LC players

Former Leverett’s Chapel Six Man football standouts Hunter Hammontree (left) and Trevor Dean met back up recently at Lion Stadium to talk about the 2008 season that saw the team make the playoffs in its first year of UIL play and also saw Dean set a still-standing six-man record for receiving yards in a game, with Hammontree throwing to him.

The 2008 season will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of Leverett’s Chapel fans.

Trevor Dean set the Texas high school six-man record for receiving yards in a game that season, a record that still stands today. And the community’s high school football program clinched a playoff appearance in its first season in a UIL district after an extended break.

That was preceded by three developing years, including a difficult 2007 season that saw at least eight projected players leave the program.

“The ’07 season, we went through some struggles,” said former Leverett’s Chapel head football coach and current high school and junior high principal Matt Everett. “It was a tough deal, but we had a bunch of young kids play.”

“Coming into the ’08 year, we made the decision to play UIL football,” he continued. “We’re spinning our wheels. We kept waiting for other schools to join [six-man football] in East Texas. It just wasn’t happening. It was really us and Apple Springs, and King’s Academy (Christian School) had started here at the private school level. If we’re going to play it, we’re going to travel out to Waco. Summer of ’08, Hunter (Hammontree) and Trevor (Dean) had come back and all those guys had a great offseason. They really worked hard.”

Two trips to the Waco area were on the Six-Man Division II District 15 schedule, including a 72-66 double overtime loss at Walnut Springs on Oct. 17th that resulted in Dean’s six-man record of 333 receiving yards. Both teams ended up advancing to the postseason after the regular season concluded in November, but that close call was ultimately the difference between the champion and runner-up in the final district standings.

“We started that year and we kinda came out of nowhere as far as what people expected from us,” said Everett. “But, I knew we were going to be pretty good. It all just clicked for us. We were playing really well from the very beginning.”

“Walnut Springs that year probably underestimated us and we probably underestimated ourselves as well,” said Everett. “Walnut Springs ended up going to the [state] semifinals that year and were really good. That was one of our first really far road trips on a bus that didn’t have a heater. That was a crazy game. I know we were behind three or four touchdowns coming into that last quarter and these two guys [Evan Dean and Hunter Hammontree] start bombing away. All of a sudden, we look up and we’re right there.”

Leverett’s Chapel players definitely gave it their all to play for their teammates, school and community. So much so that Dean, who had previously played for a 3A program in Colorado, battled through sciatic nerve pain during the 2008 season to perform at a high level.

“I was dragging my leg,” said Dean, who now works at Nine Energy Service in Kilgore. “It was bad for a few months. It was ugly watching me run.

“Knowing that we’re trying to leave our mark and start a program,” Dean said of the reason behind him playing through the pain. “It was just a lot different being in six-man compared to 11-man and the tight-knit [group] that we were. I feel like a lot of us played with injuries more for each other than anything, and grow this program together.”

When the score needed to be tied late to keep Leverett’s Chapel hopes alive for a possible come-from-behind win, Hammontree found Dean in the only spot he could.

“At the end of the game, they had to bracket Trevor with Caleb Ballesteros, a defensive player, and at least one other guy,” said Hammontree, now the quarterback coach, head track coach and JV assistant boys basketball coach at Overton. “A lot of what we did with him was throw these little whole shots, or throw it up and pray.”

“I remember one vividly,” he continued. “I’m running left to right towards their sideline and [Trevor’s] scrambling to the back of the end zone. I throw it up and I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way this doesn’t land in the practice field that’s over there.’ He jumps up and somehow taps his toes in the back of the end zone.”

Unlike the record-setting performances of other athletes, Dean wasn’t aware of his mark until the offseason.

“I didn’t really know until well after the season that I had set a record,” he said. “That was at church when I found out four or five months later.”

“One of my dad’s friends that we go to church with is how I found out,” he continued. “He comes walking up at church with a Dave Campbell’s book. ‘Did you know Trevor’s in this book?’ I was like, ‘What the heck?’”

Dean’s performance was set up by accurate passes from Hammontree. But, the two former teammates and longtime friends had different projections for the longevity of his record.

“I didn’t think it was going to last, maybe two or three years at the most,” Dean said of how long he thought he’d hold the record. “It’s fun talking about it with Coach [Everett] and Hunter, and it feels good to still have it. Kinda mind-blowing.”

“I disagree,” said Hammontree. “I never thought that it would be broken. If it takes an athlete like Trevor to break that record, I would love to meet that guy. I don’t know that it ever will [happen]. If it ever does, it’s going to be a surprise to me. It’s going to take a freak athlete to do it. I played with a guy named Chase Ford, who was a tight end at Kilgore College when I was there, and he went on to play at the University of Miami and got drafted in the NFL. He was actually our conference MVP over Cam Newton, and Trevor was better than he was.”

Everett believes the Leverett’s Chapel football program restarted with the right group of players because they set the tone for future team success, including the 2012 squad that followed with a co-district championship.

“I needed these types of guys to start it,” Everett said of the impact that Dean, Hammontree and their 2008 teammates left for future Leverett’s Chapel teams. “That whole [2008] group was mature. They were more life-experienced kids.”

Thomas Bingham is a sports writer for the Longview News-Journal, a partner with the News Herald in M. Roberts Media.

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