FOOTBALL: Waggoner among WRS finalists

Published 6:04 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2019

BEAUMONT — Blaine Waggoner has only lived in the Hamshire-Fannett ISD since June.

Seven months into the move, the senior is a finalist for the Willie Ray Smith Award for defensive player of the year.

“It’s an amazing feeling and an honor, too,” the 5-foot-10 senior middle linebacker said. “I’m just so happy to even be a part of it. I don’t know, it’s just awesome.”

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Waggoner has been voted by members of the local media as one of four finalists for Southeast Texas’ top high school football defensive award. The WRS offensive and defensive awards will be presented at the MCM Eleganté on Feb. 18.

The other defensive nominees are West Orange-Stark defensive back Teshaun Teel, West Brook free safety Darrell Hawkins and Newton linebacker Jadrian McGraw.

Recent Port Neches-Groves graduate Roschon Johnson, the reigning offensive player of the year now enrolled at the University of Texas, is up for a repeat. The quarterback, along with Newton running back Darwin Barlow, West Brook running back Robert McGrue and Evadale running back Will Farr, are the offensive finalists.

The finalists gathered for media availability at the MCM Eleganté on Wednesday.

If Waggoner wins the defensive honor, it would be the first Willie Ray Smith Award for Hamshire-Fannett, another sign of the turnaround he helped his father, head coach Mark Waggoner, engineer.

“I think the biggest thing was to increase spirit throughout the school, get the kids involved to make sure everyone around the school has bought in,” said Blaine, who has an older brother Blake on Mark’s staff. “As long as everybody was on the same page with each other and working together as a team, then it works out great.”

Hamshire-Fannett finished 5-6, a three-win improvement from 2017, but nearly knocked off state semifinalist Silsbee and Liberty by a combined four points in District 10-4A Division II play. The Longhorns reached the UIL playoffs for the first time in three years.

Hamshire-Fannett is the third high school in as many years for Blaine Waggoner. He played under his father at Reicher Catholic in Waco as a sophomore and was at Robinson as a junior, where his dad was an assistant.

“We said, let’s go down; this will be like your first year of college,” Mark Waggoner said, his son offered by Missouri Valley College. “You’re going to have to go eventually, and this is a good way to do it. His social skills, I think, really helps the young man.”

Said Blaine: “I think I handled it pretty well. It helped me throughout life, with all these experiences and making new friends and getting used to all these changes. Change is usually hard for a lot of people, but for me, I guess it makes me feel a little stronger.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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