High School: Grand Prairie

Four 5A districts in area undergo little change

February, 2, 2012
2/02/12
2:32
PM CT
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas -- The makeup changed very little or not at all in four of the area’s nine Class 5A districts at Thursday's UIL reclassification and realignment.

*The current District 4-5A (five Arlington schools, Fort Worth Paschal, North Crowley and Weatherford) remained intact but, because of district consolidation in West Texas, changed its number to 3-5A.

That’s an agreeable change, said Anthony Criss, football coach at Arlington Sam Houston and former Arlington ISD assistant athletic director.

“It’s great for Arlington because it means we stay in the area for first-round playoff games instead of going to West Texas,’’ Criss said. “We’d still go west once, but not until the second round.''

*The current District 5-5A retained seven of its eight members in the new District 7-5A: Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville, Grand Prairie, South Grand Prairie, Mansfield and Mansfield Timberview. The only change is Mansfield Legacy drops down to Class 4A and powerhouse DeSoto takes its place.

“A tough district just got tougher,’’ said Grand Prairie coach Gary Bartel.

*In District 9-5A, Dallas Samuell dropped to Class 4A and was replaced by Richardson Pearce, which is moving back up to 5A. The other seven members are unchanged: Dallas Jesuit, Dallas Skyline, Dallas Sunset, Dallas W.T. White, Richardson, Richardson Berkner and Lake Highlands.

“I wasn’t sure Jesuit would stay in,’’ said Skyline coach Reginald Samples. “In fact, we had agreed to play them in a nondistrict game if they weren’t in our district.’’

*The seven Garland ISD schools that made up 10-5A in the last realignment are now without McKinney Boyd as they go forward as District 11-5A with this lineup: Garland, Garland Lakeview, Garland Naaman Forest, North Garland, Rowlett, Sachse and South Garland.

District 5-5A football season preview

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
12:01
AM CT
[+] EnlargeJared Johnson
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.com Quarterback Jared Johnson helps make South Grand Prairie a contender in District 7-5A.
DISTRICT 5-5A

  • Cedar Hill (8-4, 6-1), lost in DII area. Coach: Joey McGuire.
  • Duncanville (8-4, 6-1), lost in DI area. Coach: Jeff Dicus.
  • Grand Prairie (2-8, 0-7). Coach: Gary Bartel.
  • Mansfield (8-3, 5-2), lost in DII bi-district. Coach: Jeff Hulme.
  • Mansfield Legacy (1-9, 1-6). Coach: Chris Melson.
  • Mansfield Timberview (3-7, 3-4). Coach: Mark Walker.
  • Midlothian (5-5, 3-4). Coach: Lee Wiginton.
  • South Grand Prairie (6-5, 4-3), lost in DI bi-district. Coach: Brent Whitson.
THE BIG QUESTION: Will the district title again be decided in the Week 10 Cedar Hill-Duncanville game?

Last season, Cedar Hill staged a fourth-quarter rally to edge Duncanville, 35-31, and both teams finished with 6-1 district records.

Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire’s plan is to use two quarterbacks, last year’s varsity backup Andre Anderson and Damion Hobbs off the junior varsity.

Duncanville must rebuild its defense after graduating all but two starters. Junior Cordray Love moves from cornerback to free safety and tackle Jamaal Fears lends experience up front.

The Longhorns and Panthers graduated significant skill players including their respective quarterbacks, giving hope for potential contenders South Grand Prairie and Mansfield.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

OG Aderius Epps, QB/WR Andre Anderson, DE David Harris, LB Steven Taylor, Cedar Hill; WR Jeff Thomas, WR/DB Malcolm McKenney, RB Aaron Piper, Duncanville; WR Devante Lacy, Grand Prairie; DE Hassan Ridgeway, QB Jerod Evans, WR Gary Davis, Mansfield; LB Montreal Jett, QB DeCarlos Humphrey, Mansfield Legacy; QB Charles Taylor, DE Rene Lawson, Mansfield Timberview; LB Slater Gravens, QB Bryce Murphy, Midlothian, QB Jared Johnson, DB Abraham Hall, South Grand Prairie.

DID YOU KNOW?

Brent Whitson, fresh from an overhaul of the program at Richardson High, is South Grand Prairie’s fifth head coach in the school’s 43-year history. ... In Lee Wiginton’s debut season as head coach at Midlothian last year, the Panthers’ win total of five was four more than they had in their final season in Class 4A the previous year. ... Mansfield defensive end Hassan Ridgeway, a Texas commit, is hard to miss at 6-5 and 240 pounds, but Tigers opponents will try to do just that. … Cedar Hill has won or shared district titles in five of its last six season. ... Duncanville running back Aaron Piper averaged nine yards every time he touched the ball as a sophomore last season.

PROJECTED PLAYOFF TEAMS

  1. Cedar Hill
  2. Duncanville
  3. South Grand Prairie
  4. Mansfield
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FORT WORTH, Texas – Twenty years of coaching experience made Grand Prairie head baseball coach Jon Rustenhaven more than qualified to speak on successful practice techniques at the Texas High School Coaches Association Coaching School Tuesday.

However, no baseball coach in attendance had experienced the kind of full philosophy change the new BBCOR bats will bring on the high school game this upcoming season.

UIL has adopted the new BBCOR bat standard that the NCAA set for the 2011 season, using bats that reduce the velocity of the ball after it leaves the bat. The main concern in going to these new bats is the safety of the pitcher who might not have enough time to react to an oncoming line drive off the old bats.

“It’s going to be a major adjustment period for high school coaches and high school players. They’re used to hitting the ball off the fist and getting a base hit and now it’s going to be a weak pop fly.”

These new bats, with a smaller sweet spot than the old models, reduce a high school team’s ability to use the long ball, which could force coaches to recreate an offensive game plan.

“You have to analyze your team and figure out what’s going to work for you,” Rustenhaven said. “Are you going to continue to try and play for the three-run homer or are you going to make that adjustment to the small ball – bunts hit, hit and runs, steals all sorts of trick plays to score runs because you’re not going to be able to sit back and hit that three-run homer anymore.”

Rustenhaven said more attention will need to be spent in practice on squaring the ball up in the sweet spot of the bat, as the new bats allow less of a margin for error.

“That’s going to be more emphasized with our kids this year,” Rustenhaven said. They’ve got to hit the sweet spot if the ball is going to go.”
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- South Grand Prairie put on a firework display Friday night with their bats en route to a 16-3 win over Grand Prairie.

[+] EnlargeSouth Grand Prairie home run
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comPreston Manka began the homer barrage for South Grand Prairie with a three-run shot in the second.
The Warriors went deep three times in the game, including a run-rule walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the fifth by Matt Contreras that cleared the scoreboard over the left-field fence. Contreras, South Grand Prairie’s closer, said he used the same instincts at the plate on a hung pitch to finish the game that he does to secure a win from the mound.

“[The killer instinct] turned into a hitting instinct,” Contreras said. “Just had to close it down a little bit. He made a mistake -- left it up -- and I took care of it.”

South Grand Prairie’s first homer came in the second inning off the bat of Preston Manka, who was batting ninth in the Warriors' lineup. The three-run homer sailed over the left-field fence off a changeup that was hung inside, giving South Grand Prairie an early 4-0 lead.

“I just turned on it and it just kind of went out. I didn’t think it was going out but it did,” Manka said. “The first pitch was a fastball in the dirt and the second pitch was inside. I just hacked at it and it caught the barrel pretty good.”

Second baseman Jonathan Reyes also hit a souvenir shot to right field in the third inning, scoring two.

The majority of South Grand Prairie’s runs were generated and scored off aggressive hitting and baserunning, a staple to the Warriors' game plan this season.

“It’s the thing we’ve done all year,” coach Dennis Pelfrey said. “We work on base unning constantly. I think we’re probably one of the state leaders in stolen bases. Swinging the bats -- we let our guys be free at the plate and swing at good pitches. As long as they continue to do that, we let them do it.”

Leading the charge on the base paths was leadoff hitter Candon Myles, who swiped four bags in the game and was thrown out attempting to steal home in the first. Myles said his he believes if he can get on at first, he already has third. The process in between is just a game between Myles and the pitcher.

“I try and make it look like I’m not trying to steal, trying to look as relaxed as possible,” Myles said. “He loses focus on me and he starts going and I’m going at the same time ... then I’m getting the next one after that.”

Myles' wheels not only have the attention of the opposing team’s battery, but also the curiosity of a few big league scouts this year.

“No question that guy is special,” Pelfrey said. “He’s a guy that can probably play in the big leagues. When he goes, we go. We count on him to start us up. When he has a good game, we do pretty well.”

Grand Prairie was able to start a small rally in the top of the fifth, staving off the 10-run mercy rule for a half an inning. Center fielder Devonte Lacy scored one on a Texas leaguer to right then Juan Garcia stroked a two-run double to right center, accounting for all three of the Gophers' runs.

Both Grand Prairie teams now face an extra game to determine District 5-5A’s playoff seeding. Grand Prairie must face Midloathian to try and claim the last spot into the playoffs.

South Grand Prairie has the chance to defend its two-time district championship at 2 p.m. Saturday at Mansfield. Manka said the chance at a three-peat is not something the Warriors are going to let pass lightly.

“It’s going to be a good game, but we’ve held that title for a long time now and we don’t want to lose it now so we’re going to play pretty solid.”

GP coach had hand in Ike Taylor's NFL future

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
4:11
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Grand Prairie football coach Gary Bartel remembers the day Ike Taylor became a defensive back.

Taylor, the starting cornerback for the Steelers in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV, was a reserve running back and kick returner at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette with one season of eligibility remaining.

Bartel, the secondary coach at ULL at the time, picks up the story: “I knew Ike had the tools to be a cornerback. Our head coach understandably wanted his speed on offense. But the head coach got fired. Before a new coach was hired, I went over to the depth chart display on the wall of the coaches office and moved Ike’s button from running back to cornerback. I told the graduate assistant not to tell a soul. I told Ike he was now a defensive back. The new coach never knew a thing about it.’’

The Bears’ Charles Tillman played the corner opposite from Taylor that season.

“I was a pretty good secondary coach with those two,’’ Bartel said.

On Pro Day at Louisiana-Lafayette, the scouts came to see Tillman, but Bartel remembers Taylor out jumped him and outran him in 40-yard sprints.

“Charles at 207 pounds ran a 4.43 and Ike at 195 pounds came in at 4.39,’’ Bartel recalls.

Tillman went to the Bears in the second round of the 2003 draft with the 35th pick.

Pittsburgh scooped up Taylor in the fourth round as the 125th pick.

Bartel met with Taylor briefly at the Steelers' hotel on Thursday.

“We hugged. It was the first time I’ve seen him in seven years,’’ Bartel said. “I’m really proud of him.’’

Class 5A notes: Guyer's dedication

August, 31, 2010
8/31/10
12:19
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Hebron opens against Colleyville Heritage


Hebron, idle in Zero Week, begins its season against high-flying Colleyville Heritage (1-0) 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hebron’s Hawks Stadium, better known as the Woodshed.

Hebron returns eight starters from 2009, which ended in a rare losing season for the 4-6 Hawks when they started a freshman (Dezmond Wortham), sophomore (Kiante Griffin) and junior (Kyle Aubuchon) at running back, wide receiver and quarterback, respectively. All three return with a year of experience.

In its season opener on Friday, Colleyville Heritage scored 14 points in the final 49 seconds of regulation to force overtime, then went on to defeat Duncanville, 58-52 in triple overtime.

Martel Garner breathed life into Colleyville Heritage’s comeback in regulation with a 92-yard kickoff return to draw within seven points.

Jordan Hornbuckle’s recovery of an onside kick led to Jeff Calvert’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Trent Dennington with three seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.

Calvert, who had 350 yards of total offense (224 passing, 126 rushing) scored from the 1 in the third overtime for the win.

-- Randy Jennings

New turf ready for Grand Prairie-Lynch


Dallas Bishop Lynch (1-0) will play a home game on a synthetic playing surface for the first time when its hosts Grand Prairie (1-0) 7:30 p.m. Friday at Roffino Stadium.

There will be a dedication for the new field 15 minutes before kickoff. The new field replaces the natural grass surface.

Last week, Bishop Lynch won its opener, 35-8, over Dallas Samuell. Versatile senior Mark Czaus threw for two touchdowns, rushed for one and returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score.

Grand Prairie’s 42-41 win over Lewisville on opening night at the Gopher-Warrior Bowl was much more dramatic. QB Tommy Alvarez threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Devante Lacy as time expired and Alex Rostro kicked the deciding extra point.

Lacy caught eight passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns.

Lewisville scored 27 consecutive points to erase a 35-14 deficit and take a six-point lead.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys who didn’t know how to handle a lead,’’ said Grand Prairie coach Gary Bartel, “but I think they learned a lesson.’’

Grand Prairie’s winning drive covered 73 yards in 47 seconds.

-- Randy Jennings

Denton Guyer scores special touchdown


More than a few in the press box at Carrollton's Standridge Stadium scratched their heads when Denton Guyer running back Treavon Walton slid at the 1-yard line during Guyer's opening drive against Waxahachie.

Junior tight end and reserve quarterback Dominic Ramacher took over at running back and scored from a yard out on the next play.

Unbeknownst to spectators, Ramacher’s touchdown served a symbolic purpose. Ramacher’s mother, Tracy, was diagnosed with brain cancer, and the team wanted to dedicate its first touchdown as a Class 5A program to the Ramacher family.

Guyer plays Cedar Hill at 1:30 p.m. on Monday at Cowboys Stadium.

-- Jeff Andrews

Millard shines in opener


With many of the Dallas-Fort Worth area's top pass-happy quarterbacks having graduated, Flower Mound senior quarterback Paul Millard is a prime candidate to lead the area in passing stats.

Millard, who threw for 3,766 yards and 35 touchdowns last season, had no trouble picking up where he left off in the Jaguars' 2010 opener -- a 69-31 victory against Dallas Jesuit in which he went 29-for-39 with 440 yards and five touchdowns in the Week Zero victory.

Despite Millard’s talent at quarterback, Flower Mound (1-0) has a murky playoff outlook in the hyper-competitive District 8-5A. Flower Mound hosts McKinney Boyd at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

-- Jeff Andrews

7-on-7 tournament begins Thursday

July, 7, 2010
7/07/10
12:58
AM CT
Many of the state’s top high school football skill players will descend on College Station, Texas, for the Fox Sports Southwest 7-on-7 State Championship presented by adidas and Academy Sports & Outdoors.

The tournament consists of two 64-team divisions based on the school’s UIL classification.

Within each division, teams are divided into 16 pools of four. The top two finishers in each pool advance to championship single-elimination and the bottom two finishers are placed in consolation single-elimination.

Pool play in Division II (Class 3A, 2A, 1A) begins at 1 p.m. Thursday and culminates in the state title game at 5 p.m. Friday at Kyle Field.

Area teams that have qualified in Division II include defending champion Celina, Aubrey, Godley, Kaufman, Lovejoy, Melissa, Prosper, Sanger and Wills Point.

Division I (Class 5A, 4A) pool play begins at 1 p.m. Friday and concludes with the championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday at Kyle Field.

Local qualifiers include: Arlington Bowie, Arlington Lamar, Coppell, DeSoto, Grand Prairie, Hebron, Irving Nimitz, Lewisville, Mansfield Legacy, Mesquite, Plano, Plano West, Richland, Rockwall, Saginaw Boswell, Dallas Skyline, Southlake Carroll, West Mesquite and Wylie.

Lamar is the state's only DI team to qualify for all 13 state tournaments. Nimitz, Lewisville and Skyline will be playing in the state tournament for the first time.

Three 7-on-7 state champions have gone on to win UIL state titles the following fall: Celina, twice, in 2000 and 2007, and Tyler Lee in 2004.

Here’s a list of the tournament’s past DI champions:
2009: Round Rock Stony Point
2008: Richland
2007: Georgetown
2006: Colleyville Heritage
2005: Baytown Lee
2004: Tyler Lee
2003: Odessa Permian
2002: Katy Cinco Ranch
2001: Baytown Lee
2000: Celina
1999: North Mesquite
1998: Southlake Carroll

The DII champions:
2009: Celina
2008: Crane
2007: Celina

Hitters take aim at Grand Prairie Classic

March, 23, 2010
3/23/10
2:45
PM CT
The Grand Prairie Classic falls at an odd time on the schedule for high school baseball teams.

Most teams are well into district play by the time this weekend’s 16-team tournament rolls around.

It wasn’t always that way. The tournament spot on the calendar has remained the same, but over the years district play has started earlier and earlier.

Even if some entrants hold back top-line pitching for next week’s district games, the tournament still provides a good opportunity to test pitching depth and get the bats going. That and the combination of warmer weather and friendly hitter's dimensions usually produce high-scoring games.

Pool play begins at 1 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

Games will be divided between Grand Prairie’s Turner Park and South Grand Prairie’s Warrior Field.

The field is divided into four pools of four. The pool winners will play in semifinals at 6 p.m. Saturday. The winners meet in an 8:30 p.m. championship game at Turner Park. The losers will play a third-place game at Warrior Field.

Four-time defending champion Rowlett chose not to return this season.

Entrants traveling the greatest distance this season are El Paso Montwood and Norman (Okla.) North.

Montwood is in Pool A along with Grand Prairie, Fort Worth Eastern Hills and Fort Worth Country Day. Pool games will be at Turner Park.

Other pools:

Pool B: South Garland, Norman North, Lake Highlands, Cedar Hill (Turner Park)

Pool C: Duncanville, Dallas W.T. White, North Mesquite, Garland (Warrior Field)

Pool D: South Grand Prairie, Arlington, Mesquite, Fort Worth Arlington Heights (Warrior Field)

Grand Prairie coach Jon Rustenhaven listed Arlington Heights, South Grand Prairie, Norman North and Montwood as favorites.

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