It was during her freshman year that Cinco Ranch senior Sophie Atkinson was dealt an awakening of sorts.
A metatarsal fracture limited Atkinson to two cross country meets during that year. Then she suffered a stress fracture to another metatarsal on the same foot that wiped out her track season.
But after eventually coming to terms with the devastation of two setbacks within months of each other, Atkinson found a wat to move forward. She leaned on her faith. Her focus turned to becoming a better teammate. And, most importantly, she realized there was a lot more to her life than running.
A serve was hit and everything seemed normal again, almost as if time froze and the tragic pandemic of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was forgotten, at least for a couple of hours.
Just days after Katy ISD cross country teams initiated their respective 2020 seasons, and mere minutes after team tennis programs began district play, volleyball teams followed suit on Tuesday afternoon, albeit six weeks later than usual. Wearing masks and exchanging high-fives for elbow taps, Katy High volleyball players and coaches showed off a genuine enthusiasm and appreciation, even more so than usual, during their season-opener at home against Stratford.
The Tigers swept the Spartans in dominant fashion, 25-11, 25-13, 25-16.
The last year has been quite a ride for Cinco Ranch senior runner Heidi Nielson.
A femur injury sidelined her high school cross country season after an exhausting summer representing Team USA at the Pan Am U20 Championships. Then the novel coronavirus COVID-19 abruptly shortened her track season in mid-March. The global pandemic also hindered Nielson’s recruiting, as she was unable to make visits to colleges or compete in significant events.
“It really sucked,” Nielson said. “The cross country season, I get hurt, and it was like, ‘Welp, there it goes.’ I was still hyped, I was really ready for the track season, and then everything gets shut down. I was so sad. Even now, I’m still, like, ugh.”
Still, it all worked out. A star distance runner since her eye-opening freshman season for the Cougars, Nielson verbally committed to continue her athletic career at Arkansas in an Instagram pledge on Sept. 9.
Due to the restructuring of the UIL 2020 high school football season caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Katy ISD’s nine head coaches spent the last month or so revising their schedules.
Some programs, such as Katy and Tompkins, still have holes to fill on their schedules. But otherwise, the primary change is moving up district games earlier to get those done—as it is the district season that determines playoff qualifiers—and splitting the four non-district games for the district’s seven Class 6A programs, two for Weeks 1 and 2 and two more, if possible, to close the season.
In Class 5A-Division I, where Paetow resides, nine-team District 10-5A will split into zones for the upcoming season. Paetow will be in Zone A with Richmond Foster, Kempner, Rosenberg Terry and Houston Wisdom. Zone B consists of of Angleton, Hightower, Manvel and Milby.
A little more than two years ago, then-Tompkins incoming sophomore Jalen Milroe could not stop smiling.
A late morning July discussion with a reporter in Tompkins head coach Todd McVey’s office centered around Milroe’s potential. His intriguing background. His promising future. His raw, though obvious, natural skill.
Following an eye-opening two months in spring ball, Milroe was the unofficial projected starter for a Tompkins program that used three quarterbacks while going through a 2017 winless season.
“The MVP of smiling,” McVey acknowledged of his precocious youngster. “It’s contagious.”
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.”
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.”