By BRYAN URBACH
PALESTINE — With the season being over for all of the area teams except for Oakwood (who plays on Friday night against Abbott), it’s time to look back at the 2013 football season for each of the area teams and see what each team accomplished.
The Wildcats had one of the most emotional seasons this year in football.
The magical run ended in the first round of the playoffs when Palestine was driving the ball with three minutes left in the game against Jasper.
The Wildcats fumbled the ball and all hope of moving on to the next round was gone.
While that moment may stick around for a lot of Wildcat fans, the real moments happened this year during the season.
For a stretch of about a month into the Wildcats’ season, they had a good amount of players injured. Then, after the bye week once everyone got healthy, the Wildcats got on a roll.
They finished the season from that point with a 3-1 record in district play and made it to the playoffs.
Players before the season who were expected to stand out for the Wildcats included running backs Ben Luckett and Jarrell Owens and lineman Brian Thlang.
All three of these players stood out this season, and all three are going to be headed to college next fall, Luckett and Thlang with the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Owens with Texas Christian University.
A few others players who stood out this season on the offensive side of the ball for the 7-4 Wildcats were quarterback Gee Clark, wide receiver Sheldon Watson and offensive lineman Eric Gonzalez. Each of these players developed over the course of the season and had a great impact on the team, as well as others for the Wildcats.
On defense, two players that stood out in my eyes were Isaiah Mitchell and Brian Gummelt.
Mitchell and Gummelt seemed to go together well, for they both enjoyed making solid tackles and both enjoyed helping the Wildcats come away with a victory.
Youth grabbed a hold of the Panthers and wouldn’t let go.
Winning just one game on the season, the Panthers had trouble getting an offense going against several state-ranked opponents.
The ultimate turning point for the Panthers came just three games into the season. The Panthers had just come off a 54-48 overtime win against Huntington and things were looking up for Westwood. And then the streak that every coach doesn’t want to have happen, happened.
The Panthers were up against Brownsboro and they didn’t stand a chance.
Losing 34-6 was a wake up call that something needed to happen to save the season from going downhill fast. But, ultimately, injuries and youth got the better of the Panthers and they went on to lose the rest of their games. Look for Westwood to improve next year, due to the experience youth gained on the field this season.
Elkhart has one of the more interesting stories on the year.
A team that went 2-8 in the 2012 season finished 7-4 in the 2013 campaign behind the legs of senior running back Jeffery Wilson.
Funny as it may seem, the turning point for the Elks’ season was actually the first game against Alto.
Coming into the match, Elkhart was a massive underdog, for Alto was one of the top teams in Class 1A.
The Elks were able to go on the road and come away with a 36-35 win against the Yellowjackets, and that gave the team the confidence it needed to spark a playoff run this season.
In the preseason, the Dogwood Circle Magazine staff predicted that Jeffery Wilson, Zack McFarland and Gaje Smock would be returning leaders for this Elkhart team.
Wilson finished the season with outstanding numbers for the running back position.
He finished with 275 carries in the season with 2,487 yards and 35 touchdowns. Wilson averaged 9.05 yards per carry throughout the season.
Senior linebacker Gaje Smock finished the season with 159 tackles, nine tackles for loss, four sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
McFarland, Jimmy Warren and the rest of the offensive linemen had a solid season as well as they fought to protect Wilson throughout the season, as well as their quarterback, Jordan Ives.
The Elks made a quick exit out of the playoffs after losing to Godley in the first round.
The Cayuga Wildcats featured a strong running game this season.
After an 8-5 season for 2012, fans were left wondering how a team losing so many players would fare this season.
Well, they did better.
Keshawn Jackson led the rushing for the Wildcats as he averaged about three to four touchdowns a game.
Jackson, a junior, will be one of the leading forces for the young Wildcat squad.
A team with only six seniors to start the season should have another strong season ahead of them next season after going 8-2 for the 2013 season including the playoffs.
During the season, many thought Cayuga was going to go undefeated, and they would do so until a game against Italy.
Something happened to the Wildcats during that game that hadn’t happened all season thus far; the Wildcat running game was stuffed.
The 42-14 loss to Italy proved to be the only one the Wildcats suffered until the first round of the playoffs when De Leon sent the Wildcats home.
That loss to Italy got Cayuga back on the right foot, and they started scoring more and more as they finished the last two games with 67 and 66 points in the respective performances.
Even with the early playoff exit, the Wildcats should look forward to next season when all of the younger players will be more experienced.
The Sandies finished the 2012 season with a 2-8 record.
The Sandies finished the 2013 season with a 2-8 record.
New coach Shawn Brown came in at the beginning of the year with a new spark for the Sandies, but sometimes it takes a little bit of time getting used to a new coach.
The Sandies had an up-and-down season for their football squad as they went on to win just two games this year.
The Sandies seemed to have two turning points in the season as they beat Lovelady in the third week to stop their winless streak at two and then again when they won their game against Cushing.
Both games showed sparks of life for the Sandies as they saw offense for the first time against Lovelady, and they saw a good defense show up against Cushing.
The game against Cushing was probably a bigger game for the Sandies this year, for it was the first game of district play and with the win, Grapeland was looking to turn its season around.
Ultimately, however, the Sandies weren’t able to turn their season around and they missed the playoffs for another year.
Next season, the Sandies should be much improved after having the same coach for two seasons in a row.
One of the most confusing of the area teams this year was the Frankston Indians.
The Indians lost their first four games by heartbreakers each time.
But, the turning point in the Indian season was the start of district play.
The Indians were finally able to get fully healthy right around district play, and the trio of quarterback Ozzie Buckner, wide receiver Kendrick Rogers and running back Oran Jenkins started to click.
Buckner seemed to be the star of the offensive side of the ball this season as he led the team in passing with 2,207 yards and 17 touchdowns and in rushing with 729 yards and six touchdowns.
After a 4-7 season with a first round exit for the Indians, they can look forward to next year, for the district play of the Indians was a great measure of how good this team can be when it is fully healthy and playing at its best.
The saying goes that this is the last, but certainly not least team of the Dogwood Circle listed.
The Panthers are the only team left in the playoffs after a demolishing, mercy-rule finish against Leverett’s Chapel on Thursday night.
This Friday night, Oakwood takes on the Abbott Panthers as they continue their quest for a state title.
The Panthers turning point of the season was six games ago when they started on their six-game winning streak.
The streak started just before district play and has continued throughout the playoffs.
The Panthers' stand out players thus far have been recent Baylor commit Damiyne Durham and transfer student Jordan Hawkins, a junior from Brenham.
The spark for the Panthers has them on this six-game winning streak, and the Panthers are looking to finish the season with a state championship title.