Fridays without Donald Joe; Clark remembered for contributions to school, football program

The Chico Dragon football team lost its voice this week.

The community’s longtime game announcer, Donald Joe Clark, died Thursday.

Donald Joe Clark

The news shocked a community endowed by Clark’s talent and benevolence.

“He had the perfect voice for an announcer,” said Chico head coach Stephen Carter. “He was very energetic and knowledgeable about the sport.

“No doubt he played a huge part in Friday nights in Chico.”

Chico ISD Superintendent Mike Jones echoed the sentiment.

“There was a cadence, a lilt to his voice that when you heard him announce, you knew you were watching Chico football,” he said. “It was comforting. You’d hear that voice, and you knew you were home.”

Carter admits to being enthralled in the games he coaches and not retaining much of what is said by announcers. However, there is one Clark sound bite that stands out.

“He would always say, ‘It’s a favorite of football and a favorite of America. Please stand for the national anthem,'” Carter said. “It was neat.”

Jones also noted that Clark, who was starting his 22nd season announcing, welded together and built the press box from which he worked on fall Friday nights.

Clark also served in other capacities on game nights.

“He has done everything from being on the chain gang to flipping burgers for the booster club,” Jones said.

Clark’s service to students extended farther than the football field. He served on the school board since May 2013.

“He was supportive of anything involving students,” Jones said. “From the student in pre-k to the senior in high school walking across the stage – every one of those kids mattered to Donald Joe. And he had no favorites. He was for every program and wanted to see them all succeed.”

Jones added that Clark lent a business perspective to the board with his experience running his own welding and construction business.

Although the full scope of the loss has yet to be revealed, his absence was already felt just one day later.

“It’s going to be weird tonight,” Carter said Friday afternoon. “He will be missed dearly.”

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Football: Dragons fly over Eagles

The Dragons Friday night 53-22 victory over the Diamond Hill-Jarvis Eagles started on a somber note. Donald Joe Clark, the 22-year game announcer for Chico High School football died the previous day after a tragic car accident.

His son, Chico Mayor J.D. Clark, spoke following a moment of silence in his father’s memory. Clark’s voice shook as he told the crowd of Chico football fans and family how much they all meant to his dad.

Tearful Goodbye

TEARFUL GOODBYE – Chico Mayor J.D. Clark stands near his nephew Cain Clark, 3, prior to speaking to Chico fans about his father Donald Joe Clark, who announced Chico football games for 22 years. Donald Joe Clark died Thursday in a wreck. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

“Our family will never be the same and neither will the community. We are missing him at home, but we know you are also missing him here,” Clark said. “I don’t know if this stadium will ever be the same without his voice in it. I do know that my dad would not be happy if he thought people weren’t having fun at this football game because of him.

“He loved his sport, he loved this school and he loved this town. So while my family appreciates this moment of silence in my dad’s honor, that is not quite his style. My dad liked noise and he liked spirit and he liked things loud. So tonight as you remember my dad, don’t focus on his absence, focus on his energy, his humor and his spirit.”

The crowd roared and the opening kickoff soon sailed through the air. The Dragons dominated the Eagles nearly the entire game.

Diamond Hill-Jarvis did draw first blood in the opening quarter, matching their season high of six points. It was the only time the Eagles would have the lead. A minute later the Dragons answered back with a touchdown from Kalan Johnson and an extra point kick from Cameron Starnes put Chico ahead and they never looked back.

While the Dragons dominated scoring, neither team was able to gain much momentum as play was stopped frequently by more than 200 total yards of penalty flags. Chico had 11 penalties for 85 yards and Diamond Hill-Jarvis had 16 for 125.

Aside from the penalties both teams suffered injuries in the first half, with Chico’s J.D. Brown taken away via ambulance because of a leg injury.

The Eagles made a surge in the third quarter for 16 points but to no avail, as the Dragons proved too much.

The Dragons’ Tyler Alexander led Chico in rushing with seven carries for 65 yards. Jastin McBee caught four passes for 113 yards and Jericoe McGuire completed 6 for 147 yards.

Extra Points

EXTRA POINTS – Chico’s Jericoe McGuire crosses the paint for two points during the Dragon’s win over Diamond Hill-Jarvis Friday night. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford


Chico … 9 … 16 … 14 … 14 … – … 53
DH-Jarvis … 6 … 0 … 16 … 0 … – … 22


DH-Jarvis – 6:55, Trey Bentley 2 run, PAT failed.

Chico – 5:45, Kalan Johnson 3 run, Cameron Starnes kick.

Chico – Safety, Cameron Weatherly tackles DH-Jarvis player in end zone.


Chico – 7:57, 26 pass from Jericoe McGuire to Jastin McBee, McGuire run

Chico – 4:18, 35 pass from McGuire to Corbin Blackwood, Pass from McGuire to Weatherly.


Chico – 9:05, 33 pass from Crese Redman to McBee, PAT failed

DH-Jarvis – 5:54, 5 run Ivan Vega, Vega run.

Chico – 3:43, 20 run Tyler Alexander, McBee Run

DH-Jarvis – 1:50, 1 run Sammy Gonzales, Vega Run


Chico – 11:20, 17 run Johnson, pass from Redman to Blackwood

Chico – 6:52, 6 run Redman, Kick failed.


First downs … 22 … 15
Rushes-Yards … 25-209 … 51-242
Passing Yards … 237 … 30
Total Yards … 446 … 272
Comp-Att-Int … 11-18-0 … 4-1-0
Punts-Avg … 1-26 … 5-23
Fumbles-Lost … 2-2 … 3-2
Penalties-Yards … 11-85 … 16-125


Rushing: Chico, Alexander 7-65; DH-Jarvis, Eduardo Tolvar 20-91.

Receiving: Chico, McBee 4-113; DH-Jarvis, Gonzales 1-30.

Passing: Chico, McGuire 6-10-0 for 147 yards; DH-Jarvis, Bentley 4-1-0 for 30 yards.

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Volleyball: Bryson hands Chico lone district defeat

The Chico Lady Dragons’ unbeaten run in District 9-2A ended Tuesday night with a sweep at the hands of Bryson.

Bryson won the match 25-19, 28-26, 25-23, dropping Chico to 4-1 in district.

Alli York put down eight kills. Hope Webb recorded seven kills. Hannah Davis and Kiley Marburger finished with six each.

Chico hit .122 for the match with 31 kills.

York and Britton Petty served three aces each.

Marburger blocked four shots. Davis made 11 digs. York had nine. Brianna Martin, Destinee Hardee and Webb finished with eight apiece.

Chico looked to rebound Saturday at Tolar.

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Donald Joe Clark

Donald Joe Clark

Donald Joe Clark, 52, of Chico died Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Chico.

Funeral is 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 29, at the Chico High School football stadium with burial at Thomas Cemetery in Bridgeport.

Visitation is 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Jones Family Funeral Home in Bridgeport.

Donald was born March 21, 1962, in Muleshoe to Joe and Jean (Dane) Clark. He was a 1980 graduate of Chico High School and was a construction inspector whose hobbies included being an auctioneer, rodeo announcer and an avid music and NASCAR fan.

This was his 22nd year as the Voice of the Chico Dragons, and since May 2013, he was a member of the Chico school board.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents and sister Anita Whitson.

Donald is survived by his wife of 30 years, Lori (Verner) Clark; sons J.D. Clark and Jesse Clark and wife, Alecia; father Joe Clark and wife, Cheryl; mother Jean Greer and husband, Gerald; sister Amanda Vargas and husband, Jay; grandchildren Natalie, Cain, and Hayes Clark; and numerous other family members and friends.

Memorial donations may be made to any Chico ISD student organization.

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Caitlyn Marie Hodges and Gabriel Doyle Jones

Caitlyn Marie Hodges, daughter of Danny and Gina Hodges of Alvord, will marry Gabriel Doyle Jones, son of Kenny and Delores Jones of Chico. Oct. 12, 2014, at Oak Knoll Ranch in Springtown.

Hodges Jones

Caitlyn Marie Hodges and Gabriel Doyle Jones

Ken Hering of First Baptist Church of Alvord will officiate.

The bride-elect graduated from Alvord High School with honors and earned a degree in respiratory care in 2012.

She works for Wise Regional Health System and Cook Children’s Medical Center.

The prospective groom graduated from “Team Jones” home school and plans to attend a business or theology school. He works for AT&T.

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Chico School Board to weigh bond options

The Chico school board will soon determine how to address the most pressing needs of the district.

The board held a work session with WRA Architects of Dallas Sept. 15 following its regular board meeting to continue discussions on the most urgent facility needs in the district.

For nearly two years, the board has been studying those needs. In addition to input from the architects, the board has relied on a facilities use committee. Each board member appointed two people to that committee.

A report was given to the board in January and February of this year, and since that time, the board has continued to prioritize the needs of the district.

“Probably at the next meeting, they’ll look at what it will cost based on their priorities, what size bond might be required, and look at what the impact might be on a homeowner of a typical home,” Superintendent Mike Jones said. “Then they’ll make a determination if they feel it is necessary or the way to go. It’s been something they’ve taken seriously and studying quite a while. I think they’ve really done their homework and tried to elicit as much input from the community through that committee to really take a critical eye and look at things and give them some recommendations.”

Jones said the highest priority needs deal with upgrades in security districtwide. The oldest school in the district, the middle school, also has several high priority needs, such as a new roof and new HVAC units.

The district is also taking a serious look at relocating and building a new agriculture facility.

During the regular meeting prior to the work session, the board:

  • heard a presentation from Wise County Sheriff’s Officer Paige Dobyns about the proposed Dads for Dragons program at Chico Elementary School. The program would encourage dads to volunteer as helpers at the school and be positive role models for kids.
  • designated 4-H activities as extracurricular school events and Wise County Extension agents as adjunct staff members.
  • reviewed district goals for the 2014-2015 school year.

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Volleyball: Chico defends record

The Chico Lady Dragons needed to earn a few extra points but still managed to complete the sweep of Graford Saturday.

Chico won 25-15, 25-22, 29-27 to remain unbeaten in District 9-2A at 4-0.

Alli York paced Chico with 12 kills. Hope Webb added six.

Webb, York, Hannah Davis and Britton Petty served two aces each.

As a team Chico served at a 97 percent clip with only two errors in 80 attempts.

Defensively, Brianna Martin made 18 digs. Destinee Hardee added 15 digs, and York 13.

Petty and York blocked four shots apiece.

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Football: Dragons eye Diamond Hill-Jarvis

The Chico Dragons continued to put up big offensive numbers last week, picking up a third win of the season.

The Dragons (3-1)rolled up 521 yards in the 64-33 win over Petrolia. Through four games, Chico is averaging 479.5 yards.

Off and Running

OFF AND RUNNING – Chico quarterback Jericoe McGuire looks for an opening in the Dragons’ win over Fruitvale. Chico returns to action Friday against Diamond Hill-Jarvis. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“I’m really pleased with the kids. I really do feel we can score on anybody,” said Chico coach Stephen Carter. “All six of our skilled kids are good. We really executed well Friday, throwing and running.”

The Dragons’ next test is against 4A Division I Diamond Hill-Jarvis at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Dragon Stadium.

It’s Chico’s final game before an off week and the start of the District 5-2A Division I schedule.

Carter said the team would like to pick up a third straight win and enter district at 4-1, but he also cautions that it means little once league play starts.

“I’d love to be 4-1 but we’ve been 4-1 the last three years going into district and fizzled out,” Carter said. “As much as we’d like to be 4-1, we want to get better.”

The Dragons’ defense continued to take steps forward last week, limiting Petrolia to minus-8 yards rushing. Petrolia threw for 195.

The Dragons face a Diamond Hill-Jarvis offense that has struggled this year, managing only a touchdown and 385 yards in four games. Diamond Hill-Jarvis has been outscored 184-6 in the four losses to Dallas Adamson, Dallas Jefferson, Carter-Riverside and North Side.

Carter cautions that Diamond Hill-Jarvis’ struggles have been against 4A schools and will present the 2A Dragons trouble.

Tim Robinson leads Diamond-Hill Jarvis in rushing with 262 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s a big bruising back. We have to stop him,” Carter said. “The key is for our defense to show up and play good. We feel we can score.”

DH-JARVIS (0-4) AT CHICO (3-1)

7:30 p.m. at Dragon Stadium

DH-Jarvis: Harris Rating 131

Notable: The Eagles have managed just 1 TD in four games.

Chico: Harris Rating 181

Notable: The Dragons are averaging 479.5 yards per game.

Harris line: Chico by 42

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Football: Dragons hobble Pirates

The Dragons enjoyed another big win with a 64-33 victory over the Petrolia Pirates Friday night.

Chico took the lead early on with 28 unanswered points in first quarter. The Pirates never got into the game, trailing the Dragons at every turn.

Petrolia tried to comeback in the second but still trailed by 13 at the half.

The third quarter was all Chico with four trips into the end zone.

Midway through the third, Jaston McBee made a stellar 41-yard interception return to the Pirate’s 4-yard line and was able to secure another Dragon touchdown with nearly 6 minutes left on the clock.

Petrolia tried again to claw their way back into the game in the fourth, but faltered after two touchdowns.

Chico dominated the ground and air for a total of 526 yards to Petrolia’s meager 190. The Dragons also had 27 first downs to the Pirate’s 15.

Jericoe McGuire led both sides in rushing and passing with 13 carries for 156 yards and 11 completions an 18 attempts for another 187 added to his total. Kalan Johnson led the Dragons in receiving for three catches for 80 yards.


Chico … 28 … 7 … 29 … 00 … – … 64
Petrolia … 0 … 20 … 0 … 13 … – … 33


Chico – 8:36 2 run Kalan Johnson; Cameron Starnes kick.

Chico – 7:20, 55 pass from Jericoe McGuire to Johnson; Starnes kick.

Chico – 3:31, 24 pass from McGuire to Jaston McBee; PAT failed.

Chico – :07, Crese Redman 2 run; Starnes run.


Petrolia – 6:43, 9 pass from Dane Williams to Jake Edgeman; kick failed.

Chico – 5:10 Redman 4 run; Starnes kick.

Petrolia – 4:56, 73 kickoff return by Edgeman, Williams kick.

Petrolia – 1:59, Williams 3 run; Williams kick.


Chico – 11:49, Johnson 52 run; Starnes kick.

Chico – 7:01, Redman 4 run; McBee PAT.

Chico – 5:56, McBee 4 run; Starnes kick.

Chico – 1:25, McGuire 1 run; Starnes kick.


Petrolia – 11:11, 26 pass from Williams to Jayden Lane; kick failed.

Petrolia – 4:39, 28 pass from Williams to Gage Williams; Dane Williams kick.


First downs … 27 … 15
Rushes-Yards … 21-339 … 20-50
Passing Yards … 187 … 140
Total Yards … 526 … 190
Comp-Att-Int … 18-11-2 … 23-9-1
Punts-Avg … 1-29 … 4-29
Fumbles-Lost … 1-0 … 0-0
Penalties-Yards … 10-83 … 5-35


Rushing: Chico, McGuire 13-156; Petrolia, Gage Williams 4-15.

Receiving: Chico, Johnson 3-80; Petrolia Edgeman 5-73.

Passing: Chico, McGuire 18-11-2 187; Petrolia, Dane Williams 9-23-1 140.

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Volleyball: Chico sinks Perrin in four games

Dropping the first set served as a wake-up call for the Chico Lady Dragons Tuesday against Perrin.

The Lady Dragons took the next three games to take the match and move to 3-0 in District 9-2A. Chico won 20-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-15.

Chico took control of the match at the service line with 25 aces and an 87.6 service percentage. Hannah Davis served seven aces. Hope Webb added five, and Britton Petty four.

Alli York and Davis slammed 11 kills each. Webb added seven.

The Lady Dragons hit .128 for the match.

Petty doled out 18 assists.

Defensively, York made 12 digs. Webb had 10 and Davis nine.

Chico will look to keep its league winning streak alive at noon Saturday when it travels to Graford.

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Cora Dee Strachan

Cora Dee Strachan

Cora Dee Strachan, 82, of Chico, died Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Bridgeport.

No service is scheduled.

Cora was born July 1, 1932, in Crowell to Calvin Sr. and Cynthia (Millican) Dawson. She was a housewife.

She was preceded in death by her parents; son James Carl Strachan Jr.; seven sisters; and a brother.

Survivors include her daughter, Rebecca Strachan of Chico; son Russell Strachan of Chico; four grandsons; seven great-grandchildren; brother Calvin Dawson Jr. of Chico; and numerous nieces, nephews, other family members and friends.

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Vidal pleads guilty to using sports league money

A Chico man has pleaded guilty to credit card or debit card abuse related to the theft of funds from a local youth sports association.

Robert L. Vidal, 45, entered the guilty plea in 271st District Court Monday and was sentenced to five years deferred adjudication. He will also be required to pay back the $8,517.13 he stole from the Wise County Midget and Pee Wee Football League.

According to court records, Vidal used a debit/credit card belonging to the sports league to pay for a cruise in February 2012. The thefts occurred from around September of 2011 to June 1, 2013.

Vidal served as director of the organization, which was formed in 2011 and included teams from Bridgeport, Paradise, Chico, Alvord and Jacksboro. Vidal was in charge of scheduling and finances for the league.

Each city’s youth football league initially contributed $600 to the account. Participants continued to add to the account from money raised through fees and fundraisers until the balance grew to between $8,000 and $10,000.

Last summer, the association decided it wanted to split back into city youth football leagues. But when the commissioners went to divide the funds, they discovered nothing was left in the account.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop a second count of theft of property $1,500-$20,000.

Prosecutors also stated they would not object to early termination of probation after three years if all of the restitution is paid in full, Vidal is current on all his fees and costs and he meets all other terms of his probation.

Vidal faced a possible penalty of 180 days to two years in jail for the state jail felony charge of credit card or debit card abuse.

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Volleyball: Chico remains undefeated in 9-2A district play

The Chico Lady Dragons moved to 2-0 in District 9-2A Saturday, holding off Ranger in five games.

The Lady Dragons won 26-24, 25-27, 21-25, 25-19, 15-11.

“This was a huge emotional win for the girls,” said Chico coach Missy Patterson. “It was a very hard-fought game and the results were encouraging. I am very proud of the pride and determination they showed throughout the entire game.”

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Football: Dragons blank Fruitvale at Burleson

After giving up 60 points to the Era Hornets, the Chico Dragons overhauled their defense, switching from a 10-1 to a 3-4.

Saturday, the change proved a success. The Dragons limited Fruitvale to 94 total yards in a 53-0 shutout at Burleson ISD Stadium.

Making the Play

MAKING THE PLAY – Chico’s Jaston McBee knocks away a pass in the end zone Saturday. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“It felt good. We’re putting on a new defense and learning how to run it,” said linebacker Hagen Davis. “It’s definitely a good feeling to get the defense going.”

Along with holding Fruitvale under 100 yards, the Dragons (2-1) forced six turnovers – four fumbles and two interceptions. Davis picked off a pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 47-0 in the third quarter.

Fruitvale struggled to hold on to the ball the entire game. It fumbled the ball on its first offensive play.

After Fruitvale hit on a long pass play to reach the Chico 3-yard line in the final minute, Chico’s Jaston McBee delivered a big hit to force the Bobcats’ sixth turnover, protecting the shutout and ending the game.

“We had a bad taste in our mouth (after Era),” said Chico coach Stephen Carter. “I’m proud of the boys, after learning a new scheme, to come out and execute it.”

Offensively, the Dragons found little resistance, piling up 385 yards. Chico scored on six of its first eight possessions in building a 40-0 halftime lead.

The Dragons had four scoring drives that took two plays or less.

Quarterback Jericoe McGuire opened the scoring with a 4-yard run less than three minutes into the game. McGuire added a 3-yard touchdown run just before halftime as part of his 40 yards.

McGuire threw a pair of scores to McBee, covering 40 and 39 yards. McGuire was 11-for-16 for 198 yards.

McBee caught four passes for 89 yards. He also closed the scoring with a 32-yard dash to the end zone.

“Offensively we wanted to work on some things,” Carter explained. “Our screen game is getting better. We threw a lot of them today.”

Crese Redman led the Dragons in rushing with 94 yards on 10 carries. His 6-yard tote to paydirt made it 25-0 with 8 minutes left in the first half.


Fruitvale … 0 … 0 … 0 … 0 … – … 0
Chico … 13 … 27 … 13 … 0 … – … 53


Chico – 9:29, Jericoe McGuire 4 run, Cameron Starnes kick

Chico – 6:18, Kalen Johnson 9 run, run failed


Chico – 9:06, Jaston McBee 40 pass from McGuire, kick failed

Chico – 8:00, Crese Redman 6 run, run failed

Chico – 4:44, McGuire 3 run, Tyler Melton run

Chico – 2:20, McBee 39 pass from McGuire, Starnes kick


Chico – 10:24, Hagen Davis 24 interception return, Starnes kick

Chico – 2:36, McBee 32 run, kick failed


First Downs … 9 … 13
Rushes-Yards … 24-12 … 19-187
Passing Yards … 82 … 198
Comp-Att-Int … 10-22-2 … 10-14-0
Total Yards … 94 … 385
Punts-Average … 2-30.5 … 0-0
Fumbles-Lost … 7-4 … 1-1
Penalties-Yards … 2-10 … 11-110


Rushing – Fruitvale, Gavino Rongel 4-12. Chico, Crese Redman 10-94, Jerico McGuire 6-40, Jaston McBee 2-40, Kalen Johnson 1-9.

Passing – Fruitvale, Taylor McGinnis 10-21-2-82. Chico, McGuire 10-14-0-198.

Receiving – Fruitvale, Cameron Lines 3-70. Chico, Jaston McBee 4-89, Corbin Blackwood 4-60, Cameron Weatherly 3-47.

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Football: Dragons look to hobble pirates

The Chico Dragons rebounded from their loss to Era in convincing fashion Saturday with a shutout against Fruitvale.

The Dragons hope to keep the momentum rolling Friday as they return home to play the Petrolia Pirates. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

ON THE RUN – Chico quarterback Jericoe McGuire sprints into the open field Saturday. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“We’re two weeks away from district now,” said Chico coach Stephen Carter. “We’re looking forward to district and need to keep building and taking it one game at a time.”

The Dragons changed defenses after allowing Era to pile up 60 points. Against an overmatched Fruitvale squad, Chico allowed less than 100 yards and no points.

Carter said the Dragons will get a better test of their new 3-4 scheme Friday against Petrolia.

The Pirates are coming off a 27-20 loss to Bells Saturday. They are led by quarterback Dane Williams, who has 539 yards and six touchdowns through the air. He threw for 193 and a pair of scores last week.

His top targets are Jake Edgemon and Bandy Mataska, who have combined for more than 500 yards and five scores on 24 catches.

“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” Carter said. “They have a good quarterback and decent tailback. They are big up front and their kids are physical.”

Offensively, the Dragons have been consistent all season. Chico is averaging 465 yards through three games. The Dragons had 385 last week.

“I feel we can move the ball on anyone,” Carter said.


7:30 p.m. at Dragon Stadium

Petrolia: Harris Rating 161

Notable: Dane Williams has thrown for 6 TDs.

Chico: Harris Rating 181

Notable: The Dragons allowed 94 total yards last week against Fruitvale.

Harris line: Chico by 20

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Harold Eugene Ganus

Harold Eugene Ganus

Harold Eugene Ganus, 73, of Chico, died Friday, Sept. 12, 2014.

Funeral was Sept. 16 at Jones Family Funeral Home in Bridgeport with Pastor Barney Hudson officiating. Burial was at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Mt. Pleasant.

Gene was born Sept. 5, 1941, in Fairfield, Ala., to Alpha Eloise (Meadows) and Harold Floyd Ganus. He married Peggy Sue Sistrunk Sept. 2, 1979, in Baytown. He served his country in the U.S. Navy and was a master mechanist who retired from LTV in Grand Prairie.

He also was a pastor and a member of Anconkee Ministries in Chico where he conducted church services at his home. Gene was a 32nd Degree Mason and a member of the Alvord Masonic Lodge.

He was a musician who played the piano, wrote music and sang. Most of all, he was a loving husband and father who enjoyed spending time with his family.

Gene is survived by his wife; sons Brady Ganus of Bridgeport, Carey Ganus and wife, Anna, of Springtown, and Brandon Ganus of Chico; daughter Melody Mabe of Baytown; brother Paul Ganus of Garland; grandchildren Keaton, Ashton, Jordyn, Elijah and Brandon Ganus Jr., and Nathan Mabe; and great-grandchildren Aidan Pickering and Hunter Mabe.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

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Muscle memory: Chico students support MDA to honor friend

Muscle memory: Chico students support MDA to honor friend

Kids change a lot between the eighth grade and their senior year in high school.

They grow up, fill out, dress differently, change their hair. They learn to drive, get cars, start dating. Some get jobs.

Their interests change, too, and often they make new friends who share those interests. They learn a lot of new things.

They forget some things, too.

Remembering Ryan

REMEMBERING RYAN – Chico High School seniors Austin Martin, Maddi Umphress and Marco Arredondo are among those working to raise funds for their fifth MDA Muscle Walk. Maddi holds a photo of Ryan Ruddick, their classmate who died as an eighth grader from muscular dystrophy, and Marco holds a Millenium Falcon Ryan built with Legos. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

This year’s Chico High School senior class is no different – but there’s one friend they won’t forget.

Ryan Ruddick, the valedictorian of their eighth grade class, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was 18 months old and was confined to a wheelchair by the time he was in the second grade.

In 2010, at the start of their eighth-grade year, Ryan and many of his classmates took part in the MDA Walk at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The annual fall event builds awareness of diseases that weaken the musculoskeletal system, supports research and provides assistance for patients and their families.

On May 19, 2011, Ryan died – having outlived his doctors’ expectations by several years.

Working to Raise Funds

WORKING TO RAISE FUNDS – Chico High School seniors held a car wash last Saturday to help raise funds for the Sept. 20 MDA Muscle Walk to be held at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. To help, donate through Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

That fall the class – by then freshmen at Chico High School – turned out stronger than ever for the MDA Walk, honoring their friend’s memory. They have continued to raise funds and take part in the walk every year with the team name, “Ryan’s Padawans.”

Last year they raised around $10,000. This year, they’ve already had a car wash and a dunking booth, and they’re still accepting donations.

“The first walk, he went with us,” Chico High School senior Austin Martin said. “After he passed away, we wanted to do another one, keep it going.”

In addition to their fundraising events, they get lots of pledges and participation from the community – led by the class of 38 seniors.

CHS teacher Diana Bland has been the class sponsor since they got in high school, but takes no credit for their charitable efforts.

“They’ve done this on their own,” she said. “This is all them. It’s an amazing class.”

Among those leading the effort have been Martin, Marco Arredondo, Macie Moss and Maddi Umphress.

“We were really close to him,” Maddi said. “We would always ride on the back of his wheelchair.”

Tracy Davidson, now special education teacher at the high school, was Ryan’s aide all the way through elementary school, moving up with him through the sixth grade.

“He started out, he could walk around the room, but when we went outside we went in a wagon,” she said. Then he got this other little rollie chair in first grade, and in second grade he got his motorized wheelchair.

“He liked to go fast, and he liked us to chase him,” she said.

Putting a mischievous second-grader at the controls of a motorized vehicle was an adventure, they all agreed.

“He always ran over my foot, then he’d say, ‘I couldn’t control it! I didn’t see you!'” Austin said. “I’d say, ‘Yes you can. I’m pretty sure you saw me!'”

Davidson said Ryan was “very smart – a straight-A student.”

His classmates said he likely would have been valedictorian of their high school class, too.

“He was so smart,” Maddi said. “I used to get so mad at him because he was so smart, but he would never let me cheat off him.”

“He wouldn’t let me, either,” Austin said. “I sat by him in every class. I’d try to get the answer and he’s like, ‘No, come over here and let me explain it to you, how we did it.’ So I would learn how to do it from him.”

Bland said Ryan had a magnetic personality that drew people of all ages to him.

“I never really had him in class, because he passed away in the eighth grade, but everybody knew Ryan,” she said. “Even as his health deteriorated, he was at all the events. He had that motorized thing everywhere and kids just flocked to him. Little kids, older kids – he was an inspiration.”

Austin said he always had a smile and an upbeat attitude.

“That was the thing that influenced me the most – seeing him, sitting in a wheelchair and not being able to do anything close to what I could do, and he still had a better attitude than I did,” he said. “He would tell me all the time to suck it up, because I would complain about something.

“I couldn’t tell him, ‘Well, you don’t have anything to complain about!’ because he did. He just didn’t complain about it.”

Last year, they said, 20 or 30 people took part in the walk – classmates, parents and people from the Chico community. Ryan’s parents, Noel and LeeAnn, have stayed close to his friends and take part as well.

“For this class, a lot of this is just honoring Ryan,” Bland said. “They’ve grieved – this is their way to honor him, and what he meant in their lives.”

Gloria Arredondo, Marco’s mom, said Ryan continues to be an inspiration.

“These children have been deeply impacted by a young boy who fought hard and loved his family and friends,” she said. “His legacy and his courage will live on in us.”

So what about the team name, “Ryan’s Padawans”?

“He loved Star Wars and he loved Legos,” Austin said.

“Then Lego Star Wars came out,” Marco said. “You should see some of the Lego stuff he’d build. He built a Death Star – the whole thing.”

In the Star Wars universe, a Padawan is someone in training to be a Jedi – but not yet a Jedi.

“It’s like an apprentice, and he was like our Yoda,” Austin said. “He would always say we weren’t good enough to be Jedis, so we chose that for the team shirts, the first year after he passed away. We were never going to be Jedis. We would always be Padawans.”

As they talked, they reminisced about wheelchair races, playing dodgeball and video games, having nerf-gun wars.

“Me and Austin would go over to his house and he’d come up with these crazy plans – and we had to do it,” Marco said.

His wit was legendary.

“Anything you did that was funny, he never let it go,” Maddi said.

As kids, they didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the future – what they wanted to be when they grew up – knowing Ryan probably wouldn’t get that chance.

But from their stories, it was obviously fun being a kid with Ryan.

From their persistence, what’s also obvious is that they will never forget him.


  • Sept. 20, 2014
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Volleyball: Chico takes 9-2A opener

After a rough opening set, the Chico Lady Dragons rallied to a four-game win over Newcastle Tuesday.

Chico won the District 9-2A opener 13-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-19.

Alli York put down eight kills. Hope Webb and Raven Leal added five each.

Britton Petty handed out seven assists.

Webb and Destinee Hardman served up four aces. York added three.

Kiley Marburger blocked three shots.

Chico continues district play Saturday at Ranger.

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Jo Anne Gordon

Jo Anne Gordon

Jo Anne Gordon, 56, a homemaker, died Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014 in Chico.

Services will be private. Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur is handling the arrangements.

Jo Anne was born Dec. 18, 1957 to Dave and Jenni (Moore) Gordon in Tyler.

She was preceded in death by her mother, Jenni Gordon.

Survivors include her son, John Gordon and wife, Marissa, of Midwest City, Okla.; sisters Vivian Deitz and husband, Gary, of Greenwood and Sue Kiker and husband, Jim, of Wolfe, Okla.; brothers Robert Bost of Greenwood and Willie Gordon of Maud, Okla.; her father, Dave Gordon of Maud, Okla.; numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of friends.

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1 flown from 2-vehicle wreck

An Irving man was flown to a Metroplex hospital after being ejected from a pickup involved in a two-vehicle accident in Park Springs, north of Chico, Monday afternoon.

Ejected Driver

EJECTED DRIVER – Arcadio Guzman, the driver of this Toyota Tacoma, was ejected in a wreck in Park Springs Monday afternoon. He was listed in fair condition Tuesday morning. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Arcadio Guzman, 40, sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries, according to investigators. He was flown by helicopter ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where he was listed in fair condition Tuesday morning.

Officials believe Guzman was northbound on Texas 101 when he rounded the curve “a little too fast” and sideswiped a southbound one-ton truck.

Guzman lost control of the Toyota Tacoma he was driving and drove through a fence, landing in a field on the southbound side of the road.

He was ejected from the vehicle.

His passenger, Florentin Alvarez Chavez, 26, was transported by ground ambulance to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

The driver of the one-ton truck, Jesus Maese of Chico, was not injured.

No citations have been issued, but investigators said failure to control speed was one contributing factor.

Chico Volunteer Fire Department, Wise County medics and sheriff’s deputies and Department of Public Safety Troopers were called to the scene, which was toned out around 4 p.m.

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