Wise County Messenger

Taking the gridiron

Wise teams begin new campaigns with first practices Monday

NEW COACH — Decatur coach Steve Huff will take the field with the Eagles for the first practice of the 2022 season Monday. MICAH MCCARTNEY/WCMESSENGER

NEW COACH — Decatur coach Steve Huff will take the field with the Eagles for the first practice of the 2022 season Monday. MICAH MCCARTNEY/WCMESSENGER

After a decade at College Station, Steve Huff is preparing to step on the field with a new team next week.

All Wise County football programs will begin the 2022 season with the first day of practice Monday.

“It’s always exciting at the beginning of the season,” Huff said. “It’s almost like waiting for Christmas morning to get here. It’s always a race to get all of the physicals in, and to get equipment out of storage and ready to go. But that’s all secondary when you think about the guys back on the field.”

Huff was hired by Decatur in February, replacing former coach Ty Lang. With the Cougars, Huff compiled a 100-26 record, including 88-19 as a varsity program, and made two state appearances.

College Station defeated Aledo 20-19 in the 2017 5A Division II state championship. The Cougars finished 15-1 in Huff’s final season, and were defeated by Katy Paetow in overtime in the 5AI state title game, 27-24.

Decatur went 4-7 in 2021, and qualified for the postseason by finishing fourth (2-3) in District 4-4A Division I. The Eagles held a 17-point lead over Dumas in the bi-district contest, but ultimately fell to the Demons 45-24.

LOOKING FOR NEW PATH — Bridgeport will play in District 5-4A Division II with Aubrey, Farmersville, Gainesville, Krum, Sanger and Van Alstyne. MESSENGER ARCHIVES

LOOKING FOR NEW PATH — Bridgeport will play in District 5-4A Division II with Aubrey, Farmersville, Gainesville, Krum, Sanger and Van Alstyne. MESSENGER ARCHIVES

The Eagles return three senior key pieces to their offense with 2021 All- Wise players Hunter Smith, Hunter Wingert and Preston Escobar.

At wide receiver, Smith caught 19 passes for 494 yards and five scores last season.

Wingert anchored Decatur’s offensive line, finishing with 20 pancake blocks and grade of 90 percent.

Escobar completed 74 of his 147 passes for 1,241 yards and 11 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He also made six trips to the end zone on the ground, racking up 627 rushing yards.

Decatur will likely get an offensive boost in the backfield from junior running back Nate Palmer, the son of running backs coach Daniel Palmer.

A 4-star recruit, according to 247Sports, the younger Palmer tallied 948 all-purpose yards in his sophomore season at College Station, and reached the end zone 10 times.

The Eagles’ returning defensive standouts are seniors Brody McClure and Hunter Shinault.

The Eagles are vying to be the top team in a new 4-4AI league this season against Burkburnett, Mineral Wells, Springtown and Wichita Falls.

Decatur travels to face Brownwood in a scrimmage match-up Aug. 12, and will host Panther Creek in its final tune-up Aug. 18.

The Eagles start the season on the road at Anna 7 p.m. Aug. 26.


The Bridgeport Bulls pushed their way back into the postseason in coach JD Martinez’s first season. Now, the team looks to find a new playoff path in a new district.

Bridgeport (5-6) punched its postseason ticket by claiming third in 3-4AII in 2021, but was blown out by Aubrey in the first round, 55-3.

The Bulls have three returning seniors who made the 2021 All-Wise team — Adan Santoyo, Mason McComis and Colton Rudder.

Santoyo led Wise County’s receivers last season with 50 receptions, amassing 810 yards and eight touchdowns.

McComis completed 170 of his 313 attempts for 2,058 yards and 16 scores with nine picks in his second year as Bridgeport’s signal-caller.

At safety, Rudder was the Bulls’ leader in tackles with 109. He also had five tackles for losses, 13 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.

In February’s UIL realignment, Bridgeport was placed in the newly-created 5-4AII league along with Aubrey, Farmersville, Gainesville, Krum, Sanger and Van Alstyne.

The Bulls’ scrimmages are at Mineral Wells (Aug. 12) and home against Boyd (Aug. 18).

Bridgeport takes on Burkburnett in the season opener 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at Burkburnett’s Bulldog Stadium.


After a disappointing finish last season, Boyd coach Ian Ritchey hopes to turn the Yellowjackets’ program around in his second year on the job.

Boyd went 2-8 in 2021, and missed the playoffs after placing 6th in 4-3AI (2-5).

The Yellowjackets’ offense will be led by junior quarterback Braden McIntire. He was 76-for-152 passing for 1,193 yards and nine touchdowns with 11 interceptions as Boyd’s back-up last season.

Boyd will return two All-Wise defense players from 2021 — senior linebacker Case Ferguson and senior defensive end Michael Nelson.

Ferguson recorded 101 tackles, seven tackles for losses, three interceptions, two pass breakups, two sacks and two fumble recoveries in his sophomore campaign.

Nelson led Boyd in sacks last season with seven. He also made 55 tackles, 12 stops for losses, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Ritchey expects senior wide receivers/ defensive backs Mason Turner and Aidan LeMasters and senior linebacker Reade Bounds to be standouts in 2022.

Remaining in 4-3AI in the new alignment, Boyd will continue to face familiar opponents in district play — Brock, Paradise, Peaster, Pilot Point, Ponder and Whitesboro.

Boyd’s tune-up games are on the road at Bells (Aug. 12) and at Bridgeport (Aug. 18).

The Yellowjackets welcome Blue Ridge for their season home opener 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26.


With a large, experienced junior class returning, the Paradise Panthers are geared to make noise in 3AI this season.

Paradise (6-4) won its first three games last season, but dropped four of its seven league contests, leaving the Panthers out of the playoffs with a fifth-place finish.

Coach Joe Koch has given control of the Panthers’ offense to junior Austin Iglesias. Iglesias was an 2021 All- Wise wide receiver with 42 catches for 671 yards and eight touchdowns, and earned 4-3AI Newcomer of the Year.

The Panthers will also return three additional all-county players from last season — juniors Will Johnson and Koby Dickens and senior Carlos Perez.

Johnson rushed for 606 yards and nine touchdowns in his first season. The All-Wise Offensive Newcomer of the Year also grabbed 21 passes for 309 yards and two scores.

Dickens earned All-Wise Defensive Newcomer of the Year with 134 tackles, 15 tackles for losses, seven sacks, four pass break-ups, one pick, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Perez, a two-time 4-3AI first-team kicker, converted all of his 43 point-after attempts in his second campaign.

Koch believes the Panthers’ offense will have significant contributions from junior wide-out Landon Holley, senior running back Leo Hernandez and senior center Levi Waggoner. Safeties Brock Mathis and Ayden Winters are also viewed as key players.

Paradise hosts a scrimmage against Windthorst Aug. 12, and will travel to Grandview Aug. 18.

The Panthers kick off the 2022 season at home against Lindsay 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26.


Going two rounds deep in the 2021 playoffs, the Alvord Bulldogs are vying to be Wise County’s top gridiron team once again.

The Bulldogs were 8-4, and shared the 5-2AI title with Lindsay. As the second seed, Alvord claimed a bi-district title against Wolfe City (34-30), but fell to Italy in the area round 56-21.

Coach Scott Smiley will look to fill a gap at quarterback following the departure of Jacob Martin. The Bulldogs will return senior offensive standouts in running back Jacob Johnson and wide receivers Jody Owens and Connor Chambers.

Junior linebacker Troye Baker will command the Bulldogs’ defense. He made 107 tackles, two stops for losses and one sack last season.

Smiley believes Alvord seniors Daniel Mora and Hayden Sands will be impact players on the offensive and defensive lines.

Alvord will battle in a new 6-2AI league this season against Nocona, Tioga, Tom Bean, Trenton and Whitewright.

The Bulldogs welcomes Archer City and Callisburg for scrimmages Aug. 12 and Aug. 18.

Alvord travels to Olney for the season opener 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26


After a winless 2021 campaign, the Chico Dragons look to rebound under a new coach this fall.

Jason Sanders was promoted to athletic director and football coach July 13 following the departure of former coach Randy Miller.

In Miller’s final season, the Dragons were 0-10, and finished fifth in 7-2AII.

Senior Brennan Anderle will return under center for the Dragons. He completed 27 of his 102 attempts last season for 383 yards and two touchdowns, with five interceptions. He also added 694 yards and five scores on the ground.

Sanders also named junior running back/linebacker Willie Lacey, senior running back/linebacker Arturo Parra and senior wide receiver/linebacker Xavier Martinez as players to watch.

Competing in a new 8-2AII league, the Dragons will face Celeste, Collinsville, Era, Lindsay, Muenster and Santo.

Chico will travel for both of its scrimmages. The team will battle S&S Aug. 12, and Meridian Aug. 18.

The Dragons will face Gateway Charter Academy 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at Gateway Field in Dallas.


The Northwest Texans will look for redemption in 2022 after an early exit in the playoffs last season.

Northwest (7-4) earned a share of the 3-5AI crown with Azle and Brewer at 6-1. The Texans were bounced out of the bracket in a 28-21 first-round loss at home to Burleson Centennial.

Texas Tech commit Jake Strong — a 4-star recruit, according to ESPN — returns under center for Northwest for his final season. Strong completed 182 of his 308 passing attempts for 2,334 yards and 29 touchdowns, with 12 picks. He added 918 yards and eight scores on 126 carries.

Senior Kyle Cummings will be back in the Texans’ backfield after rushing for 1,057 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021.

Northwest will also bring back senior wide receivers Kenan Reil and Logan Jeskevic. Last season, the duo combined for 53 catches for 1,152 yards and 23 scores.

The Texans remain in 3-5AI, but will face a slew of new opponents — Aledo, Azle, Brewer, Burleson Centennial, Denton Ryan, Fort Worth South Hills, Northwest, Saginaw. The Colony and White Settlement.

Coach Bill Poe’s ninth season with Northwest starts with a scrimmage against Eaton Aug. 19 at Northwest ISD Stadium.

The Texans are on the road against ProsperRockHillinWeek17p.m.Aug. 26.


The Victory Christian Academy football program will have a new leader at the helm in 2022.

Athletic director Joe Berry has tapped Nathan Geiger to become the Patriots’ coach.

VCA (3-6) was fifth in TCAF District 2 Division II last season under former coach Everett King. The Patriots fell to Heritage Christian in the first round, 58-8.

Junior Jaxson Oates is expected to return as the Patriot’s quarterback. He was 30-for-63 passing for 376 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

The new coach expects junior wide receiver Jayden Geiger, senior running back Riley Bates and split-back/defensive end Isaac Reyna to lead VCA’s squad.

The team will play in TCAF’s Division II 6-man league with Dallas Academy, Faustina Academy, Harvest Lantana, Heritage Christian Academy and Sherman Grayson Christian School.

The Patriots will scrimmage at Nazarene Christian Academy Aug. 12, and will host its final warm-up against Bethesda Christian Academy Aug. 19.

VCA opens the season at Nazarene Christian Academy 7 p.m. Aug. 26.

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