It may be summer and high schools may be out of session, but that doesn't mean there isn't any news to catch up on around the Houston area. Here is a brief snapshot about what's been going on around the area in the past few weeks.
As a programming note, I'll be writing a high school column from time to time for the site. Since I'm the one writing it, you can guess it'll be about stuff I think it interesting. If there are any topics you think I'm missing or that you feel would make a good addition, feel free to e-mail me or drop me a line on Twitter. We're still playing around with our high school coverage on here so I am open to any and all suggestions.
With that, let's get to the best news and notes from the Bayou City...
Brenham Baseball Wins State, UH Rejoices
Of all the Houston-area teams that made it to the state baseball tournament in Austin, only one survived to win a state championship. The Brenham Cubs rode those incredible camouflage jerseys to the Class 4A championship over Corpus Christi Calallen.
One of my friends at the Eagle, David Campbell, had a pretty good writeup on the game. Brenham's ace, Chase Wellbrock, not only pitched in relief the day before, but threw a complete game in the championship. He also ran his record to 18-0 and won the tournament MVP award.
This should be good news for Cougar fans. Though he wasn't drafted by any MLB teams two weeks ago, Wellbrock is committed to UH and will attend there in the fall. If he has any kind of career like his at Brenham, he will not be passes over the next time he's eligible to be drafted.
The Klein Bearkats were not so lucky, making the state finals by beating Clemens in the semis before falling to Corpus Christi Carroll 5-1 at the Dell Diamond. While Wellbrock was named the Chronicle's Player of the Week, plenty of Klein players were listed as honorable mentions. More made the 5A all-tournament team. All in all, Klein had a very successful baseball season, even if it ended in disappointment.
With the playoffs done, now tons of local players are preparing to participate in the Houston Area Baseball Coaches All-Star Game. Here's a complete list of the South team. The game will be played at 4:30 p.m. at Rice's Reckling Park.
The Woodlands right-hander Jameson Taillon was drafted second overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but his accolades are still rolling in. Recently, he was named the Gatorade Texas Baseball Player of the Year.
The 6-foor-6, 220-pound right-handed pitcher finished his senior year with a record of 8-1 and a 1.79 ERA, 114 strikeouts and 21 walks in 62 2/3 innings. Taillon maintained a 3.45 GPA while also volunteering at a local animal shelter and as a youth baseball coach for children with special needs and, with the USA Baseball 18U National Team, visited wounded veterans at Fort Bragg, N.C.
As if he weren't cool enough as it is, he's also a pretty decent guy, volunteering and maintaining a good GPA. So, basically, he has the exact opposite reputation that fellow TWHS alum Kyle Drabek had coming out of high school. I'm sure Taillon would take Drabek's minor league track record, without the elbow surgery.
He was also named to the Class 5A All-State first team this week, along with a host of other Houston players. On the 5A team are Taillon's friendly rival and pitcher John Simms of College Park, pitcher Tyler Green of Brazoswood, A&M Consolidated pitcher Kevin Bishop, Fort Bend Clements pitcher Brian Heathcoat, Houston Lamar catcher Cole Lankford, Katy Seven Lakes catcher Kyle Bacak, Memorial catcher Wayne Taylor, The Woodlands first baseman Eliot Richoux, Cy Woods first baseman Jared Lakind, Klein second baseman Aaron Smith, Dulles shortstop Jake Kane, Baytown Lee shortstop Reed Seeley, Bellaire shortstop Alex Silver, Bryan outfielder Krey Bratsen, La Porte outfielder Kendrick Perkins, Milby outfielder Ricardo Sanchez, Kingwood outfielder Blake Whittier, College Park outfielder Miguel Aquino and Tomball outfielder Luke Pluchek.
For more of the all-state lists, go to this site.
Are You Ready For Some Football?
Ah, it’s a rite of passage each summer, but one that foretells of colder times ahead. Dave Campbelll’s 2010 Texas Football magazine has been released. They even had a launch show on Fox Sports Houston recently, with recruiting guru Randy Rogers talking about who the top players going into the season will be.
If you like football, there is no better way to get ready for the upcoming season than just skimming through this magazine. It’s got everything you could ask for. College writeups? Check. Recruiting info? Check. Pro football? Check. A breakdown of every high school team in every district in Texas, complete with predicted district winners? Check, check, check. It’s a must-have for any writer, as almost all the team information was submitted by coaches, so it includes 40 times, stats from last season and all sorts of useful information.
This season, it features Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson, Houston’s Case Keenum and TCU’s Andy Dalton as its cover boys. Don’t let that fool you. There’s much, much more inside. Like all the following tidbits.
- Port Neches-Groves head coach Brandon Faircloth was named the 4A Coach of the Year. Faircloth turned a 3-6 team into an 11-1 powerhouse who went undefeated in the regular season and only lost to state finalist Brenham in the playoffs. What? Why am I talking about PN-G? It’s because the Chronicle does, silly. Nope, it has nothing to do with the fact that both my parents went there, or that my aunts, uncles and cousins have all gone there too. Nothing at all.
- Steve Leisz of Bellaire Episcopal won Coach of the Year for the Private Schools. He has led the Knights to winning records in each of his four seasons as head coach and won the state championship in 2009.
- Two Katy schools (Katy and Cinco Ranch), North Shore and Beaumont West Brook all are in the top 10 of 5A’s preseason Top 25. The Woodlands, Lufkin, Fort Bend Hightower and Cy-Creek are in the top 20. Katy received 19 first-place votes in the coach’s poll.
- District 17-5A with Cy Creek, Cy Woods, Cy Falls and Cy Ridge was picked as one of the toughest districts in the state. The writers at Texas Football picked Cy Creek to win the district.
- Alief Taylor wideout Devonta Felder, Klein Collins lineman Garrett Greenlea and Beaumont West Brook lineman Justin Brock all made the pre-season 5A All-State team on offense. Klein Oak lineman Nathan Hughes, Spring Westfield lineman Desmond Jackson and Katy cornerback Colt Atwood were picked for the defensive team.
- The only Houston-area player honored as 2009 Player of the Year was Houston Second Baptist quarterback Connor Wood, who took home the Private School honor and is committed to Texas. He threw for 2,669 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
- One of most electrifying players I saw last season was Angleton quarterback/defensive back Quandre Diggs. The 5-foot-10 senior is committed to Texas as an athlete, but he absolutely lit up Brenham in the playoffs last season. Diggs was coming off an injury-plagued end to district play, but was healthy enough to make three long runs and hit a 70-yard pass on the third play of the game. He’s got enough talent that he was featured in one of the essays at the front of the magazine, on state’s best "athlete" recruits. Oh, and he’s the younger brother of former Texas cornerback and NFL first-round draft pick Quentin Jammer.
- Greenlea, Brenham wideout Derek Edwards and North Shore lineman Sedrick Flowers were named to the Reebok Super Team on offense. A host of other Houston-area players made it onto the second and third teams, including The Woodlands running back Daniel Lasco. Spring Westfield’s Jackson, Cleveland lineman Cedric Reed, South Houston cornerback Leroy Scott, Klein Collin’s Jackson and Angleton’s Diggs all made the first-team defensive squad. The second and third teams were headlined by St. Pius X defensive back Kolby Griffin.
- One of the coolest articles in the magazine was by the Chronicle’s David Barron. He profiled all the dynasties in the last 60 years of the University Interscholastic League. The Katy football program tied with Celina for the most victories in the last decade with 132. Celina was slightly ahead of Katy based on winning percentage, as Celina played four fewer games. Other Houston area schools on the list were Stratford at 122-21, North Shore at 113-13, Pearland at 102-22 and La Marque at 100-30. North Shore, of course, was home to Vince Young back in the day while La Marque has been a Class 4A powerhouse for going on two decades now.
- The article also breaks down number of trips to the state semifinals. Katy leads the way in Class 5A with six trips, while North Shore and Spring Westfield each went twice. Bay City and Brenham each went to the Class 4A semifinals three times while Dayton and Rosenberg Lamar went twice. Stratford has been to a whopping five state semifinals in Class A. Only five other teams in the state across all five classes can say they’ve made that many semifinals. Plus, Stratford has a really cool nickname in the Elks.
- Though he wasn’t picked for any of the special team honors, Cinco Ranch running back K.C. Nlemchi could have a special season. He’s one of those rare power/speed runners and was a first-team all-state selection in 2009. If you get a chance to go see him play, you should.
- At Class 4A, Montgomery running back Leroy Dorsey, Angleton lineman Trey Cassidy, Friendswood kicker Zach Hardy, Dayton lineman Darrian Wright and Diggs all made the preseason all-state teams.
- District 24-4A should prove to be as tough as usual, with La Marque and Texas City bringing up the rear in a tough district. When two schools with that much history were at the bottom of the heap in 2009, expect some real dogfights this season as the rest of the teams try to stay on top.
Speaking of Football...
The UIL recently announced that they will move the Class 5A, 4A and 3A title games to one site. Right now, that site is Jerry World up in Dallas. There was no work whether the games will be held on the same day, but it's an interesting concept. Why make the move and why not put the game in more neutral ground. This certainly gives teams like Southlake Carroll and Abilene an advantage over Katy or North Shore, right?
I understand if the two teams agree to flip a coin to see who gets "home field" but many times the two teams will play at a neutral site. That's why you'll see Waco teams playing Houston teams in Austin or College Station. There had to be enough support to get this pushed through, but it smacks of being unfair to some extent.
At the same time, I'm almost positive that this was done with an eye towards TV coverage. Assuring that these games are held in a big time stadium with camera placements already set up means the UIL stands to make more money from Fox Sports to broadcast the games. I have never seen any information on how the UIL shares this money with the team, if they even do, or how much it is. But, it's an awful big reason and could outweigh any competitive imbalance by where the games are played.
Bowling On the East Side
The Houston-area's best seniors from 2009 teamed up to beat Louisiana in the eighth annual Texas Bowl 42-15 on June 12. The annual event is run like an all-star game, taking players from around the city and putting them through a week of practice before they play each other. The coaches are usually from the area, but not always from the same coaching staff.
About half of the players have college commitments, but some do not. Last season, Texas A&M picked up offensive lineman Stephen Barrera for a scholarship after seeing him in the game. It's an odd time for recruiting, with players reporting to college campuses in two months. As you probably know, the recruiting cycle heats up a year or two before players even graduate. Games like the Texas Bowl are for players who haven't settled yet. Teams are attracted to them because they sometimes lose players to ineligibility late in the process and need to fill holes. A guy like Barrera, who played at Clear Lake, went on to start three games and appear in five more for the Aggies.
The down side is that players sometimes get injured, which can really set them back and is why you don't see bigger names on this list. Players who are already committed are probably forbidden by their college coaches from participating for the most part. Look at Dawson quarterback Darian Lazard, who's committed to UH.
"He chipped a bone in his left elbow – his non-throwing arm – and the doctors said it was something that would heal in four weeks, five at the max," Wells said. "He was leaning in to score a touchdown and put his hand down to brace himself and he felt something pop.
"I was watching the game on TV, and I called his mom and she handed the phone to Darian. He said he was wondering when he might get back in the game.
"I think it was a little scary at first for him because he started every game for us for three years and never missed a snap."
A player doesn't miss a game in three years, but chips a bone in an all-star game? No wonder bigger names don't get to participate. Still, this game seems like a fun time and a good opportunity. I know I really liked seeing Klein Collins running back JaMichael Rozier last season in the playoffs. The son of former Nebraska running back and Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier is committed to Prairie View A&M.
Speaking of commitments, Pearland defensive end Sam Ukwuachu verbally committed to Boise State this week. The senior was named to the Reebok Super Team Defense first-team. Note his commitment is verbal only; he can still change it closer to signing day. With all that goes on in college recruiting, I don't doubt there may be a switch.