Former Katy High star and Wisconsin senior defensive back Collin Wilder ran through a gauntlet of emotions Tuesday evening after it was learned Big 10 conference presidents had voted to postpone the fall 2020 college football season due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
The first four plays on Taylor senior safety Trevor Woods’ recruiting highlight tape are interceptions. All returned for touchdowns. All from one season.
“And a couple at key points, too,” Taylor coach Chad Simmons gushed over Woods’ heroics last season. “Real key points. Three in the playoffs. Like, what? Say what? You look at that tape and they’re the first four plays and you’re like, ‘Dang!’”
The 6-foot-2, 202-pound Woods plays the “rover” in the Mustangs’ 4-2-5 defensive scheme. It’s basically the strong safety. For some other teams, it’s the nickelback. For Taylor, it’s its best tackler.
Simmons schemes his defense to “bounce the ball” toward Woods, allowing him to do what he does best—make plays and get it back for the offense. Last season, Woods did just that, compiling 165 total tackles with eight sacks, five interceptions, five fumbles caused and a fumble recovery for the Class 6A Division II state semifinalist Mustangs.
Colby Huerter is a two-time Class 6A all-state selection. A bruising, athletic 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety, he is a prolific stat-stuffer for Tompkins’ defense, averaging 6.2 tackles per game with 10 interceptions, a fumble recovery and a fumble caused in 26 games over the last two seasons.
Even more impressive than his physical ability, however, is his guile. One of my favorite plays—of any high school athlete I’ve covered in my 15 years in sportswriting—is this heads-up save during a game against Cinco Ranch two years ago.
“My approach to being a safety is to know your opponents better than they know themselves,” the incoming senior said. “So, when it comes to game time, there is not a lot of thinking on my part, just reacting. My mindset is to give maximum effort 100 percent of the time.”
Thoughts of frustration crossed Mayde Creek head football coach Brian Randle’s mind one late April afternoon as he sat on a couch in his house, beyond irritated with the day’s earlier events.
As it was, at the time then and now, the world was in a precarious state because of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, that halted schooling and postponed, and then eventually canceled, spring athletics. Mere days into his arrival at Mayde Creek, the new Rams coach needed a way to reach his new kids, for them to get to know him and him to get to know them. Zoom, a popular video conferencing tool, was thought to be the answer.
“My first Zoom with my kids got hacked, and it was all kinds of craziness,” Randle recalled. “A guy’s on there cussing … it was awful. After that, I told my guys, ‘Hey, we’re not doing that again. We’re not going to go through that.’”
Randle, who now uses Canvas as another method to do group meetings with his team, called Katy ISD athletic director Debbie Decker and expressed his discomfort.
“I had no control, the screen flipped over, I was trying to exit everything,” he said. “But I still needed to reach the kids. So, I thought I’d jump on social media and just use Twitter. I told the coaches to make sure all the kids are following me, and that way I can give them something positive.”
Jordan High School is Katy ISD’s ninth high school. Since 2013, the district has introduced three high schools: Tompkins (2013), Paetow (2017) and now Jordan. The Jordan campus, located in Fulshear, opens in August.
Because Jordan High is opening on an even year (2020) and beginning with freshmen and sophomores, Jordan’s individual sports will go varsity right away, but team sports will wait until the fall of 2021, when the school adds juniors. 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. The Warriors, whose colors are black and gold, will play a junior varsity schedule this year, with some varsity and sophomore team opponents mixed in.
The school will have an initial enrollment of almost 1,600.
On Tuesday afternoon, I was invited on a tour of the athletic facilities. Architecturally, the campus is very similar to that of Paetow High.
The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) announced on Friday it is delaying the start of its fall sports season.
The season has been pushed back because of a significant and severe rise of cases of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus.
Programs can return to practice on Sept. 8. Volleyball and individual sports, like cross country, can start their respective seasons Sept. 21.
Football teams will have one scrimmage the week of Sept. 21, followed by the start-up of the season on Sept. 28.
“All things considered, we still get to play,” said Clay Richardson, head football coach of St. John XIII, which is in TAPPS Division I-District 2. “Can you imagine being a senior knowing you won’t play college football, but you love the game so much and it’s taken away from you? That would be heartbreaking.”
The unwelcomed phone call lasted 16 seconds. Washing your hands takes longer.
But for Carson Lance, that amount of time was enough to temporarily set back his career. A 2014 graduate of Katy High who was in the single-A minor league system of the Detroit Tigers organization, Lance was at his offseason home in Denton on July 2 when the Tigers called to notify he was being released.
“Short and sweet, to the point,” Lance, 25, recalled. “Nobody has money right now and there are a lot of players. I’m not the only guy with this story. I think Detroit cut 40-plus people that day. That’s the number I heard, so I’m sure he was busy that day and didn’t have a whole lot of time.”
As the country is engulfed in a pandemic threatening the fall sports season, Katy High senior defensive back Dalton Johnson considers himself fortunate.
Though on-campus and in-person recruiting visits were not permitted during the spring because of COVID-19, Johnson verbally committed to continue his career and play for the University of Arizona a little more than a month ago. His future will not be dependent upon a senior campaign that is in jeopardy.
“It’s such a relief off my shoulders,” Johnson said. “Definitely with the pandemic, it kind of sped things up for me a bit. I was originally going to wait (to commit) until I go on a visit or something, but COVID kind of messed that up. It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t rushed or anything. I knew it was the right time.
“I wanted to make sure I secured a spot, and looking at Arizona it was a perfect fit.”
As soon as Army offered Taylor High’s Casey Shorter on June 5, it didn’t take long for the power running back to commit himself to the black and gold.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder had done his research on Army ever since the Black Knights had contacted him on February 4. Then came the official full-ride offer. Fourteen days later, on June 19, Shorter declared the program his future home.
“I know it is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Shorter said. “One of the top academic schools, a guaranteed job when graduating, and I know they have an offense that I fit into perfectly.”