Sep 12, 2022
THROUGH THE LENS: Santa Fe rolling in pre-district season
By Andy Tolbert
Senior libero Andi Vaught can read a room.
Earlier this season, she led movie night where the Friendswood Mustangs huddled to watch “When the Game Stands Tall”. The movie chronicles De La Salle High School, one of the nation’s best high school football teams.
The message – no one is bigger than the team. It’s about leadership, love and the brotherhood of a team.
The movie hit.
“It was the perfect movie at the perfect time for the perfect team,” coach Sarah Paulk said. “We have had adversity this year and the girls keep stepping up. We played a tournament in Florida and it was a great team-building experience for us. It was then when I could see this team really coming together.”
The team suffered a set-back in the preseason, however, losing Meghan Donoughue to an Achilles injury. She will be lost for the season. Sophomore outside Sydney Gibson has been out all season but will return in the next week, and junior DS Anna Melgren should be back in a few weeks with another injury.
The Mustangs reached the State Tournament as recent as 2019 and have had continued success in the postseason since, but they have been tripped up by Fulshear of late.
“We haven’t won district in two years (Manvel) and we’ve hit some road blocks late in the season,” she said. “But this team really works hard and has great chemistry.”
The ‘Stangs are currently 16-9 overall and 3-0 in district play with a young and talented team.
Vaught keeps the youngsters on track… and they are really talented.
Sophomore Nadi’Ya Shelby is hammering balls at a violent pace and she is set up by sophomore setter Caroline Adams.
“Nadi’Ya does some things athletically that I’ve never seen before. She is special,” Paulk said. “Caroline has stepped up huge running the offense. She has allowed us to run a 5-1 instead of a 6-2.”
Other sophomores Haley Patton (DS) and Tallah Benson (OH) have played expanded roles, along with juniors Jordyn Sims (right side) and Preslee Alaniz (MB).
“It has been true team effort,” she said. “Everyone plays a role.”
Next Tuesday will be very telling. The Manvel Mavs are looming, who have been a thorn in the hooves of the Mustangs the past two seasons.
Will the “Stand Tall”?
Vaught will see to it.
The Tomball Memorial Wildcats won an instant classic over crosstown rival Tomball in a 5-set match (25-22, 19-25, 30-32, 25-23, 15-9).
Memorial is currently leading the district with a record of 4-0, 26-8 overall, the Cougars are in second place.
CHECK OUT THE PHOTO GALLERY BY JACOB MCCREADY.
Ray Garza is an Alvin ISD lifer.
He has been tasked with leading the Iowa Colony Pioneers, the district’s newest school.
In just its second year of varsity play, the Pioneers are 4-0 as they head into Class 12-4A-DI play which is filled with long-time power programs.
“This is my home,” he said. “This is my community. My mom still lives in the house I was raised in and it’s an honor to lead Iowa Colony. I’ve been able to stay in one place and raise my own family, while having been a part of the district’s winning tradition.”
Garza played at Alvin High and tried his hand in college football at Blinn. He would graduate from Texas A&M and did his student teaching in Alvin. He was on coach Kirk Martin’s first staff at Manvel High School and was a part of the winning culture of “Hoka Hey”. He was the defensive line coach when the Mavs reached the State Finals in 2011.
He would follow Brad Butler to Alvin ISD’s next new school – Shadow Creek. The Sharks played for a State Title in 2018, the first year it truly played a varsity schedule. Shadow Creek would go on to win State in 2019.
“I’ve been a part of some big games around here,” he said. “And I’ve had some tremendous mentors.”
Garza was a no-brainer to open Iowa Colony. The Pioneers took their lumps last season, going 2-8 on the season. They played a varsity schedule with freshmen and sophomores but were extremely competitive.
“We are building a family culture here,” he said. “We are much-improved because we have simply had our kids for another year of development. From the offseason boot camp and summer work outs, we have come together as a family. It runs throughout the school because so many of our kids play multiple sports. Our kids are seeing their hard work pay off as we evolve as a program.”
Running the offense is sophomore Cam Renfro, a dual-threat QB with over 800 yards of total offense and 15 scores. He is joined in the backfield with RB Eric Mosely III, who has burst onto the scene. The receiving room is loaded with four WRs with over 100 yards. Jacody Miles, the 2022 District Newcomer of the Year, is dynamic with the ball in his hands either running, receiving or returning.
Antoine Martin, Jr. is a speedster with length to stretch the defense, while freshman Carson White and junior Landy White are also primary targets. The line is led by center Tyson Windham.
“We have some pretty special receivers for Cam to throw to,” he said. “He is understanding the offense really well with another year of experience. Mosely has run really well and Windham diagnoses things up on the line. Our defense is making plays with some very talented kids who work really hard.”
Chris Johnson is the star at defensive end at 6-foot-3. He has an offer from Baylor.
“When your best player is your best leader, that goes a long way,” Garza said. “He keeps everyone on track.”
Bruce Robinson, Henry Kalu, Haydon Caston and Treshaun O’Neal lead a fast and physical linebacking corps, while Jeremy Gardner patrols the secondary.
“We are off to a great start, but we are in a very competitive district,” Garza said. “There are some great programs with a lot of tradition and great coaches. We will be tested every Friday in a playoff atmosphere. You want that pressure to make a playoff spot. It makes you focus one week at a time.”
Absolutely "on brand" as Garza builds his colony.
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