New athletic director and head football coach Ryne Miller stepped into a great situation at Marion High School when he began his new gig in April of 2018.
A core group of seniors led to the Bulldogs winning district championships in a number of sports at the school including football, boys basketball and softball.
Additionally, the school had its first ever boys state champion in track, in the person of Walker Rudisaile, who won the pole vault at the 3A state track meet in Austin.
Not bad for Miller’s first year at Marion.
“It’s been an awesome year,” Miller said. “It’s an unbelievable athletic program, with unbelievable support from all the staff, the parents and families.
“The community is a great one to be a part of, they understand the athletic part. Look at our facilities alone and you understand what our community and our administration stands for.”
A school bond passed about “four or five years ago,” Miller said, provided new athletic fields with turf, including the football, baseball and softball fields.
Another bond was passed just a couple of weeks ago, with improvements scheduled across the board for the school’s K-12 facilities.
“With the new bond every campus is getting something,” Miller said. “We’re growing out here — the growth is coming, it’s already here, and we’re ready for it.”
The Bulldogs went an undefeated 6-0 in District 15-3A (10-2 overall), then won their bi-district game, before getting knocked out by Goliad in the area championship.
“We had a very talented senior class,” Miller said. “When you have 16 seniors at the 3A level it’s a pretty good deal.
“A number of those guys had started several games in their careers, so going into it we knew we had a really good class.”
The coach got a preview of what was to come in 7-on-7 play last summer, when the Bulldogs qualified for the state tournament for the first time in “seven or eight years,” Miller said.
A tough pre-district schedule, including games against 4A schools Navarro and Hondo, prepped the team for district play.
Senior quarterback Tayler Mills accounted for an astonishing 62 touchdowns — averaging 281 yards through the air and 100 yards rushing while earning the district MVP and 2nd-team All-State honors.
“He was the backbone of our team, a great leader, a great kid, and also our valedictorian this year,” Miller said.
Jackson Allen, a senior, also made the 2nd team All-State squad as a tight end, and earned the offensive district MVP while averaging 100 yards receiving for the year.
Allen recently signed to play for Texas A&M Commerce at the next level.
Senior wide receiver Jacob Wallace was Mills’ second option in the passing attack, catching 57 balls for 11 touchdowns and almost 800 yards, and will play college ball at Western New Mexico.
Tucker Walters and Samson Montoya anchored a strong offensive line.
“It was the first 10-win season in school history, we got past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in six years,” Miller said. “It was a great fall, we played well and it was very exciting to be a part of.”
Kyleigh Mulanax led the volleyball team to a bi-district berth while earning the district MVP.
“Kyleigh led both the volleyball team and softball team this year,” Miller said. “She’s committed to play both sports at Sul Ross State.”
Lizzie Abrameit and Kaylie Miller helped the squad to a second-place finish in District 26-3A, as the girls went 9-2 (19-14 overall) before falling to Johnson City in bi-district.
Josh Galaviz was a regional finalist in cross country in the other fall sport.
Over the winter, the boys basketball team tied for the District 26-3A title at 8-2 (24-9 overall) with Randolph and Cole.
The Bulldogs advanced to the regional quarterfinals, where they fell to Cole, which went on to meet Randolph in the regional final.
“We probably had the most competitive district in the state,” Miller said.
Allen was an All-State selection at forward on the squad, while Wallace and Tyler Bridges helped the team to its regional quarterfinal berth.
The Lady Bulldogs made it to the postseason with a bi-district berth, with Abrameit and Lily Bek leading the way.
Eight powerlifters made the regional tournament, and Walters earned a state berth in powerlifting for the Bulldogs, where he finished sixth.
This spring, Catherine Koehler was a regional finalist in tennis, while Haegan Rudisaile made the regional tournament in golf as a sophomore.
In track, Walker Rudisaile cleared 15’6” in the pole vault at the state meet in Austin for the school’s first boys track state championship.
Both the 4x100 team and the 4x200 team made the regional finals with Wallace, Rudisaile, DJ Blyden, and Dillon Blakely. Zach Goodwin (long jump), Ray Rayos (discus), Wallace (triple jump), Alicia Durbin (shot put), and Summer Knight (pole vault) also made the regional finals.
Both teams on the diamond made the postseason.
The Bulldogs finished second in district at 9-2 (16-12 overall) and made it to area before bowing out to Yoakum.
“The district race came right down to the wire, to the last game with Comfort,” Miller said. “They had a tough loss there, but won a big bi-district final against Johnson City.”
Mills was the offensive MVP of the district, while Jake Burris earned newcomer of the year and Jerin Valadez was the pitcher of the year.
The Lady Bulldogs won District 26-3A at 8-0 (17-11 overall) and made the postseason, falling to Jarrell in bi-district.
Mulanax doubled up her district MVP titles for the year, adding softball to her volleyball MVP.
Alyssa Robles was the newcomer of the year for the Lady Bulldogs in the district.