During uncertain times hungry for any semblance of normalcy due to a global pandemic, some came last week when Katy ISD released its composite varsity football schedules for the 2020 season.
The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, means nothing is sure for the upcoming high school football season. But the UIL and its districts are making any and all plans for when the 2020-2021 school year begins.
The biennial realignment in February brought little significant change for Katy ISD athletics for the next two school years.
Cinco Ranch, Katy, Mayde Creek, Morton Ranch, Seven Lakes, Taylor and Tompkins will compete in District 19-6A, which has been the norm. Paetow moves up to Class 5A, Division I as its enrollment number is on the brink of Class 6A after just three years of existence. Jordan High, the district’s ninth high school scheduled to open in August to freshmen and sophomores only, will compete in Class 5A, Division II, but won’t have varsity football until 2022. Until then, the Warriors’ football schedule will be a makeshift rendition of mixing and matching opponents.
More nerve-wracking than any pressure shot was the recruiting obstacles a global pandemic presented to Tompkins senior golfer Zach Asaro this spring.
When the high school golf season was postponed in mid-March and then eventually canceled less than a month later, it stunted an impressive season for Asaro, an all-district performer. He was hoping to strut his swing at the district and, hopefully, regional and state meets, searching for a scholarship offer from a bigger school after receiving interest from NAIA and NCAA Division III programs.
Those meets never took place. But Asaro, through persistent mobile and virtual contact with University of New Orleans men’s golf coach Jeff Lorio and leaning upon the faith and trust of sights and a program unseen, earned that shot at a better school, committing May 1 to play for the Privateers, a NCAA Division I program in the Southland Conference.
At around 4:30 on a hot Friday, May 1, afternoon, more than 30 vehicles were parked at Stanley Elementary. Parents, junior varsity players and other supporters of the Seven Lakes High baseball program started decorating their cars, trucks and jeeps with balloons, ribbons, self-made congratulatory signs and player banners.
On what was supposed to be “Senior Night” for the 16 Spartan seniors at their last regular season home game, a surprise drive-by organized by loved ones instead took place. Precautions for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, forced the UIL to cancel its remaining spring sports season, including high school baseball, last month.
The Spartans’ senior players never got a chance to play their last home baseball game and enjoy their “Senior Night,” when seniors and their parents are recognized by coach J.R. Voyles prior to the game for their contributions to a program that is, year in and year out, one of the finest in the region.
The school is almost ready for occupancy and for faculty to move into, but Rabe has already put together the Warriors’ athletics staff in a little less than three months. Jordan is scheduled to be ready to open by the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
“This is an opportunity to not have to do anything over. You get to go in and do everything from day one. It’s real exciting,” Rabe said after he was hired. “It’s a special opportunity to be able to open up a high school. You look across the state and there’s not many of those that happen. You see several each year, but it’s a small opportunity to be able to jump in and do that.”
Jordan High submitted an initial enrollment number of 1,586.69 in late October.
Because Jordan is opening on an even year (2020) and beginning with ninth and 10th grades, Jordan’s individual sports will go varsity right away but team sports will wait until the fall of 2021, when the school has ninth, 10th and 11th graders. The only sport that is not able to be placed in realignment on the “middle” year, or halfway between the two-year realignment, is football.
Football for Jordan High won’t be realigned by the UIL until 2022, which will be Jordan’s first varsity football season. Until then, the district will try to mix and match schedules for Jordan to play football, just not under the UIL umbrella.
Here is a list of the head coach for each respective sport at the school, with the coach’s former school/job in parentheses:
Baseball: Zach Maddox (Tompkins High baseball assistant coach)
Boys Basketball: Charlie Jones (George Ranch boys basketball head coach)
Girls Basketball: Andy Rice (Taylor High girls basketball assistant coach)
Boys Cross Country: Mabry Allen (Mayde Creek football assistant coach)
Girls Cross Country: Kymberlee Trnka (Mayde Creek cross country head coach/assistant track coach)
Football: Mike Rabe (Mayde Creek football head coach)
Golf: Ken Rose (Arlington Martin golf head coach)
Boys Soccer: Jason Meekins (Ridge Point boys soccer head coach)
Girls Soccer: Rennie Rebe (Pflugerville Hendrickson girls soccer head coach)
Softball: Jennifer Hooker (Taylor softball assistant coach)
Swimming: Scott Slay (Richmond Foster swimming head coach)
Tennis: Paul Wallace (Morton Ranch tennis head coach)
Boys Track: Ryan Henry (Mayde Creek boys track head coach/assistant football coach)
Girls Track: Kymberlee Trnka (Mayde Creek cross country head coach/assistant track coach)
Athletic Trainer: Shelle Brown
Volleyball: Jen Vaden (Mayde Creek volleyball head coach)
Wrestling: Mike White (Cypress Woods wrestling head coach)
Former Taylor High star and SMU standout Rodney Clemons was signed by the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent late Saturday evening.
The 6-foot, 209-pound safety was projected to go anywhere from the fifth round to undrafted during this weekend’s NFL Draft. Clemons had a strong 2019 senior season for the 10-3 Mustangs as a team captain, compiling 78 total tackles and a team-high four interceptions and nine pass breakups. But his 4.71 40-yard dash time at February’s NFL Scouting Combine, to go with questions about his quickness and instincts, hampered his chances of being drafted.
Clemons joins a Chiefs team that returns 20 of 22 starters. Returning veterans at safety are Daniel Sorensen and Armani Watts at free safety and Tyrann Mathieu at strong safety. In this year’s draft, Kansas City selected a running back, linebacker, cornerback, defensive end and cornerback. The Chiefs added five more defensive backs in free agency, including Clemons. Three of those were cornerbacks.
Prior to the draft, Clemons said earlier this week in a feature story on 281SportsUnlimited that he desired a situation where he could compete for a starting position and have the chance to play right away.
During his first spring football practice as head coach of Taylor High in 2014, Trey Herrmann remembers hearing an abrasive crunch of physical contact.
“I didn’t see the hit,” Herrmann recalled six years later. “I heard it.”
Herrmann turned around to see then-junior Rodney Clemons getting back up off the running back.
“I said, ‘Yep, I was right,’” Herrmann said. “‘That’s my starting safety right there.’”
Just a couple of months before, Herrmann had convinced Clemons, frustrated and done with football after two years of hardly seeing the field, to not hang up the cleats just yet.
“I was at a junior varsity basketball game, sitting next to (then-school principal) Mr. (Jeff) Stocks, and I saw Rodney,” Herrmann said. “Just the way he moved on the floor, as far as his footwork and ability to be around the ball at all times. I asked Mr. Stocks, ‘Hey, who’s that kid?’ ‘That’s Rodney Clemons.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s my starting safety right there.’ He just had all the attributes I look for in a safety.”
So goes the beginning of a wonderous story for Clemons, a 6-foot, 209-pound safety out of SMU who is expected to go anywhere in the fifth through seventh rounds of the NFL Draft this weekend. The draft, which will be held over three days, will be aired on ESPN. Round one will be held Thursday, rounds two and three on Friday, and the last four rounds on Saturday.
The inevitable occurred on the afternoon of Friday, April 17, but it didn’t make the sting of a lost season any easier to take.
The UIL’s cancellation of remaining spring sports and state championships because of necessary precautions due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, left a plethora of ‘only-ifs’ in the Katy ISD sports community.
Only if Katy softball had been granted a postseason in which to defend its 2019 Class 6A state championship. The Tigers will get another chance next year, yes, but the seniors won’t have a shot at pursuing back-to-back titles. Only if Tompkins senior golfer Elina Sinz had been awarded one more shot at playing for state and an individual championship. Only if the Katy High girls track team or Paetow senior jumper Johnathan Baker or Taylor junior thrower Bryce Foster or Tompkins’ boys and girls track and field teams were given a chance to strut their stuff at state in Austin, smashing records along the way.
The Tompkins, Seven Lakes and Cinco Ranch boys soccer teams were all state-ranked and all viable candidates to represent the district at state.
So on and so on. The ‘what-ifs’ from this high school spring sports season would make for a compelling ESPN “30 for 30” documentary.
But arguably the biggest storyline left unanswered will be that of Tompkins girls soccer.
Long after a distinguished tenure with the Houston Oilers, the late Ed Biles spent the final year of his remarkable coaching career as a volunteer for an indoor arena football team in Cypress.
Biles died April 5 following a battle with leukemia. He was 88 years old. Biles coached 14 years in the NFL, beginning as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints in 1969 and finishing as head coach of the Oilers from 1981-1983 after serving as Houston’s defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator under Bum Phillips from 1974-1980.
Biles is fondly remembered most for those beloved “Luv Ya Blue” days.
But 14 years after wrapping up his NFL coaching career, Biles was back in football in 2007 as a volunteer assistant/quality control coach for the AF2’s Texas Copperheads, who practiced and played their home games at Cypress Fairbanks ISD’s Berry Center. The af2 was the minor league for the Arena Football League.
A little more than a week ago, Devon Carrillo realized she could play a significant role helping others during this crucial time of need.
With healthcare face masks at a premium due to precautions for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, the Taylor High sophomore varsity volleyball player knew she could make a difference.
“I really thought, ‘Oh, well I can make masks and I have materials at home I can use,’” Carrillo, 16, said. “It started from there. A lot of people ended up seeing them and posting about it, so then I ended up just making them for basically anyone who wanted one.”
Mayde Creek softball coach Jill Voss struggles to pick her favorite Ashley Kriesel moment. Two come to mind.
The first came during the spring of 2016, between Games 2 and 3 of the Rams’ best-of-three area playoff series against previously undefeated Cypress Woods. Voss was a nervous wreck, her team down to a do-or-die game and a potential program-defining upset win. In midst of the rollercoaster pregame emotions and thoughts, Voss lost her lineup card and scurried back behind the dugout, where she tried to hold back tears.
“Nobody saw me. Ashley comes behind and I told her, ‘Hey, we need you. So, if you can go, we need you to go,’” Voss recalled telling her senior ace pitcher, who had also pitched each of the first two games of the series. “And she says to me, ‘No, we need you! Get in here!’ I’m in tears, trying to hold it together, and she calls me back to the dugout and I just say, ‘Yes, ma’am.’”