By Delaney Russell
Ahhh, that smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of instruments playing in the distance, an intermittent whistle here and there, and the occasional crackle of shoulder pads banging against each other. Welcome back football, we missed you.
Schools all around the great state of Texas kick off their respective campaigns and the Jaybirds of Jayton and Bulldogs of Spur are no different. Optimism is in the air as everyone eyes a good start to the year. The scrimmages are over, and the scores count. It’s survival of the fittest now.
The Jayton Jaybirds moved to the six-man ranks after the 1983 season and made waves the next two with state titles in ’84 and ’85, just missing another in 1986. A few other championship runs have come and gone since then, and coming off a 10-2 season in 2016, the Jaybirds would love nothing more than to get back in form and add another state title. Half of their starters are back and Jayton is the preseason district favorite in District 8-1A, Division II, in addition to an overall #11 Division II ranking. I’d say things are looking up and they’ll be right there in the mix.
In a battle of the birds, Jayton welcomes the #27 ranked Division I Hermleigh Cardinals to town this Thursday to see where they stack up. The Cardinals come off a 4-6 season while competing in a tough district with the likes of defending state champion Borden County and Ira and boast a strong core of players returning. The Jaybirds are 7-3 all-time versus Hermleigh with the last meeting coming in 2007, a convincing 58-12 victory. They’ll be hoping for more of the same this go around. Stay tuned for a full report next week.
Meanwhile, to the north and west of Jayton, the Spur Bulldogs are gearing up to see who is top dog in their matchup with the Anton Bulldogs this Friday. Spur began competing in six-man ball in 2002 but have only enjoyed five winning seasons since that time. Both Bulldog squads seemingly mirror each other, Spur coming off a 4-6 mark in 2016 and Anton finished at 4-7. Anton is currently ranked #24 in Division I, while Spur is two spots down at #26. Spur has the overall edge in this contest with a 3-0 record against Anton, including a close 52-42 win last year. But as it turns out, Anton is just the first of many tough challenges facing Spur for 2017. Seven of their remaining opponents are ranked in the top twenty of either the DI or DII current polls. To get back to the postseason they’ll have to bring their best effort every week.
I realize it may be early, but if both teams can capture a playoff bid this year it’s possible they could meet again later down the line, and rematches of equally matched teams can make for some great entertainment. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We can cross that bridge when it gets here. One thing I do know for sure, this one should will be a dog fight and the Bulldogs will win. I’d be willing to place a small wager on it.
Good luck to all area athletes.