29 Nov, 2021
HOUSTON - When Kenny Harrison arrived at Summer Creek in the spring of 2018, he went down to the middle schools to see and visit with the players who would be pulling on Bulldog gear the next fall as freshmen.
"I just knew it was a special group with a lot of confidence," Harrison said. "So, I was really looking forward to that. It was difficult not thinking about those guys knowing how special they were."
Four years later, that group has now grown into the Class of 2022 and with a 62-41 victory over Cinco Ranch on Saturday afternoon made program history reaching the State Quarterfinals for the first time ever.
Making history is something these now seniors experienced first as those freshmen in 2018.
That year - Harrison's first leading the program - the Bulldogs went 9-4 and reached the Regional Semifinals for the first time ever after being bounced in the second round in the programs' four previous playoff trips.
"They knew what exactly what was at stake," Harrison said of his senior class in this playoff run.
In 2018, Harrison admits that he considered moving up the freshmen to varsity because of their talent. But instead leaned on a solid senior group, including Jack Zelezinski, and let the young guys - like Torrie Curry - play freshman football and in turn win a district title.
That move to keep them together is now paying huge dividends.
"They bonded and gelled together, and their confidence went through the roof," Harrison said. "Their parents as well as the kids have always trusted the process. They knew exactly what we had coming once we got to this point."
Harrison felt that this kind of season could have come in 2020 but due to a rash of injuries - including losing three starting offensive linemen at one point - and playing a tough District 21-6A slate paired with that they went 3-6 and missed the playoffs a second-straight season.
But now back healthy for 2021, the process that Harrison put in motion back in 2018 is still working today and has helped guide Summer Creek to its deepest playoff run in school history.
"I'm living the dream, it definitely works," Harrison said. "I'm blessed that Humble ISD and Athletic Director Troy Kite understood my vision and gave me the opportunity. Because like you said, it's a win-now business and we did not have success over the last two years. But from the administration they stuck with it and gave me an opportunity to get my freshman class through and we're having success.
"So, I guess it paid off both ways."
Now, to make more history - reaching the State Semifinals - Summer Creek has to take down nine-time state champion Katy on Saturday.
"I have the upmost respect for Gary Joseph and what he's done at Katy," Harrison said. "He's a very good friend of mine and a mentor. The thing I told our kids after the game was I feel good about our chances against anybody if we take care of our business. If we play for the brand on our chest, play together and not worry about who the opponent is ... Let's just play Summer Creek style football, be physical and play our brand of football."
Outside the business talk of getting ready for Katy, and making history, ask Kenny Harrison this week if he's having fun? If practicing and playing in December is fun?
"I'm having the most fun since I've been here," Harrison said. "Just seeing the excitement on our guys' faces, getting the opportunity to come and practice on Monday. I love all of it. I just want it to continue and be back next Monday."
Key Senior Stats - 2021
Torrie Curry (RB) - 180 carries, 1,327 yards, 23 TDs
Andrew Alexander (WR) - 29 rec. 544 yards, 2 TDs
Darius Rainey (DB) - 3 Ints
Myles Thomas (DB) - 3 Ints
Chase Angel - 75 tackles, 2 sacks
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Aldine has been in the playoffs for 10-straight years, and with five starters returning to the stable for Melbin Barahona, expect another playoff berth in 2022.
Last season, Aldine dropped a tough opening round match to Oak Ridge, falling 1-0, finishing 12-6-4 overall. But they are ready for a run again, like 2019, where they reached the Regional Finals for the second time in program history.
Junior Matute will be one of the key pieces back after recording 10 goals and 10 assists a year ago.
Jesus Perez had six goals and three assists, while Juan Aguilera had three goals and five assists in 2021 for the 'Stangs.
Other names to remember include Anthony Navarro, Jorge Plasencia and Carlos Pena for the Mustangs.
The key to success, according to Barahona for 2022, is being "committed to practice after school during the season and not fail any class. Discipline in everything that they do."
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Having covered the world of recruiting for decades, here is lesson No. 1.
Commit to the school, not the coach.
With the coaching carousel spinning like a top, high school prospects are shocked that the coaches they committed to are off to greener pastures.
Really? Don’t be.
This is a business boys, and you have to ALWAYS keep your options open. You have to have a Plan B… a worst-case scenario.
When 99-percent of the high school and college students who are looking for a job, they commit to a company… not a manager. College football recruiting is NO DIFFERENT.
Look, on the real, the power-struggle has flipped to the players over the past few years. The recruiting game has also completely morphed. You wanted it, you got it.
The portal makes roster management virtually impossible for college coaches to know who is coming or going. It’s free-agency every year.
Kids can use it to their benefit or their detriment.
Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), which I don’t agree with, is also a joke. Teens can make big money, which they have no idea how to manage, completely changing the power dynamic in the locker room and the relationship with their coaches. Short-sighted deals are made to allure recruits to the super-powers of college football.
It’s the same deal with college coaches… you can’t fault them for negotiating their own deals.
The creation of super-conferences is alluring to some coaches, but terrifying to others. It’s a game of musical chairs and everyone is scrambling for their spot before the music stops. If you could coach for 4-5 years in the rough-and-tumble SEC where expectations are insane, or coach 10-15 years in the Pac-12, where expectations are like “dude, football is gnarly, bruh”, which would you pick?
Throw in an international pandemic into the mix and this whole recruiting process is a mess.
Existing players getting an extra year of eligibility. No expansion of scholarships from 85 per school and hundreds of student-athletes looking for their next stop are finding themselves back at their homes. The one-time hometown heroes, who had hundreds of adoring fans watching them select a hat during Signing Day, are now collecting a paycheck a Chick-fil-A.
With the exodus of Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley to USC, Billy Napier from UL-L to Florida, Joey McGuire from Baylor to Texas Tech, kids feel like they are left in the dark. Sort of, but did you commit to the school or the coach?
LSU, OU, TCU and Virginia Tech among others are coach-less with December 15th looming – the early signing day.
It’s chaos, but such is life.
Stop whining fellas, there is a formula to football and life in general.
LISTEN to experienced people who have NO incentive in your decisions. Hmmmm… maybe your high school head coach or position coach who has seen you develop the past four years.
Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.
Work hard and make good decisions.
And finally, understand -- THIS IS A BUSINESS. Everyone is out for themselves. Never forget that.
So, choose a school that feels like home, play ball, create your own network, be patient and things will work out. Here's a novel concept, get your degree so you can be your own boss one day.
And leave your feelings at home.
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