It might have been the most successful overall athletic season in the history of West Rusk High School athletics.

Given the win total of all the combined sports, and the recent success of the West Rusk track and field team at the University Interscholastic League’s State Track & Field Championships about two weeks ago in Austin, that doesn’t seem like an overstatement.

But it definitely led to four outstanding young athletes from West Rusk making their college choices public late last week.

Andon Mata, a multi-sport athlete for the Raiders, ultimately decided that the track path was the correct one for him, and chose the University of Houston as his destination. Alaysia Brown will also continue her track and field career and her education at Jacksonville College.

Geremiah Smith and Will Jackson, who have been Mata’s teammates on the gridiron for years, both signed national letters of intent to play football at the next level. Smith will continue to do just that at Texas A&M-Commerce, while Jackson will move on to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

All four gathered for a signing ceremony on Friday at West Rusk High School’s gymnasium, with the bulk of the high school’s student body in attendance, as well as faculty and some family members, and members of the media, as they signed their letters of intent.

All four also had roles in the hardware in the very center of the gymnasium floor: the West Rusk track trophies, and shining brightly was the 3A trophy won most recently at that state meet, where the boys relay team – including Mata, Smith and Jackson (as well as Ty Harper) – won gold and Mata won silver in the boys 3A 200 meter dash.

Mata, the son of former Kilgore High School quarterback and current West Rusk football assistant coach Rafe Mata, had originally committed to Lamar University to play football, but changed his mind in recent weeks and decided to go to Houston – where his father graduated and his family had great ties – to run for the legendary Cougars track team. Multi-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, and so many others, got their start at Houston.

Brown is a sprinter and a long-jumper for the West Rusk girls track team, and finished fifth in the area meet at White Oak in the 100 meter dash (12.74 seconds). She competed in the long jump, as well, in the District 16-3A meet.

Smith and Jackson (and Mata, too, although he’s going to college for track) helped West Rusk to a 10-3 record, and the Raiders went 6-0 in district play, winning another district championship. The offense scored 563 points, and the defense allowed only 313.

On offense, both Smith and Jackson were receivers. Smith had 43 catches for 914 yards, averaged just over 21 yards a catch, and had nine touchdowns. Jackson had 46 catches for 546 yards and six touchdowns, and averaged almost 12 yards per catch.

On defense, Smith had 47 total tackles, defended six passes and had two interceptions in 2022. Jackson had 41 tackles, and defended four passes.

Sports editor

Mitch Lucas is the sports editor for the Kilgore News Herald, and has been since June 1, 2002.