COMMENTARY: The Best Coaching and Team I've Ever Seen - The 2017 Kingwood Mustangs
KINGWOOD - In my time in Houston I've witnessed some of the greatest teams and overall football seasons in maybe the city's history.
There was 2018 North Shore – 16-0 State Champs – and then there was 2019 Shadow Creek – 16-0 State Champs and 31-1 in its first two years of varsity play. Unbelievably talented teams.
But arguably the greatest season and coaching job I've ever seen thus far was done by Barry Campbell and his staff at Kingwood High School in 2017.
Campbell on Friday announced he was stepping down from Kingwood to take a job on Brett Sniffin's staff at Belton High School. I've already written the normal piece about a coach leaving. The normal questions were asked.
But with Campbell, the year I wanted to talk to him about the most was 2017 – the year Hurricane Harvey devastated the Kingwood community.
"That is a proud moment in my career," Campbell said. "Whether it'd be a head coach or assistant, that'll be one of the proudest moments I've ever experienced to be a part of something like that."
Yes, there were better seasons, record-wise, but what I saw that season wasn't just a football team playing for the normal reasons – a playoff berth or the district title – but for a community that was devastated.
And they did. They overcame all the odds, including not having a school, football equipment, a weight room and won.
Kingwood that season went 6-6 overall and made it to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 1990.
"That was a year where that leadership really shined through. With everything that was going on, our players took ownership," Campbell said. "They decided they were determined to make something of the season with all the stuff that we were dealing with. With what they might have been dealing with at home on a personal basis or at school with how the schedule was.
"All the things we had to deal with that year, the players took ownership of all the adversity and making sure that we were successful and still have a chance of fulfilling the goals we had set before Hurricane Harvey."
The Mustangs had their best season in 27 years despite the fact at the end of August they didn't have anything to call theirs.
"I think the season kind of speaks for itself," Humble ISD Athletic Director Troy Kite said. "When you have that kind of tragedy, you don't have a home, you adapt and overcome on the fly like he and his staff and the kids did; on top of that make it to the third round of the playoffs. It's beyond a remarkable year under extremely difficult circumstances.
"It couldn't have come at a better time. The community needed that. I think sports really heals a community. To see the boys back on the field to start and what they did as the season progressed. It was a remarkable year."
The community is something Campbell talked about quite a bit in our interview. It was a community he had spent 13 years in – the most he's spent anywhere in his life.
Kingwood is home. It's a place that will always hold a special place in his heart because of the community. I know this community I live in it.
Once the waters had receded, there were cars lined down roads and people walking into houses to help. Walking into homes of people they didn't know to help bucket water out. Remove drywall. Tear up floors or just give someone a hug.
"The way this community responded during that time was a great statement and a defining moment of what this community is all about," Campbell said.
When Kingwood football got back on the field that was a healing moment for this community. That year for the three hours of a Friday night families could file into Turner Stadium and forget their problems.
They could use sports as an escape. Kingwood football gave them something to cheer about and that they did all the way into late November.
"We took that on, we were happy to take on that charge and to carry that flag for the community," Campbell said. "Going into it we were happy that we were able to succeed in trying to do that."
Other teams have won state titles. They could be considered the greatest ever. But for the Kingwood community that 2017 Mustangs' team might has well won a state title.
The fact that they stepped on the field that season was a championship. Them winning a game was a championship. Making the playoffs, another championship. Making the third round was a championship.
That season is remarkable. To not have anything of your own and to do that is a season I and the community of Kingwood will never forget.