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COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: Falcons reset for kickoff of spring season - Odessa American: Sports

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COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: Falcons reset for kickoff of spring season

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Posted: Monday, February 22, 2021 8:57 pm

It’s take two for the UTPB football team as the Falcons will try again to play its first game of the 2021 spring season.

The previously scheduled home opener against Southern Nazarene was pushed back to 1 p.m. Saturday at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland due to the severe winter storm that affected Texas and Oklahoma last week.

Despite not playing, head coach Justin Carrigan said that there was a positive of having to pause an extra week while waiting for the weather to clear.

“It’s been more beneficial than we expected,” Carrigan said during a virtual press conference Monday. “We were able to get a couple of guys back into pads this weekend and hopefully get them ready for a game that they wouldn’t have played if we played on the 20th.”

The Falcons have been anxious to get on the field. Carrigan and the coaching staff spent plenty of time last week clearing about 35 yards worth of snow on the turf fields to allow for walkthroughs.

The team was able to get through practice this weekend in preparation for Saturday’s matchup and Carrigan says spirits are high considering the team has gone more than 400 days since playing a game.

“I love the staff and the effort and willingness to get that done,” he said. “I think the coaches were equally excited to be out on the field as the players. The spirts and energy levels were high and our guys are pretty fired up and ready to go.”

As for who might be breakout players going into this weekend’s matchup, Carrigan declined to single out individual players. Rather, he said that he’s anxious to see who does step up from what he’s seen at practice.

“We got to get them to game day and then go up against someone else,” Carrigan said. “It’s going to be a new defense, offense and special teams and we’ll see who can react at full speed and player the game and execute their assignments like they have in practice.”

>> SHORTHANDED: The UTPB men’s basketball team has found itself shorthanded over its weekend series against Lubbock Christian.

Head coach Josh Newman said that he only had seven available players against the Chaparrals in Sunday’s 88-49 loss and says that the priority is focusing on just getting healthy. He added that he does not know how many players he would have available for this week’s series against Midwestern State.

“I’m hoping that through the night there was some healing magic going around that we can get some guys back in the next three days,” Newman said. “We’re going to play another good team in Midwestern State that has much improved from last year.”

The other aspect that Newman is keeping an eye on is position for the Lone Star Conference Tournament. The Falcons would be the No. 5 seed if the regular season ended based on the conference’s point system it implemented this year. The top eight seeds would qualify for the tournament set to begin the first weekend of March.

“There’s some people trying to catch us and we’re trying to hang on,” Newman said. “But, the most important thing right now is to get those bodies healthy.”

>> BRIGHT SPOT: The UTPB women’s basketball team has dealt with plenty of challenges on the court in recent days. The Falcons had to contend with No. 1 Lubbock Christian over the weekend and the Falcons showed some bright spots before the Lady Chaps pulled away to win both games.

One of those bright spots was forward Alexis Popham. The redshirt junior from Cibolo has dealt with injuries during her time at UTPB but made the most of her two starts this past weekend, finishing as the leading scorer in both games.

“Her game continues to develop and her confidence is rising,” head coach Rae Boothe said of Popham. “When you put those two things together along with her skill set, I think she’s going to be a phenomenal player the next two years for us.”

Popham’s playing time was the first time she stepped on the court since Jan. 3 against Arkansas Fort Smith.

“It was really big for me to do all I could to help out my team,” Popham said. “Even when I was out, I was on the sideline cheering them on constantly. I was super excited to finally get to play again and play a full game.”  

>> CLOSING OUT: The Falcons have also had challenges off the court with Boothe saying that her players have had to deal with three family deaths over the past week.

It’s been a lot to try and handle but Boothe credited her team for coming together and creating a strong culture of support.

“I think this team is really great at understanding that we’re going to support them in life as a person,” Boothe said. “We all understand that there’s so many things that are more important than basketball. I think this past year has been really educational and eye-opening for a lot of us.”

The Falcons close the regular season this weekend with games against Midwestern State Thursday in Wichita Falls and Saturday at the Falcon Dome.

>>Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

Odessa, TX

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