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.”
Tompkins was the pleasant surprise of Katy ISD’s boys basketball last season when it made a surprising run to the Class 6A regional quarterfinals as a relatively young team.
Though the Falcons lost a pair of senior leaders in Hank Sanders and Jonathan Nash for the upcoming season, they return a talented junior class in B.B. Knight, Jason Clark and Carmelo Yakubu. All three have size, length and shooting ability; Knight is regarded as one of the top shooters in the class of 2022.
Tompkins has also added a pair of dynamic transfers: Joshua McMillan II from Cypress Lakes and Demari Williams from Fulshear. The marquee name is the senior combo guard Williams. The 6-foot-6, 210-pounder averaged 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals last season.
Williams, a three-star recruit, scored more than 1,000 points over the last two seasons for the Chargers.
“I’ve been zoned to Tompkins for over a year now,” Williams said. “I was at Fulshear on a district waiver last year because my dad works in the district. Tompkins is a lot closer to my home, so we discussed it as a family, and I decided to give it a try for my senior year.”
Tompkins High basketball players and coaches drooped in their locker room, entrenched deep within the bowels of San Antonio’s Alamodome, with shoulders slumped and heads heavy, fallen and frustrated, on the night of March 11, 2018.
The Falcons had just dropped a heartbreaking 49-47 overtime decision to Allen in the Class 6A state championship game.
Even after a remarkable season that put the still-young program on the high school basketball map in Texas, tears filled eyes. Eventually, however, perspective and optimism filled thoughts and words.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” said Emmanuel White, then a senior wing. “Shortly after the game, we all told each other that we were going to be in a bigger moment. That wasn’t going to be the biggest game we’d ever play in. So, we didn’t really hang our hats on that.
“Now it’s just crazy. We’re all about to have a chance to do it together again.”
The district was the first in the Greater Houston area to promote an athletic trainer to the central office 13 years ago. Today, the district is one of only three in the Houston area—Fort Bend and Pasadena being the other two—to have an assistant athletic director over sports medicine.
That job was fulfilled by Charlie Stevens, who furthered the advancement of sports medicine at the high school level for Katy ISD. Stevens officially resigned before spring break in March, but his last day is June 30. Former Katy High athletic trainer Justin Landers will succeed him.
“Some of us have a servant’s heart,” said Stevens, who was the athletic trainer at Mayde Creek High for 23 years before then-Katy ISD athletic director Rusty Dowling promoted him in 2007 to oversee the district’s initiatives in athletic training and sports medicine. “You enjoy helping people. The sports world deals with strength and speed and all those things, so athletic training allowed me to gain knowledge that allowed me to help people.”
Tompkins coach Todd McVey remembers it well to this day.
Then-sophomore Marquis Shoulders, a transfer from Cypress Springs, misread the ball on a kick return in his first junior varsity home game in 2018. Shoulders was clearly frustrated, and McVey approached him to have a quick chat.
“It was his first time out there and he kind of fumbled it a bit,” McVey said. “He got frustrated and I had to give him a talk on the sideline. It was that year of learning for him. That JV year was really good for him. He was our MVP and he got to key in on his craft and it paid off for him.”
Every now and then, when he’s struggling with his swing or simply has an inquiry about the game of baseball, Katy High incoming senior Jack Johnson will call or text a legend.
Whether it’s Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader Pete Rose, 10-time all-star Steve Garvey or Hall of Famer Tony Perez, it doesn’t matter. Greatness is at Johnson’s disposal, and he soaks it in whenever it arrives.
“The older you get, you make different adjustments. That’s something Pete’s shared with me,” Johnson said. “In high school, adjustments are game-to-game. In college, adjustments are at-bat-to-at-bat. In the pros, adjustments are swing-to-swing. It’s about being more and more meticulous and aware.”
The 2020 high school soccer seasons were one many lost because of the global pandemic. Due to precautions for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, the season was initially postponed in March before the UIL canceled all remaining spring sports seasons in April.
Still, the soccer seasons, boys’ and girls’, were on the brink of the playoffs, with just two more nights of district play remaining. With that, a lot was determined about who were the best players and which teams were the best through district play, which allowed for all-district picks to still be made by District 19-6A’s coaches.
Dave Campbell’s Texas Football ranks Katy High in a tie for 18th overall on its 2020 Texas high school football program rankings released this weekend.
DCTF, in conjunction with PigskinPrep.com’s Jerry Forrest, ranked every high school football program based on relative strength over the course of the last six seasons.
Why six? As DCTF explains: “A six-year sample provides a steady measure of a program as opposed to an individual squad — six years represents one-and-a-half graduation cycles, mitigating the impact of a single transcendent class of athletes. In short: good programs have great teams one or two years, but great programs have great teams spread across a larger swath of time, like six years.”