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Hooks uses coaches/sons to 6-2 record

Reporter: Texarkanagazette

 Hooks uses coaches/sons to 6-2 record

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HOOKS, Texas -- It's not often that a high school football team has an extra three "coaches" on the field, but that's essentially the case for the Hooks Hornets. Three of the Hooks' varsity coaches have sons who are starters for the 6-2 Hornets, who will clash with the DeKalb Bears (7-1) for the District 10-3A, Division II championship tonight in DeKalb.

Both teams are 4-0 in district. Only third-place New Boston (4-4, 3-1) still has an outside shot at the crown, but DeKalb has already beaten the Lions, 30-12, and Hooks plays host to New Boston on Nov. 4, the last regular-season game. Hooks' coach-son tandems include head coach Chris Birdwell/Ripken Birdwell, assistant coach Todd Ledford/Jake Ledford and assistant coach Michael Baysinger/Trip Baysinger. Jake Ledford is a senior center-defensive tackle, Trip Baysinger is a sophomore starting quarterback and safety, and Ripken Birdwell is a freshman linebacker and backup quarterback. "It's really like having three more coaches on the field," said Chris Birdwell.

"The players have listened to and learned firsthand from their fathers and they've probably learned more than the average player. It's definitely helped us." And the veteran Birdwell knows how big tonight's district showdown is in DeKalb. "It's definitely a big rivalry game because we're so close together (about 6-7 miles)," coach Birdwell said.

"It's usually a pretty close game, no matter the team's records. It one of those game that if you win, then you have the bragging rights for a year." Last year's game was special as the teams battled to a tie at the end of regular, a tie at the end of overtime, and decided by 6 points, 26-20, at the end of double overtime.

DeKalb won the game to finish second behind Paul Pewitt, and Hooks placed fourth, both advancing to the state playoffs. "It's a big difference finishing first and fourth," Birdwell said. "If you win the district, you face a fourth-place team, usually a weaker squad, in the bi-district round. And if you place fourth, you face a district champion in the playoffs. "We want to win district because that's one of our team's goals.

And advancing as deeply as we can go in the playoffs." One of the keys to the Hornets' offensive attack is their passing game. Baysinger has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,280 yards and 16 touchdowns. He's also scored seven touchdowns on runs. His quarterback rating is 133.2. Baysinger replaced last year's starting quarterback, Jalen Woodside, who accounted for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.

He was a Pleasant Grove transfer. Trip is Michael Baysinger the third (III), hence the nickname "Trip" as in triple. "He been outstanding for us this season," Birdwell said. And Baysinger's receiving corps is talented and productive as well. Jatavious "Boogie" Johnson is the team's leading receiver with 33 catches for 539 yards, his longest being a 73-yard TD from Baysinger.

Matthew Hays is second with 26 catches for 319 yards and Carter Harris is third with 17 receptions for 318 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown from Baysinger. Johnson is from an athletic family. An older brother, David Johnson, is playing for Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Another brother or close relative is playing for Southeastern Oklahoma, the Hornet coach said. "We've got several good receivers, and Logan Baker doesn't make a lot of catches at tight end, but he's helped with our blocking on the line," coach Birdwell said.

"He's also one of our leading tacklers." Birdwell said Baysinger has found open receivers. "I think he's thrown to about nine or 10 different receivers," Birdwell said. "He looks for the open man and he's been accurate on his throws." Matt Hays also is a capable receiver and he led the team in receptions (24) and receiving yards (341) last year.

He's also a free safety and kicker this season. The running game is sparked by tailback Keyshawn Walls, who accounted for more than 2,000 yards last season. This year, Walls has rushed for 1,121 yards (142 yards per game) and he's scored 14 touchdowns on runs, including an elusive 80-yard sprint for a TD.

He's averaging a team-leading 7.9 yards per carry, just eclipsing the team's second-leading rusher, Baysinger, who averages 7.8 yards per run. The offensive line returns three starters off last year's team, including three-year starting center Jake Ledford, Kason Choate and Carson Adams. Nate Hayes, who moved into Hooks, has been a key contributor up front, too. The majority of the defense has a year of experience under their belts. "We mainly started sophomores and underclassmen last year, so they gained that year of experience," Birdwell said.

"Our offense is mainly junior and seniors, but our defense is still very young and has played very well. We've really shut down some teams this year." Ripken Birdwell is the Hornets' leading tackler with 92 (averaging 11.5 per game), followed by Baker with 70, Coulter with 64 and Dontravious Coulter with 53.

Birdwell and Coulter are linebackers in Hooks' 4-3 defensive alignment. Boogie Johnson and Carveion Johnson have made two interceptions each. Kamren Stiger has recovered four fumbles, Coulter three and Birdwell two. "Daniel Godfrey, a defensive end, would be up there in tackles, but he's usually double-teamed and teams run away from him," Birdwell said.

"He comes from a long line of good Godfrey athletes and he's a force on our D-Line." Birdwell said this year's team has been working hard to achieve its goals. "That's everybody from the coaching staff, to the players, and anybody who helps with our team's success," he said. Two winning streaks are on the line at DeKalb tonight.

The Bears have won six straight and the Hornets five in a row. "We take them one game at a time because in this district anybody can beat anybody on a given night," Birdwell said. "And it doesn't get any bigger for us than a game against DeKalb. It's as big as they get." Submitted photo Submitted photo Submitted photo

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