Cinco Ranch junior offensive lineman Ethan Onianwa recently verbally committed to Rice. It was somewhat of a surprise, considering Onianwa only has 10 games of varsity football under his belt and his recruiting process was stunted by restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
“The current coronavirus outbreak affected my recruiting experience a lot,” Onianwa said. “Due to the current epidemic, I wasn’t able to visit colleges and have coaches come to our spring practices. It most definitely made it harder to learn about programs from the players and coaches there.”
COVID-19 prevented college coaches from going on the road to recruit and closed campuses, which disallowed visits by recruits. It also canceled spring football, a time of the year when college coaches can visit high school campuses to watch practices and talk to high school coaches about players.
Still, Onianwa was able to secure his future in a sport he only started taking seriously in middle school, in large part because he’s a tantalizing physical prospect. Onianwa stands 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds. He’s also only 16 years old.
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)
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.
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.”
As a third-year player for Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, Michael Nelson is used to the best of the best in the sport, particularly when it applies to training.
But Nelson, a Katy native and former Seven Lakes High star, had to dive deep into his creativity recently to come up with ways to exercise.
“I have a 60-pound dog, so he was a pretty good weight for some lower-body exercises, some squats,” Nelson said. “The first week or two were pretty interesting.”
Nelson is supposed to be with the Dynamo, weeks into the 2020 season. Instead, because of MLS suspending matches indefinitely as of March 19 because of precautions for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, the 25-year-old backup goalkeeper is stuck at home. The Dynamo’s season was abruptly halted after two games because of the crisis and Nelson is now limiting activity and movement due to social distancing.