Rivals Dublin, Hico meet in season’s first ‘Game of the Week’

The head coach Randy Thornton era begins tonight in Hico as he takes on his old coach and longtime mentor, Bob Cervetto, and the Dublin Lions. || Courtesy KRISTI UNDERWOOD

STEPHENVILLE (September 1, 2017) — It’s season opening Friday, when many of us will confirm we were right about some things, wrong about others and startled – positively so, negatively so, maybe even both – by still others.

That’s how high school football rolls. You don’t ever truly now how a kid will perform until the lights come on, the score and clock are being kept and the opponent on the other side is playing to win, too.

At this point each week, I’ll pay particular attention to our area Game of the Week, with, ”area schools’ referring to any in The Flash Today coverage area besides Stephenville High School or Tarleton. I’ll break those down separately each week.

Stephenville hosts Cleburne Friday, and to read our preview, simply CLICK HERE.
A Tarleton preview will be posted later Friday with Texans on the road to Cleveland, Mississippi to take on Delta State.

Game of the week is an easy one in week one with Dublin and Hico ready to mix it up, so I’ll start there.


HICO (0-0) at DUBLIN (0-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium

The headline:
Everyone knows the biggest story in this matchup – Hico beginning the Head Coach Randy Thornton era with the new chief Tiger taking on Bob Cervetto, sixth-year Dublin head coach, who coached Thornton in school when Randy was an up and coming state champion player at Stephenville.

It’s not the first time they have met, as they played twice early in Cervetto’s time at Dublin, and beginning the back half of Thornton’s 10 years leading Cisco to five playoff appearances including a run to the Region I-2A final in 2014. Thornton even has a younger brother on Cervetto’s coaching staff.

How does Thornton feel bout Cervetto?
“You know I love ‘Coach Cervetto. He’s been a great mentor to me as a player and as a coach. i have tremendous respect for what he’s trying to do in the in Dublin. He’s a great fit there, he gets those kids to play hard and they are fully bought in to his program. Every other week of the year, I’m a Dublin fan, but this particular week they’re on our schedule, so I’ll give him all I got.”

I also asked him what’s different about facing Cervetto from a Hico standpoint than when he was in Santo. His answer:

“I’m sure there is more riding on this game between the two communities. Dublin, really, was kind of foreign territory to Santo until we played those couple years,but they play Hico every year and the communities are so close that the kids know each other and they want to beat each other.”

Does Cervetto feel the same way about Thornton? You betcha, and then some:
“Randy has always, going back to when he was a kid, benen a scientist of doing things right. When he was learning something as a player ,he didn’t just want to show that he could get it done, he wanted to learn and use the right technique for everything, and the same was true off the field. Now that he’s a head coach, just like he did at Santo, you know he’s going to build the program there Hico the right way, and the best news for him, he’s already got a head start because they already have a good program. He was the right guy for that job, no doubt about it, and he is going to do good things there. But he needs to know I’m still coming for him Friday. I love him, I can’t wait to hug his neck and I’m honored I get to be his first opponent now that he’s there, but we’re coming for ya, Randy.”

Some other story lines in this one:

Josh Hanes the primary quarterback for sure now that Jacob Owen has moved with his family. His father, Keith Owen, preceded Cervetto as head coach and athletic director and became high school principal when Cervetto took over athletics. Within a couple weeks of preseason practices beginning, the Owen family took off for Linden-Kildaire, leaving Hanes as the quarterback.
Cy Wing, a sophomore, adds a second QB if Dublin wants to move Hanes, their top athlete, Cervetto says, around.

There are no secrets here. With Thornton in charge, the Tigers will get in the flex bone and run the option until you’re tired of seeing it, then they run it at you a few more times. Cervetto knows that, and he also knows the Tigers may throw it three times, but they will be a sneaky three times that if his defense isn’t careful cold go for big gainers. Briley Johnson will engineer the option as QB, and Jacob  Smith is a proven commodity at running back. Cooper Conley will also be significant now that he’s healthy after being injured last year. Thornton, in a Thursday interview, cited Hunter Koonsman has having been a good player for Hico, one who will get the opportunity to carry the ball some. Of the option, Thornton says, “Oh yeah, to me, it’s a science and I enjoy that aspect of it. The kids have bought in early and are doing a great job with it. We’re not in midseason form yet, but we have enough tools in the tool belt to get there.”

Cervetto understands why Thornton’s system is such good fit for Hico.

“They were already in the wing-T and were thriving running the football, especially with misdirection. There won’t be much misdirection now, it will be more about how they read you and attack you off it. And you can’t give them a seam, because you know Hico always has kids who can run and get away from you. We have to play assignment-based football and trust everyone to do his job, because if you leave your gap or don’t do your job because you’re trying to do someone else’s, that’s when they’ve got you.”

Multiple formations and and the ability to stretch your defense thin tying to cover sideline-to-sideline is what concerns Thornton most about Dublin. “It’s going to be a Cervetto-run system and they are going to play hard and get after it. They’re big and physical,” Thorneton said. “They ahvea tittle running back (Keith Wright) who really isn’t that little and he runs downhill hard. But you can’t get sucked in because if you/re not careful Coach Cervetto will throw the long ball from anywhere. You have to respect that and not give up anything easy.

Dubolin is 2-4 against Hico under Cervetto. The Lions and Tigers have generally gone back and forth through the years. Dublin endured its dry spell against Hico and just about everyone in the years leading up to the Cervetto era, but largely traded wins back and forth with the Tigers in the 1990s and early 2000s.



Other area games:

Baird (0-0) at De Leon (0-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Bearcat Stadium
There is a special junior class over in De Leon, where the Bearcats are brimming with confidence following a run to the Region II-2A finals last year. Their big favorites over Baird, and even without Chris Cox, the should roll past Baird. Cox hurt an ankle in last week’s scrimmage against Meridian and could play, says head coach David Yeager, if it were a crucial game. It’s not though, and the Bearcats have plenty other weapons in their arsenal. Big mismatch here in favor of the home team.

Evant (0-0) at Lingleville (0-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday at LHS
Numbers have to be a concern for Lingleville, which had nine out during preseason practices, and some days were limited to just six. It’s hard to prepare wight that being the case, so Coach Ken Davis’ primary focus early on may be recruiting in the hallways.

Stephenville FAITH (0-0) vs. Walnut Springs (0-0)
1:30 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Hico
Part of 14th annual Hico Super Six-Man Saturday
The FAITH Knights have won six straight state championships in Division II of the Texas Christian Athletic League and the Texas Association of Independent Athletic Organizations. But his is a more upscale opener for the Knights, who will almost certainly go Division I come playoff time this season. It’s their first time to compete in the Hico Super Six, which in its 14th year feats four games starting at 11, 1:30, 4 and 6:30, all at Tiger Stadium. Coach Nick Braun says speed is the biggest strength for the Knights, and Travis Loper and company will certainly need that against a steadily successful UIL opponent.


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