The Cooldown: Week 1

Roughly 250 days pass each year between the state championships of one football season and opening night of the next.

Some of us spend those 250 days thinking about the start of the next season. Who might be good, who won’t be good, what new players will step up and make an impact, which seniors will stand-out on their final ride. So many questions to be answered in due time. That’s what makes opening weekend so special. It’s a culmination of all the storylines discussed through “talking season,” or the start of those storylines being written anyway.

I want to say week one didn’t disappoint, but that’s a little pointless. Week one never disappoints because football is back and that’s great whether the games are good or not. Fortunately, we got several great games this year. The Houston area typically has a knack for hosting some great non-district games. Teams aren’t afraid to challenge themselves, even if it might mean scheduling an auto-loss.

Take The Woodlands for example. The Highlanders run one of the best programs in the area and they haven’t really been able to give North Shore a game the last two seasons. That’s because – for better or worse – the cream of the crop in Texas is still head and shoulders over programs who are perennially elite. The Woodlands can be counted on to make a solid playoff run in pretty much any given season. But North Shore has played for four of the last five 6A-I titles. That won’t stop The Woodlands from putting them on the schedule though.

And who benefits from that? Well, them, for seeing how their team stacks up against the best in the state. But it also benefits all of us fans who get treated to a showdown between two of the premier programs in the area right off the bat. With that being said…

Gaston wins HC debut against The Woodlands

The Willie Gaston era at North Shore couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Now, it’s been a long off-season, so here’s a little refresher: legendary coach Jon Kay, who was head coach at North Shore for nine seasons following 15 spent as the Mustangs’ defensive coordinator – accepted a job as a position coach at Rice.

Gaston played quarterback for the Mustangs from 1999-2001 and returned to the school as a coach in 2008. Gaston served as offensive coordinator from 2016 through last season before being promoted to head coach. With all the success he’s had at his alma mater, it was only right the Mustangs started off his tenure as HC with a win.

North Shore breezed past The Woodlands 38-17. Gaston’s first game as head coach wasn’t the only major storyline for the Mustangs; it was also quarterback Kaleb Bailey’s first game back after tearing his ACL last September. If there was any rust from the layoff, he sure didn’t show much.

Bailey finished with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 20-for-29 passing, and added a rushing touchdown as well. If Bailey is lightening, he was matched in the backfield with thunder. Running back D’Andre Hardeman totaled 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

It only gets easier from here for The Woodlands. While district-mates Oak Ridge and Willis boast two of the top recruits in the nation for the class of 2024, The Highlanders are loaded with talent in their own right, starting with Wisconsin QB commit Mabrey Mettauer. The Woodlands won 10 games last season and made a third-round playoff appearance before falling to eventual state champion Duncanville.

As for North Shore, this game was great prep for the rest of the season. The Mustangs play in one of the most top-heavy districts in the state. Summer Creek and C.E. King are somewhat close to The Woodlands in talent. Spring Westfield and Atascocita typically have more talent. The Mustangs face all four this season, so the climb is just beginning.

Jett Lewis out-duels trey Owens; Bridgeland tops Cy-Fair

I mentioned talking season earlier; how we spend the summer talking about whatever the narratives might be heading into the season. One of those, from my perspective at least, was Cy-Fair might round into form after a down year. Led by Texas QB commit Trey Owens, the Bobcats have a chance to be pretty good this year. They still do. But they were stunned in week one.

Despite leading 30-21 heading into the fourth quarter, Cy-Fair watched Bridgeland score 10 unanswered in the final frame to take home a 31-30 win.

Owens is an outstanding quarterback and had a nice night, finishing with 177 yards. That was topped by Bridgeland signal caller Jett Lewis, who tossed three touchdowns and accounted for 197 yards on an efficient 16-of-20 passing. Oscar Nnanna, a known commodity in district 19-6A, started off his senior season with eight catches for 117 yards and a score. Fellow senior Mason Simmons was also over 100, totaling 107 yards and two scores – including the game winner with just a few seconds left on the clock – on just six catches. Can’t top that to kick off senior year!

Bridgeland went 6-5 last season, its lowest win total since 2018. District 16-6A is usually a little bit of a wild card, but games against Cy Ranch Cy Woods and Cy Falls could be tough. The non-district slate doesn’t get easier either, with Katy Tompkins and Shadow Creek left on the docket. But after week one, there’s more than enough hope for a season that will top 2022.

As for Cy-Fair, well… Jersey Village was the only team out of eight in district 17-6A to win its opening week game. It very well could be those two fighting for the district crown by the end of the regular season. With Owens and running back Jamel Nickerson, who totaled 154 yards and two scores, Cy-Fair has more than enough juice to win the district and make a little playoff run.

Shadow Creek has no problems with Manvel

Last year, Texas Football Days – broadcast on Bally Sports Southwest – deemed this matchup good enough to air on TV. As I mentioned earlier, another absolute week one banger from the Houston area. The matchup might not have been super close this year, but this was a game that offered some intrigue nonetheless.

Shadow Creek never really had to sweat on Friday night as it took down Manvel, 34-15. Jacorey Watson is as dangerous of a weapon as you’ll find in the state, and he’ll do just about anything asked of him. He’s not a natural quarterback, but he got the start anyway. Watson finished 10-of-24 for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 82 yards and a score on 13 carries for the Sharks.

Watson spread the ball around for his 10 completions. Tylik Burton and Rahim Hutchins each caught a touchdown; Burton also ran for a touchdown. I want to highlight Watson and Burton. Shadow Creek might not have a true quarterback, but those two are as Swiss Army Knife as it gets, and I think the Sharks could ride them quite a long way – just get them the ball.

Another talking season storyline I caught a little wind of – Manvel quarterback Romin Seymour is the real deal. I mentioned storylines start to get written in week one; fortunately they’re far from complete. Seymour finished 6-of-16 for 47 yards and two interceptions. Rough start, but he’s just a sophomore and had to ace one of the most formidable defenses in the area (not to mention the 5A-6A difference) for his first varsity action. Senior Jonathan Haynes was the star for the Mavs, rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

Both of these teams face interesting challenges throughout district play. Shadow Creek will have to deal with Pearland, who opened with an impressive, high-scoring win against Clear Falls. Manvel plays in perhaps the most competitive district top-to-bottom in class 5A – at least from a season ago – though Fulshear was the only team in the district to win its opener.

News and Notes

In this section each week, I’ll do some bullet points of other area scores that a=caught my eye that I didn’t have time to discuss in full detail like the games above.

  • Aldine Nimitz, 20 – Grand Oaks, 7
  • Pearland, 45 – Clear Falls, 41
  • Atascocita, 46 – Dickinson, 21
  • Summer Creek, 28 – Klein Cain, 21
  • Cinco Ranch, 49 – College Park, 42
  • Fort Bend Marshall, 21 – Klein, 15 (OT)
  • George Ranch, 38 – Foster, 37 (OT)
  • C.E. King, 58 – Crosby, 22
  • Fulshear, 51 – Strake Jesuit, 23
  • Galena Park, 14 – GCM, 13
  • Bay City, 40 – Sweeny, 27
  • Bellville, 68 – La Grange, 20

Player of the Week

For my first player of the week for the 2023 season, why not start it off with a little dual-threat action from the 5A ranks.

With a double-double for 100-yard performance, my player-of-the-week is Lake Creek quarterback Eli Morcos! The junior signal caller went 7-of-13 for 117 yards and a touchdown, and racked up an additional 100 yards and another score on 16 rushes as Lake Creek defeated a good Angleton squad, 38-28. Congratulations on the win!

What to look forward to

Here’s the games I’m most looking forward to on the schedule in week two. Games played on Thursday or Saturday are indicated.

  • Aldine Eisenhower at Conroe (TH)
  • Klein Oak at Cinco Ranch (TH)
  • Klein Cain at College Park (TH)
  • Tomball Memorial at Cy Creek (TH)
  • C.E. King at Allen
  • Summer Creek at Clear Falls
  • The Woodlands at Lamar
  • Katy at Atascocita
  • New Caney at Porter
  • Temple at Willis
  • Magnolia at Tomball
  • Barbers Hill at Montgomery
  • Crosby at Fort Bend Marshall
  • Yates at Madison
  • Bellville at Stafford
  • Katy Tompkins at Bridgeland (SAT)
  • Dickinson at Ridge Point (SAT)
  • Westfield at Hightower (SAT)
  • Pearland Dawson at Klein Collins (SAT)
  • Pearland at Memorial (SAT)
  • GCM at Bellaire (SAT)

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