The Cooldown: 2021 Preview
Cover Photo courtesy of The Houston Chronicle.
Katy put the finishing touches on its ninth state title campaign in Arlington 221 days ago to finish a great (albeit weird) 2020 season that spilled into 2021. With the season starting tomorrow, here's a quick rundown of what happened over the summer and what to expect this season.
Jaydon Blue forgoes senior season; Klein Cain plays Bridgeland on ESPN to start 2021
Klein Cain do-everything running back Jaydon Blue announced he will sit out his senior season of high school football back on May 21. Blue, a Texas commit ranked as the No. 48 player in his class at the time of his decision to sit out this season, decided to forego the 2021 season to train and prepare for Texas.
Blue is one of the most talented players in the Houston area in the class of 2022 and Cain will miss his impact, but still returns a strong squad that will start the season with a bang. The Hurricanes will face Bridgeland and Texas A&M quarterback commit Connor Weigman on ESPNU at 8 pm Saturday.
While Blue won't be playing, Cain does return quarterback Carson Roper and his top target in TCU commit Matthew Golden. Bridgeland returns the best signal caller in the area in Weigman after being a trendy state championship game pick last season. The Bears ultimately lost to Rockwall-Heath in round three, but return the talent to make a run this season.
Bridgeland won this game 49-42 last season and I'm betting the rematch will be just as good.
North Shore, what's next?
North Shore has dominated the field in Houston for the last three seasons with a combined record of 45-2 with two state titles. However, the last time the Mustangs had a quarterback not named Dematrius Davis taking snaps under center was the 2016 season. Davis was a four-year starter and is now at Auburn. Shadrach Banks is gone as well, now at TCU. So, what now?
It's obvious North Shore has one of the best programs in the Houston area in terms of winning and replacing talent. But the Mustangs aren't heralded as the best team in Houston for the first time in some years and I'm interested to see the answers to all the new questions. Who takes over at quarterback and how does the new-look offense compare to years past? What should be the ceiling and expectation of a top tier squad having to replace so much talent?
We'll find out the answers to those questions soon as the Mustangs open the season with a challenging non-district slate: Shadow Creek, Klein Collins and Spring Westfield all on the road, followed by a home tilt with Klein Oak.
Watch out for Katy... and Seven Lakes?
The great thing about class 6A — at least in my opinion — is it isn't split into divisions until the playoffs. Every classification used to be that way until the UIL split up 1A through 5A into divisions in realignment a few years ago. But for 6A, the suspension stays.
Last season, fans across the state followed Seven Lakes vs. Cinco Ranch with great intrigue down to the waning minutes of the game. Seven Lakes held on to a 30-22 lead to win the game and finish the regular season at 3-6, good enough for the final playoff spot. While it was a great achievement for Seven Lakes, the game got state-wide attention for another reason.
Because of enrollment numbers for Katy ISD schools, Seven Lakes' playoff birth pushed Katy down to 6A Division II because Seven Lakes and district champion Tompkins each have higher enrollment than Katy. The bracket for 6A Division II is often seen as easier than in Division I, which could have helped the Tigers win a state title. We could be watching for the same thing this season.
Of course, Katy returns so much talent that it might not matter. The Tigers have the ability to win a state title this season regardless of classification, entering the season ranked No. 2 in all of class 6A. The only team ranked higher than Katy is Austin Westlake, who has a district worth keeping an eye on as well. Westlake won a state title in 6A-II in 2019 before winning the 6A-I title last season.
In any case, keep an eye on what happens at the bottom of 19-6A. It could determine where Katy will have to fight to keep it's title, and also because those are still some good teams at the back end of Katy ISD.
Teams to Watch
Here are a few of my teams to watch for the 2021 season. Teams that have already been discussed will have shorter blurbs than the ones I've yet to mention.
Because of course. Defending state champs with a ton of talent back on both sides of the ball. Austin Westlake may be the only team standing in the way of Katy and a record 10th title.
Because the Mustangs have more than earned the respect over the years, even though they have to replace a lot of talent.
The Bears were a trendy state pick last year before being upset by Rockwall-Heath in round three. Nevertheless, the returning talent should have them in that fringe-state-favorite conversation again.
The Eagles couldn't replicate a strong 2019 last season after having to replace a good amount of talent. Quarterback Gavin Session was thrown into the fire with his first 6A start coming at Allen, who, by the way, has never lost at Eagle stadium, which was built seven years ago. Session captained Atascocita to a solid season, ending in a third-round loss to Ridge Point. But expectations are higher this year with the Eagles ranked sixth in the state. With one year under his belt, Session is bound to improve on a solid debut season, but will it live up to lofty expectations? Session and Atascocita will get a shot at redemption at Allen in week two, which could set the tone for the season.
Spring, and Westfield
Lumping two teams together might be cheating but I'm doing it anyway. Both teams were great last year (and gave us a game we'll never forget) and both return quarterbacks. Bishop Davenport (Utah State) and Cardell Williams (Tulsa) were fantastic for Spring and Westfield respectively. This will be one of the best games of the year again and both are capable of making deep playoff runs.
Heights and Lamar
Ok, one more time doubling up. This is less about state title or playoff implications more than it is the storyline between these two. Heights returns fantastic quarterback Jalen Morrison, who helped Heights hand Lamar its first district loss in a decade last season. Can Heights and Morrison do it again for his swan song in TXHSFB, or will Lamar get back to district champion status? Each team is capable of winning multiple playoff games as well.
Fort Bend Marshall
After losing a close state quarterfinals matchup against Crosby a year ago, can Marshall get back to state? They'll have to replace a quarterback for the second year in a row, but return wide receiver Chris Marshall, one of the best WR recruits in the country. They're ranked No. 2 in 5A-II to start the season.
I love teams that return successful multi-year starters at quarterback. Sealy has that in signal caller Dvonne Hmielewski, who racked up over 3,000 yards of offense by himself last season as a sophomore. They're my non-top-10-preseason-poll team that I think will be top 10 by seasons' end.
There are plenty more teams to mention and those are just some of the few I wanted to hit on. The good news is I'll be recapping the most impressive games each week here on The Cooldown, so check back each Monday.