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The Greenville Lions lost two district football opponents and gained a new one following Monday’s announcement by the University Interscholastic League. They’ll also be moving to a new district for the other sports that will include traditional power Highland Park, Mesquite Poteet and others. The UIL announced the realignment/reclassification information for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 athletic seasons. The Lions, who were in the nine-team District 8-5A, Division II in football will keep the same number: 8-5A-II and district opponents Corsicana, Ennis, Forney, North Forney, Royse City and Sulphur Springs. Two teams that were in the district, Kaufman and Terrell, moved down to 4A. Crandall, a former non-district opponent, is moving up from 4A to 5A to join the district. Greenville will play seven district football games as opposed to eight and three non-district games, following a more traditional schedule. “I’m glad it’s not a nine-team district,” said Lions coach Darren Duke. “The travel’s about the same.” The Lions made the football playoffs for the first time since 2003 when they finished fourth in 8-5A-II back in the fall. “My thing is, we’ll be very competitive no matter what district we’re in,” said Duke. The Lions and Lady Lions will be moving out of District 15-5A for the other sports into District 13-5A. They will only keep Royse City from 15-5A and will face Highland Park, Mequite Poteet, Crandall, Forney, North Forney and West Mesquite. “I think travel-wise it’s going to benefit our fans and our student-athletes,” Duke said of the District 13-5A. “It’s going to be a step up to be in an eight-team district (in the other sports).” Mount Pleasant, Sulphur Springs and Texas High of Texarkana will remain in 15-5A. They’ll be joined by Hallsville, Longview, Longview Pine Tree and Marshall. The new District 13-5A will be very competitive in all of the sports. Highland Park has won state in soccer, golf, tennis and cross country but the former state champion Scots will be in Division I for football. “I think Poteet is pretty solid in all of them,” said Duke....

2/10/2020

Two Greenville defenders who helped the 6-5 Lions to their first football playoff spot since 2003 have earned all-state honors. Defensive end Jeremiah Abrego and defensive back Tyrecus Davis made the second team of the Texas Sports Writers Association’s Class 5A all-state football team. Abrego racked up 71 tackles in the regular season with 22 for losses and 14 sacks. Abrego forced four fumbles and recovered three fumbles, returning one of them for a touchdown. He also broke up five passes. Davis intercepted seven passes, returning three of them for touchdowns, plus a kickoff. He broke up 14 passes. Davis rang up 58 tackles, including three tackles for losses and forced two fumbles. The Lions made the playoffs after tying for fourth place in the nine-team District 8-5A-II. The 2019 Texas Associated Press Sports Editors Class 5A all-state high school football team, released Wednesday. Voting based on regular-season performance. Players are listed in alphabetical order at each position....

12/25/2019

The Greenville Lions were a much quicker football team than their 2018 predecessors. That extra speed showed up in the win column and on the stat sheet. The Lions improved from a 2-7 record in 2018 to 6-5 in 2019. It was their first winning record since 2009 (6-4) and they made their first trip to the playoffs since 2003. The Lions’ scoring was up. They averaged 31.7 points per game in 2019, as opposed to 22.6 for the previous season. Their total offense, rushing and passing numbers were also improved. The 2019 Lions averaged 324 yards per game, up from a norm of 282.1 in 2018. They ran for 2,254 yards and 24 touchdowns this past season, up from the 2018 totals of 1,381 yards and 22 TDs. They also passed for 1,310 yards and 16 TDs, up from the previous total of 1,158 yards and four TDs. Running back Lester Turner boosted his rushing numbers with 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns on 183 carries, significantly up from his 2018 totals (117-565). Quarterback Brandon Stephens’ numbers were up as his playing time also increased. Stephens passed for a team-high 1,173 yards and 14 touchdowns, completing 79 of 168 attempts and ran for 584 yards and five touchdowns on 127 keeps. Stephens passed for 276 yards and ran for 148 in 2018. Caleb Johnson led the Lion receivers with 30 catches for 479 yards and six touchdowns, while Shawn Brown led in receiving yards with 504 yards and six TDs off 20 receptions. Miles Denson also caught 20 passes for 243 yards and four TDs and ran for 406 yards and six scores on 62 carries. The Lions’ speed showed as six Greenville players ran for gains of 20 or more yards including Turner (long gain of 61 yards), Dartaevon Wilkerson (56), Denson (51), Stephens (45), Johnson (30) and Tyrecus Davis (23). Johnson’s speed showed on TD receptions of 72 and 65 yards, while Denson had a 61-yard reception and Brown had a 60-yarder. All three Lion receivers ran on their 4x100-meter relay team that went to regional last spring. The Lions also made some big plays on special teams and defense. Denson and Davis returned kickoffs for touchdowns of 70 and 50 yards....

12/2/2019

FRISCO — The Greenville Lions hung tough with district champion Frisco for a half before giving way in a 44-12 Class 5A, Division II bi-district football loss to the Raccoons. A red-clad crowd from Greenville filled up much of the visitors side of the Ford Center at The Star on Thursday night. They watched the Lions score on two big pass plays in the first half to trail only 14-12. Greenville outgained Frisco 229-147 in total yards in the first half. But the Raccoons dominated the second half, outgaining the Lions 296-90. Four of the Lions’ five possessions in the second half ended in turnovers as Frisco outscored the Lions 30-0 during the final 24 minutes. “I just thought the turnovers eventually got us behind,” said Lions coach Darren Duke. “We were trying to play catch-up. “We just couldn’t get any momentum in the second half.” Greenville, which was making its first appearance in the football playoffs since 2003, ended the season at 6-5. “I thought the crowd was fantastic, the effort was great,” said Duke. “They were good. We knew they were good.” Frisco, now 10-1, advances to the area round to play Dallas South Oak Cliff, a 21-7 winner over Midlothian. Greenville scored its two touchdowns in the first half on a 42-yard halfback pass from Miles Denson to a wide-open Shawn Brown and on a 72-yard pass from quarterback Brandon Stephens to Caleb Johnson. That was Denson’s first pass attempt of the season and the first time the Lions had tried that trick play this season. Stephens’ touchdown pass to Johnson was his 14th TD toss of the season. It was Johnson’s sixth touchdown reception. Brown also finished the season with six touchdown catches. Stephens, who missed the second half of the 32-25 loss to Ennis the previous week with an injury, played most of Thursday’s game though he sat out a couple of plays after suffering an injury. He was 9-of-20 passing for 163 yards and three interceptions and rushed for 35 yards. Stephens upped his season total to 1,173 yards passing and 584 yards rushing. Running back Lester Turner ran for a team-high 46 yards on 14 carries, topping the 1,000-yard mark for the season with 1,040 yards on 183 carries. Greenville finished with five turnovers, also including two lost fumbles. Frisco converted four of the turnovers into 24 points. Frisco defender Jacob Stayman recovered one Greenville fumble at the Lions’ 1-yard line, leading to a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown by Caree’ Green. Frisco followed up an interception by Max Sowerwine with a three-play, 49-yard drive topped off by a 2-yard TD run by Bryson Clemens. Trent Bryant’s interception led to a 26-yard field goal by Frisco’s Jake Gaster. Graham Hawks’ fumble recovery led to a 40-yard touchdown pass from Green to Donta Reece. Chase Lowery of Frisco also returned a punt 42 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Frisco also drove 51 yards and 60 yards for touchdowns. Green capped the 51-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak for the touchdown. Clemons finished the 60-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. Frisco rushed for 367 yards as Clemons led with 153 yards on 23 carries and Reece ran for 87 yards on seven carries. DeGarrious Ford and Tyrecus Davis led the Lions defense with interceptions. The Lions followed up Ford’s interception with the Denson touchdown pass on the next play. The two teams combined for 22 penalties and 208 penalty yards. Frisco had two touchdowns called back in the first quarter on an illegal block and a holding penalty....

11/16/2019

They’re already in the playoffs so they don’t have to beat Ennis tonight to continue their football season. But the 6-3 Greenville Lions sure would like to do something no other team in District 8-5A-II has done and that’s beat Ennis. The two teams will battle at 7:30 tonight at Lions Memorial Stadium in Ennis. The Lions locked down their first playoff berth since 2003 with a 51-3 rout last week over Forney. The win moved them up into a tie for third place in 8-5A-II with Royse City at 5-2. Ennis is alone in first place at 7-0. Corsicana has completed district play at 6-2 after losing 30-21 last week to Ennis. Ennis, Corsicana and Greenville have locked down playoff spots. Royse City can also join the playoff party with a home win over Terrell tonight. North Forney, at 4-3 has to beat Sulphur Springs and have Royse City lose to Terrell to make it into the playoffs. “It’s unusual for both of us (Ennis and Greenville) where the outcome of this game doesn’t affect our seeding,” said Lions coach Darren Duke. “It allows us to go out and play and focus on some things. The no-pressure part allows us to focus on us.” The Lions were firing on all cylinders during last week’s win over Forney. They ran for 232 yards, including touchdown runs of 51 yards by Miles Denson and 41 yards by Lester Turner. Turner rushed for 90 yards on 15 carries to up his team-high total to 924 yards and nine touchdowns on 151 carries. Denson, the junior wide receiver, had his biggest night as a varsity Lion. Not only did he run for 85 yards on just four carries, he caught four passes for 104 yards, including touchdowns of 61 and 9 yards from quarterback Brandon Stephens and 28 yards from Josh Luna, who received a lateral from Stephens before throwing the touchdown pass. Denson escaped nine would-be tacklers on the 61-yard scoring play, shortly after receiving the ball, then Denson cut across the field, nearly getting tripped up before regaining his balance. Denson made his way to the sidelines before getting three defenders to overrun him by stopping and starting again. He completed the touchdown by diving to the end zone. Stephens wound up 7-of-9 passing for 133 yards, upping his season passing total to 916 yards and 11 TDs. Stephens is 66-of-142 passing and has also run for 541 yards and four scores. Defensive back Tyecus Davis also picked off two passes, returning one of them 68 yards for a touchdown. Davis also returned an interception and a kickoff for touchdowns in the Lions’ previous win over Sulphur Springs. Jeremiah Abrego also recovered a Forney fumble that was forced by DeGarrious Ford and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown. “I think our team speed on defense and our speed skill kids on offense present some challenges to Ennis,” said Duke. “We’re capable of playing with anybody.” Ennis has a strong tradition. The other Lions have won five state football titles in 1975, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2013. Four of those titles were with Sam Harrell as head coach. Harrell left Ennis but is back coaching the Lions. Quarterback Collin Drake, a 6-1, 195-pound junior, directs the Ennis offense. Drake has rushed for a team-high 612 yards and nine TDs and has passed for 1,705 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s 108-of-172 passing with only four interceptions. Devion Beasley has rushed for 557 yards and 11 TDs for Ennis and Jarius Jones, a 6-2, 235-pounder, has bulled his way for 411 yards and six scores. Laylon Spencer of Ennis ranks among the state’s top 5A receivers with 43 catches for 983 yards and nine TDs. Ennis averages 37 points per game, while giving up a norm of 15 ppg. Greenville averages 31 points and gives up an average of 18. “I think we take it just kind of as a challenge,” Duke said of facing Ennis. “We want to see how good we can be. We know they’re a playoff team. Not just a playoff team but a really good team. We’ve shown we’re capable of playing at a high level. And I still feel think we’re one of the best teams in the district and we’re capable of beating everybody.” The Lions won’t know until tonight who their bi-district playoff opponent will be. Frisco, Braswell and Lucas Lovejoy are tied for the District 7-5A-II lead with 6-1 records. Duke said if Frisco beats Lovejoy tonight at home, the Lions will face Frisco in the first round of the playoffs....

11/8/2019

The Greenville Lions were firing on all cylinders as they crushed Forney 51-3 on Friday night in the home finale to earn their first football playoff berth since 2003. Miles Denson ran for one touchdown and caught three touchdown passes and the Lions’ defense scored twice on turnovers as the Lions improved to 6-3 for the season and 5-2 in District 8-5A-II play. “That was a good win all the way around, where everything was clicking,” said Lions coach Darren Duke. “The focus was real good. They came out and executed. Dominated them.” The Lions moved up into a tie with Royse City for third place in the district at 5-2 after North Forney outscored Royse City 49-39. Ennis at 7-0 and Corsicana at 6-2 have locked up two playoff berths. So have the Lions even if they lose their next game at Ennis. “We’re in,” said Duke. “There’s no way that they can get us by points. Royse City’s on the hot seat.” North Forney, which has lost 49-38 to Greenville, stayed in the playoff hunt at 4-3 with its victory over Royse City. Royse City, which beat Greenville 17-14 earlier in the season, has to beat Terrell to make the playoffs. If Royse City, Greenville and North Forney were to tie for third place, the Lions and North Forney would advance to the playoffs because of a tiebreaking system, said Duke. Only four of the nine teams in 8-5A-II will advance to the playoffs. “We’re at plus-eight,” he said of the tiebreaking system because Greenville beat North Forney by 11 and lost by three to Royse City. “There was no way for anybody to catch us in points.” North Forney is at minus one in points and Royse City is at minus seven, going by point margins in head to head play of Greenville, North Forney and Royse City. Greenville took care of business early, rolling up leads of 21-0 after one quarter, 38-0 at halftime and 44-0 early in the third quarter. Denson turned in the biggest game of his two-year varsity career for the Lions, running for a 51-yard touchdown and then catching touchdown passes of 61 and 9 yards from Brandon Stephens and a 28-yarder from Josh Luna after Luna received a lateral from Stephens. Denson’s 61-yard run and catch was a work of art as he dashed down the sidelines, cut back, stopped, started again and ran through a couple of would-be tacklers before diving into the end zone. Denson also did some tough running on the 9-yard TD catch before diving into the end zone. The Lions’ big-play man on defense, Tyrecus Davis, intercepted two passes, returning one of them 68 yards for a touchdown. “That Tyrecus, he’s around the ball and just makes athletic plays all the time,” said Duke. Davis returned an interception and a kickoff for touchdowns in the Lions’ 25-13 win over Sulphur Springs last week. Defensive end Jeremiah Abrego also returned a fumble 33 yards for a touchdown. Teammate DeGarrious Ford caused the fumble with his hit on a Forney runner. Lions’ placekicker Zach Allen was 6-of-7 on extra points, booted an 18-yard field goal and also made a tackle on a kickoff return. Running back Lester Turner also ran for 90 yards on 15 carries, scoring on a 41-yard touchdown. He upped his team-high rushing total for the season to 924 yards. “That was some hard running by Miles and Lester,” said Duke. Stephens went 7-of-9 passing for 133 yards and ran for 33 yards on 11 carries. Forney, held to just 62 yards and three first downs in the first half by the Lions’ hustling defense, scored its only points in the third quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Colby Ortega that capped 14-play drive from the Jackrabbits’ 29 to the Lion 12-yard line that ate up nearly eight minutes on the clock. Forney, which was already out of the playoff running, dropped to 2-7 for the season and 1-6 in district play. The Jackrabbits beat Greenville 49-39 last year after rolling up a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. After the announcement that the Lions had clinched a playoff spot, Duke was chased down by some Lions before receiving the traditional dousing from a water cooler. “I saw where Miles had the cooler,” said Duke. “I knew I couldn’t outrun him.”...

11/3/2019

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