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Smith MS 8A, 8B and 7A Football Teams Win Zone 2 District Championships

If there was a triple crown in middle school football it would go to the Smith Yellow Jackets, with the 8A, 8B and 7A teams all named Zone 2 District Champions.

                In games held Monday at Jacket Stadium, the eighth grade A team clinched their District title with a 20-12 win over Weatherford Hall. They posted an overall record of 7-1, going undefeated in district at 6-0.

                The 8B Jackets kept Weatherford scoreless at 14-0. The team stayed in the win column throughout district play with a record of 6-0, going 6-2 for the overall season.

                The seventh grade A team ended district on the road with a 20-12 win over Weatherford Hall. The Jackets were undefeated in district play and finished 7-1 for the season.

                Making up the 8A team roster were Jaleal Allen, Dawson Macklin, Marcus Brannam, Julian George, Kayden Spurgeon, Yael Montoya, Lance Sansom, Creed Martyniuk, Eli Martinez, Xander Marion, Erick Lucero, Miguel Cardenas, Raiden Bazan, Marcus Ramirez, Antonio Quiroz, Jett Walker, Jared Braswell, Jadaan Rodriguez and Adrian Perez.

The 8B Gold team includes Gavin Lesley, Jake McWhorter, Jayson Rubio, Jose Rico, Rafael Amaya, Conner Williams, Jeremiah McGilveary, Jayvon Matheson, Britten Jones, Alek Amyett, Coal Petty, Ashton Huey, Matthew Rodriguez, Kyler Wilson, Austin Burton, Hunter Harmon, Cole Curlee, Alex Hernandez, Lawton Tippins, Josh Zapata, Jaden Battle, Rodolfo Saldaña, German Rico, Alex Everhart, Evan Chaplin, Sergio Ramirez, Kaylon Shipman, Gabriel Molina, Jaiden Ortiz, Matthew Davila, Aidan Montes, Scott Durgin, Jamie Cox, Josh Grotberg and Victor Rodriguez. Coaches for both teams are Michael Hoots, Cooper Walls and Richard Wilson.

Members of the 7A “Black” squad includes Carlos Rico, Parker Phillips, Jayden Navarrete, Malachi Cunningham, CJ Kensley, Stephen Anderson, Major Marvell, Maddox Shields, Lawson Hiett, Beaux Douthitt, Aaron Martinez, Eryk Martinez, Clayton Luther, Donta Cellard, Kaeden Grant, Carter Howe, Cody Diaz, Andre Jean-Julian, Elias Tarango, Ethan Forrester, Adriel Martinez, Zander Ballenger and Caden Brown, coached by Jeffrey Boman, Rendon Ellis and Perry McCuistion.

Hoots, who also serves as Smith’s boys athletic coordinator, talked about team work and determination in discussing the successes of all three squads.

“The eighth grade A team involved a really good group of young men,” Hoots said. “They played very physical each week and it showed every team we played why we would ultimately become the District Champions. I was never really nervous going into a game with this team because I knew these boys would come out and play hard no matter what. Their most pivotal game was this last one, won here at The Rock to clinch the District title.”

“The B team really worked hard this year, practicing against the A team each week,” Hoots said. “We had a lot of hurdles thrown our way throughout the season, but they found a way to overcome them. This is the second consecutive football District Championship won by the B team for Smith Middle School. We are very proud of that.”

“One of my favorite quotes is from Vince Lombardi who said, ‘The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.’ These teams did this week in and week out and the results are there. Coach Walls, myself and Coach Wilson had a blast coaching these eighth grade groups.”

Among the key players on the 8A offense were quarterback Creed Martyniuk, running back Eli Martinez, wide receiver Lance Sansom and tight end/halfback Xander Marion.

“Creed was a great leader on and off the field,” Hoots said. “He got everyone going each day and led by example. He worked hard in summer workouts and proved he could lead a football team. He read the defense really well and could also run the field when he was under pressure. I am proud of him to have led the team the way he did.”

“Eli is probably one of the best running backs I have had the chance to coach in my 12 years on the job. He was also a true leader and very respectful, saying ‘yes, sir and no, sir’ no matter what he was asked to do, or the situation. I truly believe he has a chance to be really good—in high school and beyond.”

Hoots praised Sansom for his versatility, while describing Marion as “one who did it all.”

“Lance played at many different WR spots for us,” he said. “When we needed speed, we gave him the ball to get the edge. He played hard and made it hard for the opposing defense to adjust to us. From blocking to running routes this year, Xander did it all. We could have not done a lot of the plays we ran without him. Not many players got past him and he caught any ball thrown his way. He was a secret weapon for our team for sure. He will be a great addition to our high school program next year.”

“Our 8A defensive line was outstanding,” Hoots said. “Marcus Ramirez, Antonio Quiroz, Jadaan Rodriguez, Erick Lucero, Raiden Bazan, Adrian Perez, Jared Braswell and Jett Walker were a force to be reckoned with. Each week the opponent’s offensive line had a hard time stopping these guys. Coach (Casey) Walraven needs to know Cleburne football has a bright future ahead with these players.”

Shout-outs from Hoots also include Corners Julian George and Marcus Brannam and Safety Jaleal Allen.

“Julian and Marcus were great open field tacklers for us,” he said. “When our linebackers made the play outside, we never worried about our opponents getting around these two. They also took the deep threat away from most teams we played. These two were a big part of our defense—and Jaleal was the leader. It didn’t matter how big the ball carrier was, Jaleal made the play if it came his way. He is one of the best open field tackle safeties I have seen in a while.  He also has good eyes for football, in consistently keeping the opposing QB from throwing the long ball.”

Highlight players on the 8B “Gold” team included Jayvon Matheson, Hunter Harmon and Ahston Huey who doubled as a quarterback and safety for the Jackets.

“Ashton transitioned from wide receiver to QB this year and did a great job,” Hoots said. “He threw the ball well and performed at that same level when he had to run the ball. He did a great job leading the offense. As a safety, he flew all around the field. He made at least 5-10 solo tackles each game. If any runner broke loose, Ashton made sure to tackle them before they scored.”

“Hunter worked hard in the weight room all summer, and it showed on the football field,” Hoots said. “As a running back, he always went hard and broke tackles every time he ran the ball. He gave us solid performances all season.”

“In his position of wide receiver, Jayvon was our go-to guy. When we needed to go deep—he was who we looked to. He also stepped up and played RB when we needed him. Jayvon had a lot of great games this year and was an all-around team player.”

“German, who played defensive lineman, requested to move to the Gold Team in the hopes of getting more time on the field,” Hoots said. “It was a great decision on his part and he really excelled. Our opponents had a very hard time blocking him and he made the QB hurry out of the pocket in every game we played. He did a great job for us.”

Coach Boman, who joined the Smith MS faculty this year, said the 7A District Champions fought hard throughout the season.

“They also worked hard as a group,” Boman said. “It was their determination that got them through the season, with the end result becoming the District champs.”

Coaches listed QB Malchi Cunningham, RB Stephen Anderson and Wide Receivers CJ Kensley and Kaeden Grant as stand-out starters on offense.

“Malachi led the team each week,” Hoots said. “He is a great leader and works hard. He is very fast and can read the field very well. I can’t wait to have him back next year to lead our 8th grade to another great season.”

“Stephen Anderson is a downhill running back,” Hoots said. “He would come hit you and one person could not take him down. He would help our other backs during practice if they didn’t understand something. He told me in sixth grade he wanted to be the running back and he came out and achieved that goal.”

“CJ has a bright future at wide receiver. He can catch just about anything you throw at him. He had numerous touchdowns on the season and worked hard week in and week out. Kaeden played slot and was also very shifty on the field for us. He has lots of speed and can also catch anything headed his way. He will play just about anywhere you put him.”

Defensive line leaders for the 7A Jackets included DE Donta Cellard, Jayden Navarrete, Beaux Douthitt and Corner Major Marvell.

“Donta is big and physical on the field,” Hoots said. “He was a major threat to any offensive line we played. He has a great future on the football field.”

“Jayden and Beaux both played inside linebackers and were tackling machines. It was hard for any team to run the ball up the middle against us. These two made lots of tackles each game and led the defense.”

                “Major has a nose for the football,” Hoots said. “He made opposing receivers not want to be thrown to. He made great open field tackles and truly played great defense for us.”

                “We are very grateful to have had a football season,” Hoots said. “These kids were so excited for the chance to play, especially after the work they put in during the summer. These aren’t the first district championships for our football program, but they are especially meaningful and memorable because of the circumstances and challenges relating to the pandemic. These championships are a great finish to a season we weren’t even sure we would have.”