I knew coming into last week what I was potentially in for when it came to a three-day stretch of state volleyball playoffs and high school football playoffs.

Selfishly, I wanted it to be as busy as possible because that would mean everything went according to plan.

Excluding me catching my first cold since 2019 at the very tail end, it did.

The Beckville Ladycats won their second 2A state title in four years, the Carthage Bulldogs football team kept the state’s current longest winning streak alive (41 games), and the Beckville Bearcats football team kept their best season in school history going by improving to 12-0.

I did mention that these events took place in three consecutive days, but what I didn’t mention was that none of these events took place in Panola County. So in other words I was hitting the road, and that’s exactly what I did.

Four games — two volleyball, two football — played in three different cities where in total I traveled 1,008 miles. From Carthage to Garland on Wednesday, Carthage to New Caney on Thursday, and from Carthage to Garland to Murphy and back on Friday.

At the beginning of the week I knew Wednesday, Thursday and Friday’s schedules were a given. The only variable of all things was the eventual 2A state champion Ladycats. Wednesday was a forgone conclusion that Watchman freelance photographer Grant Worley and I were going to go to Garland, where the Ladycats would square off against Crawford in a 2A semifinal match-up.

After doing my research and talking with Beckville’s captain Kinsley Rivers — who is now the first student-athlete in school history to win two state titles in any sport — for Press Play on Tuesday, I knew that Beckville was going to have a tougher match-up in the semifinals than the actual finals.

Worley, who I can’t thank enough for partaking in these events with me, not only hits home run every time he shoots, but in big playoff situations I want someone who is a photographer and not a sports writer like myself masquerading as one. Worley did amazing as expected and predicted halfway through the second set of Beckville-Crawford that we would be coming back on Friday; he was most certainly correct. The Ladycats swept Crawford.

That was Wednesday.

On Thursday, we had a two and a half hour drive south to New Caney, where the Bulldogs took on Hamshire-Fannett. Things went as smoothly as a Carthage football game could go: the defense was dominant and the offense didn’t turn the ball over. Just reading the last sentence, you can tell Carthage won, but I’ll go and list the outcome, which was 42-14.

Game wraps, I get my interviews, race to the car and start writing. You might be thinking ‘I thought the Panola Watchman only prints on Wednesdays and Saturdays?’ That is correct, but we also have sister papers that we share content with — and when you’re dealing with a program as big as Carthage, it’s of best interest to share that content.

Got the story and pictures submitted, then I got back in the car and headed back to Carthage because I knew Friday was going to be the longest day.

It was, but was also the most gratifying because the first time in my nearly decade long run as a sports writer, my story was going to be the main feature on the front page of the paper. When I first got started in this, I always wanted a front page-worthy news event and not only did I get it, but it felt so organic and real for me.

I’ve been very blessed to how welcoming the coaches, athletes, administrations and parents across all four Panola County schools that I get to cover have been that, aside from the rare instances of them playing each other, I want them to win.

To see one of my schools that has been beyond welcoming to me since Day 1 reach the pinnacle of their sport was truly awesome to see. It wasn’t just me that felt this way as the video of Beckville’s state championship winning point has surpassed 200,000 views on the Panola Watchman’s Facebook account.

To see the emotion and utter joy by the Ladycats, who reached the highest level possible, was truly special. Another memorable moment was seeing Avery Morris, who reigned supreme during Beckville’s postseason run, try her very best to fight back tears upon hearing the announcement that she was named 2A State Most Valuable Player.

It’s an award that Morris highly deserved and hopefully opened up the eyes to college coaches, because Morris is truly a special player.

From there, I had to race to the Media Room at the Curtis Culwell Center because I had to write up the story — because Beckville had a football game against Hearne about an hour later.

I transcribed the post-match interviews with Coach Cherry Downs, Kinsley Rivers, Amber Harris and Morris and got the story done before Worley and I hoped into my white 2012 Ford Focus and made it to Murphy with about 15 minutes to spare before kick-off.

To be honest, the first half of the game feels like a bit of a blur because the second half was much more memorable. In the second half, sophomore J’Koby Williams showed why he’s already receiving Power 5 offers with his four touchdown second half performance.

Finally, when Jae’Dyn Slaughter intercepted Hearne’s Keyshawn Langham, which completely eliminated the Eagles’ hopes of miraculous comeback, I had to take a deep breath.

It was a pretty chilly that night in Murphy, which probably helped bring on my cold, but also it was close to mission complete time.

Beckville and Hearne had run long in regards to getting the story in Saturday’s paper, so after the final buzzer I was able to get my interviews, get in a warm car and come back to Carthage.

To recap: the Ladycats won a state title, Carthage kept the state’s longest current winning streak alive in pursuit of State Title No. 9, and the Bearcats improved to 12-0 to continue the best run in school history.

Three days, 1,008 miles traveled, and everything I was hoping for actually happened.

Not a bad stretch if you ask me.

Stupid cold.

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