Tivy line backer Cole Mixon, 50, comes up with a big interception Friday in Alamo Heights.

As soon as Tivy’s players had finished celebrating in the right corner of the north end zone after their 64-62 victory over Alamo Heights, they trotted over to the visiting stands at Harry B. Orem Stadium to belt out the Tivy Alma Mater. During their triumphant march, a loud chant radiated from the Tivy faithful.

“Ti-vy Fight Ne-ver Dies!”

There are a dozen or so cliches that I could have used to describe Friday’s thriller. It was a barnburner, a slugfest, a battle of unrelenting wills, a game for the ages. All of those would have applied. But only four words truly capture the events that transpired last Friday. I think you know what those four words are.

“Tivy Fight Never Dies” remains one of the most popular high school mottos in Texas, and for good reason: The people in Kerrville genuinely believe in the ideals that TFND represent. Tivy Fight encourages players to possess a dogged work ethic, to face adversity with gusto and to consider the team’s interests before their own personal needs. This Tivy team has embraced those principles. When that happens, history reveals that gritty wins like the one on Friday tend to happen.

“We won because of TFND — Period,” David Jones said while his players continued to relish the win with riends and family. “You don’t have to write another story. You just have to put in big letters: TFND. And that’s it.”

He’s probably not wrong, but I’m not sure my editors would have been too pleased if all I submitted on Friday’s game was “TFND.” But I am going to spotlight two linebackers who epitomized Tivy fight in the battle against the Mules: James Huff and Cole Mixon. Huff was on the field during all of Tivy’s 108 defensive plays, and Mixon only missed a handful of snaps. Both players combined to record 42 tackles and helped the defense force stops on Alamo Heights’ first four second-half possessions, propelling the Antlers to a second-half lead.

“They showed a tremendous amount of resiliency,” Tivy defensive coordinator Jeremy Hickman said of his two linebackers. “They had a couple of plays where they would get cut and then they would get back up and run, fight off a block and get in on a tackle. Not one time when they got cut did they ever lay down. They got up and continued to pursue the football.

“To me, that’s the biggest thing that makes you proud: Those guys who are willing to keep getting up and sprinting after the football, and who keep making plays.”

Their exhibition of TFND on Friday night is why The Kerrivlle Daily Times has elected to award them game balls for this week.

Both those two guys really fought their tails off and made plays for us,” Hickman said. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty for one more play than it was for them. So we will take it.”

 James Huff — football — Tivy

Huff missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury, making his season debut against Boerne Champion on Sept. 21. He’s continued to improve since that date, and on Friday, he showcased the breadth of his talent. 

He flexed his versatility, alternating between middle and outside linebacker. He relentlessly pursued the football, finishing the game with 23 total tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass break up. And he wasn’t afraid to lay licks either, earning a swollen lower lip at one point in the first quarter

After the game, he proudly showed off his battle scar during a radio interview with Mark Keller, the voice of the Antlers. He even managed to laugh about it.

“My goodness, you have a fat lip there,” Keller remarked.

“Yeah, I could kiss you from here,” Huff quickly deadpanned.

Only the toughest of kids could muster such witticism after playing in a three-hour football game.

 Cole Mixon — football — Tivy

In January, Hickman expressed one of his chief dilemmas entering the 2018 season. He knew that he was going to have the luxury of coaching Huff, an all-district MIKE linebacker, but he also knew that he was about to inherit Mixon, the starting middle linebacker on Tivy’s undefeated 2017 junior varsity squad. Even as early as January, Hickman was trying to figure out ways to fully utilize Huff and Mixon’s different talents.

Last Friday, fans discovered why Hickman wanted both players on the field at the same time. Like Huff, Mixon collected astronomical stats against the Mules: registering 19 tackles and an interception.

Mixon is only a junior, so he doesn’t quite have Huff’s strength and quickness (Although, another offseason in Tivy’s strength and condition program will likely change that). But he has a knack for producing game-changing plays. His interception against Champion set up Tivy’s first touchdown. His pick-6 against Uvalde extinguished the Coyotes upset bid. And against Heights, his interception stopped a Mules’ drive into Tivy territory. In a triple overtime game, It’s those type of plays that account for a difference between a win and a loss.

“Cole has really developed this year, and brings a little bit of a different skill-set than Huff,” Hickman said. “We have two different fronts that we run to get those guys in there, and we work James in at another position just to create depth and help them be a little more well-rounded in the scheme.”

 Cole Miears — football Tivy

There are several offensive players who are deserving of game balls this week. Senior Karson Valverde averaged 7.4 yards per touch and scored on the two-point conversion that gave Tivy the win. Trapper Pannell accounted for six total touchdowns. And senior Josh Vela played on both sides of the ball, and still mustered enough energy to score two touchdowns. All are very much deserving of receiving a hypothetical game ball from the Daily Times.

But I have decided to hand the game ball to junior Cole Miears, who operated as Tivy’s quarterback for the majority of the game. He played the position with ruthless efficiency: passing for 243 yards and a touchdown while averaging a robust 11 yards per attempt.

Early in the third quarter, his toughness swung the game in Tivy’s favor. For one moment, it looked like he had been engulfed by a host of Mules behind the line of scrimmage. The very next moment, however, he had escaped the horde and threaded a 10-yard pass to Brooks McCoy to set up a manageable third-and-five. The next play, he uncorked a 31-yard touchdown to Vela.

In overtime, he figured out that no one on Heights’ team could cover Pannell, tossing 16-yard touchdowns to his teammate in both the second and third overtimes. 

As a result, Tivy (7-1, 5-0 District 14-5A) finds itself in a strong position to win its first district title since 2015.

 Hunter Taylor — football — OLH

Taylor has also continually shown his toughness this season. He suffered a nasty injury on a late hit on Sept. 21 against Medina, but refused to allow the setback to derail his senior season. Not only has he since returned to play quarterback for the Hawks, he’s also playing the position at a high level. He produced some staggering numbers last Friday, passing for 316 yards and six touchdowns while also rushing for 154 yards and three more touchdowns in a 82-60 victory over Faith Academy.

Taylor has helped the Hawks (5-3) eclipse the number of wins they had last year. He will try to get them one step closer to the playoffs when they host Faith Academy this Friday in a key district game.

 Tim Leatherman — football — Ingram

How about them Warriors?

After holding on for a 19-14 victory over Johnson City on Friday, Ingram Tom Moore is going to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The Warriors (7-1, 3-0 District 13-3A Div. II) can secure the district title with a win over Blanco (6-2, 3-0) on Friday.

Everyone — from the administration to the players — deserves credit for this remarkable season. But on Friday, it was sophomore quarterback Tim Leatherman who guided the Warriors to a win. He savaged the Eagles’ defense for 171 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. That’s why he has earned the final game ball, likely the first of many in his career.

If you feel like there were any other players deserving of game balls, please email me at jonathan.toye@dailytimes.com.

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