle of the district pack, while the Eustace girls and boys didn’t see much success.
The Kemp girls basketball program dwindled drastically, and by the season’s end, just seven girls remained playing.
An early loss at Kaufman relegated the Kemp boys to the district’s second-place playoff berth, and the ’Jackets knocked off Commerce in bidistrict action to advance to the area round.
In area competition at Mesquite, the Princeton Panthers knocked Kemp’s boys out of the state playoffs with a 57-44 win.
Three Kemp players were honored by district coaches, as junior post Jacarri Culberson was named the district’s Most Valuable Player, while junior guard Joseph Simmons and senior guard Steve McKinney were both unanimous first-team picks.
Fog forced a rare 5-5 tie in a non-district baseball game pitting hosting Mabank against Royse City, and Royse City edged the Panthers 2-1 in a rematch to remain unbeaten.
In the first of what would be a repeating theme, the Eustace boys and girls each won their respective divisions at the Cross Roads track meet.
Eustace would continue to dominate track meets for the rest of the season. The Bulldog boys and girls later won the district track meet, sending a record number of runners to the regional meet.
Two Lady Panthers, senior Enelly Alvarez and junior Tabitha Depoyster, qualified for the state powerlifting meet.
As the softball and baseball district races continued, the Kemp Yellowjackets became the area’s only playoff team, but it wasn’t easy.
Eustace’s Bulldogs came close to making the playoffs, nipping Kemp 10-7 in Eustace, but the ’Jackets came back with key victories against Kaufman and Wills Point to secure the district’s third-place playoff berth.
The Mabank Panthers won their first 4A district baseball game, blasting the hosting Lancaster Tigers 24-14 in a howling gale. Mabank later won the rematch in Mabank, 5-3.
In April, the inaugural Courtney Howard Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament drew 133 players to the Cedar Creek Country Club and raised more than $20,000 before expenses.
Mabank senior Ashley Sexton marked her fourth straight trip to the regional tennis tournament.
Kemp’s Yellowjackets used a suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning to squeak past the Mount Vernon Tigers 5-4 in a bidistrict championship game.
In the area championship at Forney, the ’Jackets pushed Van Alstyne to a decisive third game before falling out of the state playoffs.
Kemp senior Steve McKinney and four-sport freshman Meagan Lacy were named “Athletes of the Year” at the end-of-year sports banquet.
As schools closed for the summer, workers began tearing up the field at Panther Stadium to put in artificial turf, making the stadium only the second one in the area (after Bruce Field in Athens) to have artificial turf.
Summer camps were scheduled around the area, and summer youth league soccer, baseball and softball play, as well as adult church league softball, shifted into high gear.
Editor’s note: The review of 2006 area sports will continue in the Thursday, Jan. 4, issue.

Yellowjackets eyed as district favorites
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–Four returning starters from a team that went three rounds deep in the playoffs last year, including the district’s MVP and a first-team guard, ought to have Kemp Yellowjacket head coach Tracy Carter looking forward to district play.
“We’ve got to have time to jell,” he noted. “We’ve got to knock some rust off. We’re still way behind, compared to what we’ve had the last few years.”
The only way to knock the rust off is to play some stiff competition, and the ’Jackets have been facing some top-10 squads in their pre-district schedule, looking to get ready for a strong district slate.
On paper, it looks like the ’Jackets will be an odds-on favorite in District 13-3A.
Back are senior post Jacarri Culberson, last year’s MVP, and senior point guard Joseph Simmons, arguably another MVP-quality standout.
Culberson and Simmons give the ’Jackets an inside/outside attack that will present serious half-court matchup problems to anyone, as well as a very strong defensive presence.
Senior off guard Justin Gibson, whose improved outside shooting and weak-side rebounding complement Simmons’ playmaking, is back, along with senior forward Kevin Freeman.
Also back is 6-3 junior Matt Brown, who came out late last year, and steps into the rebounding spot vacated by Brian Svboda.
Past those returnees, though, there’s not much experience on the bench, and Carter said the development of his bench players will be the key in this year’s success.
Two seniors are out – all-around athlete Leif Skierski and Patrick Dowd, who played on the junior varsity last year.
They are joined by another former JV player, junior Chas Gipson, and sophomore Josh Carr.
Another sophomore, James Trim, is expected to join the squad after being ineligible during the pre-district portion of the schedule, Carter said.
Defense has been the key for the ’Jackets, and improving defensive play has been the focus during the early part of the schedule, he said.
“We don’t gamble a lot, defensively,” Carter said. “We push the ball when we can, but you’ve got to be able to execute your half-court offense to get in the playoffs.”
On paper, the ’Jackets may be a favorite, but Carter pointed out Kaufman actually won the district title last year, and the Lions will be formidable again this year.
“Kaufman, Mabank and Crandall all have been playing very well,” he said. “Mabank and Crandall both have a lot of kids in their programs, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Ferris is young and athletic, while Eustace “is going to be right there,” he added. “You can’t count anybody out.”

Upcoming Games

Boys' Basketball

Jan. 2
KHS @ Kennedale
EHS @ Brownsboro

Jan. 5
MHS open
KHS vs Palestine
EHS @ Trinidad

Jan. 8
EHS vs Westwood

Jan. 9
MHS vs Brownsboro
KHS vs Palestine

Jan. 12
MHS vs Kaufman*

Jan. 16
KHS vs Crandall*
*District 13-3A game


Girls' Basketball

Jan. 5
MHS vs Crandall*
KHS @ Ferris*
EHS @ Kaufman*

Jan. 9
EHS vs Ferris*

Jan. 12
MHS vs Kaufman*

Jan. 16
KHS vs Crandall*

Jan. 19
MHS vs Ferris*
KHS @ Kaufman*
EHS @ Crandall*

Jan. 23
MHS @ Crandall*
KHS vs Ferris*
EHS vs Kaufman*

Jan. 26
MHS vs Kemp*
EHS @ Ferris*

Jan. 30
MHS @ Kaufman*
*District 13-3A game