Gridiron Glory

September 1, 2005 by  
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Head North Shore football coach David Aymond doesn’t require an internal TiVo device to recount the specifics from that December judgment day at Rice Stadium. Now, more than 18 months removed, he continues to possess total recall. No need to rewind to reacquaint with the colors, the halcyon rush. Each and every particular remains permanently imprinted on his memory bank.

In Texas, football state championships tend to make a lasting impression, especially when the conquering head coach caps his first successful quest for the high school Holy Grail.

“It was a dominate afternoon to finish a magical year,” says Aymond, recalling North Shore’s title-clinching win over The Woodlands in 2003. “It was more than mere talent. That team became more confident and more close-knit with each win. They were on a mission, a crusade; and when they had the opportunity to cash in, to finish an undefeated season, they did.

“There hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t relished in that moment.” Aymond’s Mustangs again appear primed to ride into the championship chase and reclaim the crown that was unceremoniously stripped last season by Spring Westfield in a stunning upset. North Shore’s 26-game streak was not simply snapped; it was spindled and mutilated in a 56-14 second-round stunner. But North Shore doesn’t rebuild, they simply reload. The program has reeled off four consecutive undefeated regular seasons and 49-3 record since 2000. Prior to Aymond seizing the head coaching reins in 1994, the varsity hadn’t made the playoffs in more than 30 years.

Pacing the Mustangs and their usual stable of thoroughbred offensive talent is senior quarterback Terrance Cain who wrestled the starting job away from Kevin Rutland in the spring. Rutland’s game-altering skills have moved to wide receiver. Allen Sims becomes the workhorse in the Mustangs’ backfield. Tight end Earl Mitchell is a crushing blocker. Cornerback and Texas Longhorn commitment Chykie Brown is one of the dynamic defensive talents in the state. If North Shore can avoid the hangover of the worst loss of the Aymond Era, the Mustang machine appears positioned for another roll for playoff riches.

Westfield returns a dozen starters from the team that rocketed last fall from preseason anonymity onto the final 5A stage before falling to Tyler Lee in the Division I title game.

Senior quarterback Pierre Beasley again promises to pull the trigger on a quick strike offense that has the potential to be one of the state’s most balanced and most exciting.

Beasley threw for 1,361 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2004. He is surrounded by a warehouse of weapons with wide receiver and senior tailback Terrance Sweeney, who rocked for 1,400 rushing yards and averaged seven yards a carry last year. The defense is anchored by heavy-hitting strong safety Danny McCray. Westfield’s meteoric rise has covered territory from winless to remarkable. As recently as 1999, the program went 0-10. By the time Corby Meekins took over last year, the foundation for success had been laid by Ron Lynch before he stepped aside. Now, the only way for Meekins to improve in his encore is to win the state title, and that destination will likely include another collision-course encounter with North Shore.

Katy and The Woodlands represent two traditional powers that have not merely survived recent head coaching changes, but continued to thrive.

Last season, Katy’s Gary Joseph had the unenviable task of succeeding longtime Coach Mike Johnson, following the Tigers’ third 5A state title. Joseph debuted with 12 wins, two losses (by a combined three points) and a deep run into the playoffs. For his second go-round, Joseph will rely on talent and depth in the trenches – three starters return in the offensive line and all five in the defensive front. Senior Andy Dalton is a first-time full-time starter at quarterback (although he’s seen extensive playing time), and mighty running back Brandon King is a big-time game breaker housed in a compact 5-foot-8-inch package.

At The Woodlands, Mark Schmid broke the cardinal rule of coaching – replacing the legend, rather than replacing the replacement for the legend. In his first season, Schmid didn’t make people forget Weldon Willig, but he did make sure the winning didn’t stop simply because Willig had retired. And there’s no reason to think the Highlanders won’t improve on eight wins and a second round playoff spot. The chief reason is senior receiver Kyle Drabek, the son of former Astros all-star pitcher, Doug Drabek. The younger Drabek is regarded by many major league scouts as the nation’s No. 1-rated baseball prospect in his class. And Drabek does serious damage in his second sport as well – a second team all-state wide out, after grabbing 1,000 yards worth of passes and 12 touchdowns. And he averaged 41 yards per punt. No matter who emerges as Highlanders slinger, he’ll know where to fling the ball.

Schmid will learn quickly if his Highlanders will be living on high ground in his second season. There’s the daunting task of an opening date with Katy at Reliant Stadium – and later, a stare-down with North Shore before district play arrives. In the 4A ranks, La Marque is the preseason favorite for a second state title in three years. Following in the shadows of their 2003 triple overtime thriller that cemented the Division II championship are a Cougar threesome as lethal as any in the state. Quarterback L.J. Castile, wide receiver Jared Perry and running back J.J. Mullins combined for more than 4,000 yards of offense last year. And La Marque seems to have rediscovered their swagger after that mind-numbing stretch of six consecutive state final appearances from ’93-’98. H

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