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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Filling voids key for both basketball programs early on


all of fame football coach Lou Holtz once said a quote about losing players that went something like, ‘players come and players go, but someone always steps up and falls on the hand grenade for the welfare of the team.’ Consider this the warning – fire in the hole. With the start of the 2010-11 basketball season, the alert has been sounded. Now, it’s time to see who is going to be that person. Who is going to step up? Who is going to step aside? Last season was big for both the girls and boys basketball programs. Coach Brooke Walthall used her first year to take a fourwin team and turn them into a 13-win squad that just missed out

what both these teams are on the playoffs. searching for. On the boys side, Last season, there was Glenn Hartson’s Natalie Ruud. Eddie Johnson. team closed out Lauren Daniell. Trent Mortheir time in 4A gan. Sam Jackson. Cameron play with a disLowman. Trisha Dupree. trict title and run Zach Hofstad. They’re all to the regional gone. Among that group, quarterfinals, the were eight first, second or program’s deephonorable mention all-district est playoff run Alex Riley selections, a district MVP, ever. a Division II signee and a Both coaches Mirror Division I walk on. Their talked about scoring, their defense, their building off those Sports leadership. seasons, about writer And here’s the harsh carrying that reality – of the 23 players energy over into combined on the two rosters, 13 of this season. Now, it’s up to the them were not on a varsity roster players to do just that. last year. Let that sink in. The girls You can replace an athlete. You have just four returning varsity can’t replace a leader. And that’s


A look at the lessons learned in tournament play over the weekend players. The boys have seven but Derrek Agbaroji missed the majority of the regular season. His brother Eric was the entirety of the season. Add those two to the list and you 15 total, five returners for the boys. Saying both programs are replenishing their respective talent supplies is an understatement. Some call it reloading. That implies there is ammunition to reload with. The growth process was painfully obvious over the first weeks

of the season. The Lady Panthers have struggled to a 1-5 record while the Panthers are 3 points away from being a winless team instead of a 2-2 squad. Some nights, the offense simply doesn’t work. Other nights, the defense struggles. Both coaches have already talked about having to put it all together, offense and defense, to be a successful team this season. That’s a big part of it. But the truth is scoring and turnovers are just one facet of what it takes to be good. These teams need leaders. They need a calming voice and a steady hand to take control when there is nothing but chaos. See RILEY, Page 3C

Photos by Gary Puckett/Special to the Mirror

Just hours after learning of his grandmother’s death, Midlothian native Caleb Russell suited up for Texas A&M’s game with Baylor and recorded his first career sack. Russell has appeared in six games for the Aggies this season.

A bigger picture

Midlothian alum, A&M linebacker Russell puts up best performance in memory of grandmother By ALEX RILEY Mirror sports writer

recounted what had just happened. Just hours before kickoff, Phyllis Horstmann, Russell’s maternal grandmother, affectionately known as “Little Moma,” was killed in an automobile accident on I-35 just north of Dallas. She was 70 years old. Under normal circumstances, Russell takes pressure and thrives off of it. As a walk-on, he’s learned to handle the stress. At that moment, he didn’t know what to do. His search for answers led back to two resources – his faith and his grandfather. “I started thinking about what all I could do. I was kind of in a situation where I didn’t know what to do. I was kind of out in the hallway freaking out not knowing what I needed to do, just depending on what the Lord brought me up with,” Russell said. “I talked to my parents, I talked to my grandpa. He said, ‘She’d want you to play. She’d want you to play and I want you to play. You play for her and you play for your values.’ ” Every time Russell’s phone rang or he placed a call, he talked to the family member on the other

“I talked to my parents, I talked to my grandpa. He said she’d want you to play. She’d want you to play and I want you to play. You play for her and you play for your values.” - Caleb Russell, Texas A&M linebacker

One of the highest highs during one of the lowest lows. Caleb Russell has been there. It’s been nearly two weeks since Russell, a linebacker at Texas A&M, made a career changing play amidst a life changing moment. When he talks, the emotion is still fresh on his tongue. The words flow, although not always succinctly. Sometimes, the right words just aren’t there. Saturday, Nov. 13, was the day Russell had dreamed of since he joined the Aggie roster. The Baylor game was a sellout, a battle of two quality Big 12 teams, both jockeying for bowl position thanks to strong seasons. In four previous games, Russell had seen action, sparingly. Special teams and late game defense had been his role. At breakfast all that changed. “My coach came up to me at breakfast and said you’re going to be starting posse, that’s our third and long package,” Russell said. “They decided to try me Friday night at meetings. I’ve been giving my heart out for them and they just wanted to give me a shot, see what I can do.” A year after being a practice player whose only

game action game was as A&M’s 12th Man, Russell was bound for the field. According the American Chronicle in Bryan, Aggie head coach Mike Sherman told defensive coaches to play Russell because the offense was having a tough time blocking “the son of a gun.” Two seasons of work at practice and Russell was finally going to make the field in a truly meaningful game, potentially at a crucial moment. A few hours later, the high was over. While waiting for the evening kickoff in Waco, Russell got the call from his father. Standing in the hallway, the Midlothian native listened as his dad

See RUSSELL, Page 4C

4C   Midlothian Mirror,   Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Junior varsity tennis update

A pair of junior varsity tennis players performed well at the Mansfield High School Little Gobbler Tournament on Nov. 15. Katie Bass and Jodi Jackson claimed a third place in girls doubles while Brantlin Wilkes and Zandy Huff finished second in mixed doubles play.


Alex Riley, Sports Writer 469-517-1456 |

MISD Sports Roundup

lost 46-27. For the A team, Brandon Klor, Daniel Dopson and Colton Moore had big nights with 11, 9 and 8 points respectively. In the B team game, Londyn Slaughter led with 11 while Victor Stripling had 4.

Girls golf success

Freshman girls basketball update

The freshman girls beat Ennis on the road 42-21 last Monday to improve to 2-1 for the season.

Varsity tennis update

The Midlothian varsity tennis team finished third of 17 teams at the Big Gobbler Tournament in Mansfield last week. The mixed doubles team of Haley Richards and James Dean took home first while the team of Lexi Hendrix and Tyler Honeycutt placed third. Girls doubles partners Lauren Behrmann and Rosalyn Kamp earned a second place finish. In girls singles, Kaylee Hullett and Julia Fransen DeLoach placed second. Nolan Carr took second in boys singles while Hunter Enderle earned consolation champion. The boys doubles team of Matt Kleinlauth and Jacob Dromey won the consolation title.

Frank Seale seventh-grade girls basketball update

Frank Seale’s seventh-grade girls A team started the season with a lot of hustle but came up short with a 45-18 loss against Howard Middle School. Leading scorers for the Lady Cubs were Morgan Griffin and Morgan Huffstutler with 4 points followed by Hailey Petton, Kenzie Sweeney and Ciera Cunning with 3 points each. The seventh-grade B team worked hard but ended with a 46-11 loss against Howard Middle School. The girls played with a lot of hustle and never gave up. Leading the teams in points were Hannah Roark and Makalah Griffin with 4 points followed by Kailey Maendler with 3 points.

Junior varsity girls basketball update

The junior varsity girls basketball team remained perfect on the season with a 34-27 win at Ennis last week. The team is now 3-0.

Freshman boys basketball update

Photo couretsy MISD Athletics

The junior varsity girls golf team took home first at the Rowlette Invitational last week. The winning team was made up of, first row from left, Bailee Barnes (fourth individually), Raeleigh Smallwood, Lauren Farrell, Coach Jared Rye, Tara Traylor (second individually), Allison Cardwell, Sharon Reasonover (tenth individually), Brittany Stapleton (seventh individually) and coach Brant Bennett.

Junior varsity boys basketball update

A second half surge by L.D. Bell proved to be too much for Midlothian’s junior varsity boys basketball team to overcome as the Panthers fell 47-39 in the season opening game. The junior varsity team opened the game with a 25-21 halftime lead before L.D. Bell posted a 26-14 scoring effort in the second half to take control and get the win. Sam Blank led in scoring with 9 while Josh Tobolka had 6.

Frank Seale seventh-grade boys basketball update

The Frank Seale seventh-grade Cubs opened the season with a pair of impressive wins over the Howard Knights. The blue team won 50-34 and the white squad picked up a 30-26 victory. In the blue team’s game, the team played smothering defense with several steals and blocks. Lance Tipton and Grant Bolgiano led in scoring with 12 and 10 respectively. For the white team, Gage Staggs and Joel Mathis led the team with 6 points each. Jake Ammerman came up big in the first quarter with four points for an early lead, making all of his free throws. Conner Malone played excellent defense, keeping the opposing team’s best player locked up all night. Spencer Murphy led the defense with many key rebounds.

Walnut Grove seventh-grade boys basketball update

Both the Walnut Grove seventh-grade A and B teams opened the season with games against Webster and both suffered tough defeats. The A team fell 64-27 while the B team dropped a 40-25 game. In the A team game, Conner Henderson led the scoring with 9 while Zach Humphreys had 6 and Grant Upchurch added 5. Landon Chamberlain led the scoring for the B team with 12 while Jabrelan Esparza had 4.

–Alex Riley and staff reports

Photo courtesy MISD Athletics

The varsity girls golf team placed second at the Texas Two Step Tournament at Tangle Ridge and Southern Oaks golf clubs last week. The team, from left, consisted of Coach Brant Bennett, Tayler Chalmers, Brooke Emery, Lydia Traylor, Shelby Rawlings and Emma Sears.

Frank Seale eighth-grade girls basketball update

Frank Seale’s eighth-grade A team played hard but fell short to the Howard Middle School Knights 53-32 in the first game of the season. Leading the scoring for the Lady Cubs were Jazmin Brooks with 11 points and Lexi Petty with 8. The eighth-grade B team also played hard but fell short 32-18. The leading scorer was Emily Carlson with 5 points while Peyton Butler added 4.

Walnut Grove eighth-grade girls basketball update

Alex Brouwer scored 11 of the eighth-

grade B team’s 16 points but it was just short of enough to help the team get a win over Wester in the season opener, 18-16. Juliana Espinoza and Shelby Luna each had 2 to help the cause. The A team produced more offense but suffered a 44-33 loss to Wester in the season opener. Lauren Paschall led the way with 10 while Karrington Slaydon had 9.

Walnut Grove eighth-grade boys basketball update

The Walnut Grove eighth-grade A and B teams began the year with games against Webster, both of which turned out to hard losses. The A team fell 59-40 and the B team

Russell Continued from Page 1C

end. Everyone said the same thing: “You have to play.” He turned to Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Teammates and coaches offered any advice and comfort they could. Sherman even talked with Russell for a time. Russell described the experience as “humbling.” In the end, the decision was to play. For 60 minutes, he would focus on football, on beating the Baylor Bears, on winning one for “Little Moma.” The first few minutes or so of the game rolled by and Russell got ready mentally and physically for the chance to play. He was ready for the game, not his cheering section. Sitting in the stands were his mother, father and grandfather, looking on as the sophomore got his first major career action. Russell was just scanning the crowd to see if he knew anyone. That revelation caught him completely off guard. “I had no idea my grandpa was up in the stands. I looked up right at the second quarter and I saw him in the stands and my mom and my brothers and my dad,” Russell said. “That made me almost kind of start breaking on the sideline. But they’re there. They’re there for me. They knew I would have been up there in a heartbeat.” Baylor opened by racing out to a 30-14 lead in the first half but A&M would rally to cut into the deficit. Late in the third, a 10-yard touchdown run by Cyrus Gray put the team on top for the first time at 35-30. They would not trail again.

A trio of players hit double-figures to start the season as the freshman A team beat L.D. Bell 50-39 to start the year. Brendan Cross led the way with 16 while Nolan Hess and Quindell Daniels had 13 and 11, respectively. The A team opened up a 22-12 lead at the half and added another 20 points in the third period to cruise to the win. The freshman B team wasn’t quite as lucky as the Panthers surrendered a halftime lead against L.D. Bell and fell 39-37. After taking an 18-13 lead at the half, the B team was outscored 26-19 in the second half en route to the loss. Branson Henry and Nicholas Kinsman each scored 8 points to lead the way while Juston Lynch had 5.

Photo Alex Riley/The Mirror

James Dean, pictured, and Haley Richards claimed first in mixed doubles comeptition at the Big Gobbler Tournament in Mansfield last week.

The Aggies edged out to an uncomfortable 42-30 lead in the fourth quarter. But Baylor would not back down without a fight, regaining possession late in the game for a drive with rally points on the mind. Offense was the story line of the night but defense was going to win this football game. Enter Russell. Pinned back at their own 20-yard line, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III fired off a pass for 16 yards and a first down. He then rushed for two more to move out to the 38-yard line. On second and 8, Griffin was

sacked for a 6-yard loss by Eddie Brown for a third down and 14 situation. Third and long with just over four minutes left to play. Needing to make a game sealing play, the Aggie defense got a hero in the most unlikely of places. Russell forced the elusive Griffin toward the sideline before dragging him down from behind for a 3-yard loss. His first career sack – and perhaps the biggest play of the game. “I’m in pursuit of him and I felt like I was gaining on him and I was like, ‘I’m getting this guy. He’s not getting away from me.’ Of

Photo Alex Riley/The Mirror

James Dean, pictured, and Haley Richards claimed first in mixed doubles competition at the Big Gobbler Tournament in Mansfield last week. course I couldn’t have done anything without the other 10 guys on my team,” Russell said. “Right after it happened I was pumped up for my team that we stopped (the drive). I just gave it to the Lord and I just pointed up to my grandma.” Among the chaos of a victory, both by the team and personally, Russell managed a smile. It was a moment of relief in a storm that seemed to be spinning harder and harder with each passing second. Nothing has been normal about life the last few weeks for Russell. Not his personal life, his work on the football field, nothing. After playing in the season opener against Stephen F. Austin, he didn’t play again until a game against Missouri. Since then, he’s seen action in four of the last five games, including the team’s 9-6 win over Nebraska on Nov. 20. The former Panther admits when he arrived at A&M he thought he could go in and beat everyone out of a job, win a starting spot and be on the field in no time. Reality is not that easy and Russell has learned that. His role is getting bigger with each passing week. Each practice, he gets one step closer to that goal. With his grandmother’s memory at the forefront of his mind, Russell is pushing through. He knows everything happens for a reason, it’s one of the mottos he’s learned to live by. Maybe one day, he’ll look back and Nov. 13 will be the day everything changed but for the better. He dedicates his work, both on the field and off it to Horstmann. Football isn’t everything, it’s just one thing. “There couldn’t be a better reason to play a game,” Russell said. Contact Alex at or at 469-517-1456.

Mirror Sports 11-24  

Feature story on Caleb Russell getting his first sack while battling his grandmother's passing

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