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.
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.
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.