Oct 01, 2020
Iowa Colony football
From the first day the UIL permitted fall practices on Monday, Iowa Colony football coach Ray Garza III and his staff and players were up against the clock, furiously starting the process of creating and building an entire program from no point of leverage.
Kneepads arrived last week. The first few days of fall camp were spent installing offensive, defensive and special teams schemes. The Pioneers know they want to be multiple on offense and play an odd-numbered front on defense. They just don’t who will be playing, let alone who will be playing where.
There was no offseason. Only about six weeks of summer strength and conditioning camps at Caffey Junior High and now a few weeks of fall camp before Iowa Colony, Alvin ISD’s fourth high school that takes most of its population from Manvel High, plays its first football game—a varsity one, at that—August 26 against Fort Bend Christian Academy.
“Kids are excited. Coaches are excited,” said Garza, formerly defensive coordinator at Shadow Creek. “First time our kids were actually able to get into the building. Great facilities. They’d been wondering what it looks like and what all is available to them.
“When every place you go is the first someone’s ever been, I think it has a little bit more special meaning to it.”
Garza is a product of Alvin ISD. He has never left, except for his college years at Texas A&M (undergrad) and Lamar University (master’s).
Growing up in Manvel, he attended Manvel Junior High and Alvin High School. His first coaching job was at Harby Junior High. In 2007, he went to Manvel High and coached the defensive line for Kirk Martin as the Mavericks made the leap to varsity. In 2016, he went to Shadow Creek with Brad Butler to start the football program. In 2019, their second year of varsity play, the Sharks won the Class 5A-Division I state title.
At Shadow Creek, the Sharks played two years of a renegade junior varsity schedule before playing in a varsity district. At Iowa Colony, the Pioneers, a Class 4A program, are jumping right into the varsity fire before school doors even open.
“It will be different,” Garza said. “The kids know they’re playing for the playoffs and a state championship. They have the right to do that. They have to earn it. And our kids are young, so we’re having to mold leaders, whereas when you have a year or so, those kids have stepped up already from the older classes. Our kids now are in younger classes. So, we’re helping bring them along and keeping them on the right path so they become those leaders.”
Garza said the program’s numbers currently sit at around 115-118 kids. The program consists of sophomores and freshmen this initial year.
Iowa Colony coach Ray Garza III.Courtesy photo
Garza’s focus is laying a foundation and cornerstone.
“You can’t overlook the small things when you’re talking about building a program,” Garza said. “There’s a lot of playoff games in my time at Manvel and Shadow Creek that I coached in that I know programs have a solid foundation of the process in how they do things. It becomes a part of who they are and what their kids expect when they go through everyday procedures.”
His primary emphasis is consistency. Kids will understand standards, and those standards won’t change. Coaches will know what to expect from kids. Kids will know what to expect from coaches.
Garza wants a family environment. Good programs, he said, have kids that care about the person next to them.
Building relationships is a priority.
“You can’t go from point A to point Z,” Garza said. “Where are we trying to go? What are we trying to achieve? What does that look like? How do we get kids to buy in? Especially where we’re at right now, where our kids are jumping right in it, those are things we talk about.”
Garza started establishing relationships with kids when summer camps began the second week of June. He already knows his players well. He admires their toughness and passion for not just playing football but studying it and learning it.
Sophomore defensive end/tight end/left tackle Chris Johnson, sophomore center Tyson Windham and sophomore running back Jacody Miles have asserted themselves as leaders, players who hold themselves and others accountable.
It’s all a promising start. There is a lot to work with. But Garza also knows it will take time.
“You’ve got to be focused on every day,” he said. “Getting better today than where we were yesterday. Did we get a better football IQ of what we’re teaching? Are the kids starting to understand? Putting kids in the right position is our job every day. That’s the goal. It hasn’t changed from when I was at Manvel or Shadow Creek. But the only way to achieve that goal is to make sure we’re taking care of the foundation of this football team.”
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You know what time it is! The Fall season is right around the corner, so we take at the Top 5 schools in the Austin/San Antonio area.
We are still a few weeks away from unveiling our Pre Season Football Rankings, but until then we have the preseason Volleyball Rankings for you to enjoy!
Are we right? Are we wrong? Let us know and new rankings will come out every week.
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Photo provided by Melissa Gardner
Matches are right around the season for Texas High School Volleyball. With plenty of athletes working hard throughout the summer to keep their skills sharp, there are a handful who have really stood out among the rest. VYPE DFW recently interviewed Crandall Pirates middle blocker Leah Gardner-- VYPE DFW's recruit of the week! Gardner discussed her time so far with the Pirates as well as what she's looking forward to this fall!
Success + Staying Focused
Last season, the Crandall Pirates fought hard to post big wins against the likes of Wolfe City, Newman Smith, West Mesquite, and more. Gardner played a key role in leading the Pirates toward their success on the court. She credits a lot of the team's success to their chemistry. "We were all friends with each other and bonded on and off the court," Gardner said. "This allowed us to gain momentum multiple times in matches and maintain and win games against teams we had lost to the previous season."
Though the team showed strength as a whole unit, Gardner also showed plenty of success as an athlete. During her time with Crandall, Gardner has been named First Team All-District, Offensive Player of the Year, Outstanding Blocker, and Most Valuable Player for the team's awards last season. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA, Gardner has also been named Academic All-State three seasons in a row. So, what's the secret to her personal success? "My ability to stay level-headed when things get intense," says Gardner. "I do my best to stay calm and play to a higher level than I had before. This also applies to when I make errors- I recognize what I did wrong, correct it in my head, and then focus on the next play. You have to have short-term memory in volleyball."
In order to remain successful on and off the court, an athlete needs to be focused at all times... especially during the offseason. For Gardner, this entails continuing to put in hard work with club volleyball. "My offseason consists of club volleyball multiple days of the week. I train for many hours with amazing coaches and players to consistently get better and play at a high level. This helps me tremendously when the school season rolls around."
Goals + Mindset
Setting goals is an important part of accomplishing big things as a young athlete. Gardner has laid out goals for herself season after season. Last season, Gardner says her goals were to be an impactful athlete. "I wanted to increase my number of blocks per season." Continuing to use her goals to power her success, Gardner has also set goals ahead of her senior season that is rapidly approaching: "My goals for this upcoming season are to make it to playoffs and to get at least half as many blocks as I do kills."
With the right mindset, goals are certainly obtainable. "My mindset going in to each season is to enjoy it, do my best, and make it to playoffs. Hopefully we can do that this season to finish my high school volleyball career."
The Season Ahead
Crandall is preparing for a tough schedule this season, but it's certainly one that they can be successful in powering through. Gardner has many things that she's looking forward to, but she laid out just what has her excited for the season ahead. "I am most looking forward to having a new coach, Courtney Linton," Gardner said. "I went to AAU with her last summer and I grew so much as a player in a short amount of time. I think she will change the CHS volleyball program in the best way and lead us to success!"
Although there is still plenty to look forward to, VYPE DFW asked Gardner what her favorite memory with Crandall volleyball has been. "One of my favorite memories from my high school career is from when I got my first kill as a varsity player. I was a freshman playing RH and we were playing Brownsville in front of a home crowd. I got the kill and our student section started chanting: 'She's a freshman!' Most of the student section was aware that it was my first game as a varsity player and when they went wild it made the moment extremely memorable and special!"
A Bright Future
Although Gardner is not yet committed to a college program, she has not ruled out the idea of playing volleyball at the next level. "I am looking for a team with a winning culture that feels like a home away from home," Gardner told VYPE. "I want to feel like I matter and would be an important part of the team."
Gardner plans on majoring in accounting with the hopes of becoming an accountant for the FBI.
What is your favorite professional sports team?
"The New Orleans Saints since I am originally from Louisiana."
As an athlete, who do you most look up to?
"I look up to Foluke Akinradewo and Lauren Stirvins. They are both extremely talented MBs and I love to watch them play and learn from them."
If you could have dinner with any person (dead or alive) who would it be? What would you hope to talk about?
"It would have to be Louis Tomlinson. He's one of my favorite singers and I love- and relate to- his music."
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