"Redemption" season for the undefeated Veribest football team heading into Week 5

For those unfamiliar with the rules of Texas six-man football, one of the principal rules is that after the end of the first half, if a team leads by 45 points or more, the game is over.

That is how the Veribest football team played three-quarters in its 60-12 win against Baird last Friday.

It is the second time this season the Falcons "forty-fived" an opposing team, with the first time coming against Santa Anna in a 50-0 Week 1 rout. The Falcons are 4-0 to start the season heading into their matchup against undefeated Panther Creek.

Veribest is currently the 87th overall ranked team in Class A and the 40th ranked in Division I — the lowest-ranked undefeated team. The reason Veribest might not receive the same respect as other undefeated squads is because the Falcons already doubled their win total from last season.

By this time last season, Veribest was 0-4 and did not score more than 25 points in a game. Veribest went 0-5 before winning a game last year, and the same Panther Creek team the Falcons play this week, clobbered them 56-26 last season.

"It feels like more of a revenge season than anything," running back Bryce Martin said. "Coming in with a chip on our shoulder and wanting to beat everyone that gave it to us last year."

Veribest runningback Lane Howard during two-a-day practices this summer on Aug. 8.
Veribest runningback Lane Howard during two-a-day practices this summer on Aug. 8.

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During Veribet's four-game winning streak, they were picked to lose every game. This week's matchup against Panther Creek is the first time this year they are favored to win. No one outside of the football program expected a big jump after coach Justin Morris' first two years ended 5-5 and 2-8 records.

For Morris, however, this was always the natural progression and vision he had for his team.

"The last two years that I was the head football coach we've had a young football team," Morris said. "We've had a couple of classes that didn't have very many seniors and so a lot of our guys were freshmen and sophomores playing a varsity schedule... a lot of these guys have had this as their third year of varsity experience, so I think the age and maturity level has finally come in and helped these guys come into their own."

Most of Veribest's star players such as quarterback Hunter Hallmark — who was named Dave Campbell's Texas Football's Class 1A quarterback Week 4 — running back Lane Howard, fullback AC Natividad and center/defensive end Stephen Whiteker are all in their third year of varsity football despite most of them being juniors.

They all remember the lows of last season and enjoy being on the other side this season.

"Every single game we've been picked to lose," Hallmark said. "I think the first game we were picked to lose by 45 and in the second game (against Zephyr) too, so this feels good, especially after last year."

Veribest quarterback Hunter Hallmark (middle) looks to pitch the ball to running back Lane Howard (right) during a two-a-day summer practice on Aug. 8.
Veribest quarterback Hunter Hallmark (middle) looks to pitch the ball to running back Lane Howard (right) during a two-a-day summer practice on Aug. 8.

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"We've been the underdogs," Morris said. " And when you continue to win games, and people still not have faith in you, or have the respect for what you've done out there on the football field...Yeah, it's easy to get a little bit of a chip on your shoulder and want to go out there and prove some people wrong."

This year's Week 2 matchup against Zephyr stuck out as a measuring stick for Veribest's progress, Morris said. Last year the Falcons lost 46-0, and coming into their matchup against the Bulldogs this year, picked Veribest to lose by 45.

Instead, the Falcons scored 28 points to the Bulldogs eight points in the second quarter on the way to a 42-22 win.

"I've tried to stay away from the word revenge," Morris said. "The word I use with them is redemption... We haven't forgotten about last year. So, a little redemption on some people is not a bad thing."

Looking ahead

The road to redemption is far from over for the Falcons. After their matchup with Panther Creek this Friday, the Falcons have another non-district game against Paint Rock before the real test starts.

Veribest finished fourth in District 13-A Division I last season with lopsided losses to Irion County, Robert Lee, and Menard, who all finished ahead of them in the standings. District 13-A Division I is one of the toughest districts in the state with teams capable of making a state championship run. Last year, that team was Irion County. The Hornets made it to the state semifinals in 2022, however, this year they've struggled in the first four games and are 2-2.

Irion County is not the only threat to win the district, though. Menard claimed the second playoff spot last year after going 7-4 overall and 3-1 in district, while Robert Lee finished third at 8-3 overall and 2-2 in district — losing the playoff spot in a 64-38 loss to the Yellowjackets.

Both the Yellowjackets and Steers are 3-1 this season and look to compete for the top spot again.

"It's not like anybody's a pushover in this district," Morris said. " If you can make it through this district and make the playoffs anything can happen. But I think over the last couple of years, and especially with this team getting older, I think we've closed the gap on a lot of people."

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This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: High school football: "Redepmtion" season for undefeated Veribest