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Kendron Penson is back at his alma mater, this time at the helm of the Willowridge football program.
One of the first things Kendron Penson did after he was hired as Willowridge’s football coach earlier this month was retrieve pictures from a cabinet.
The pictures were of All-Americans who had played at Willowridge. Thurman Thomas. Grady Cavness. William Shankle. Charles Arbuckle. On and on. They were the same pictures that hung on the fieldhouse walls when Penson played left tackle for the Eagles in the mid-90’s.
“These kids now probably don’t understand or know about the dominant Willowridge tradition that we have here,” said Penson, referring to a program that won the 1982 Class 4A state championship and counts former NFL players like Thomas and Arbuckle, among others, as alumni. “You had to be here to understand that. When I was here, we walked in and the first thing I saw were All-Americans who came through and paved the way. We’d lift weights and we’d see their pictures on the walls. When they came back to the school, the first thing they would do is go and look at their picture. It meant something to them.
“First thing I did was put them back up. Bringing back that tradition. Hopefully, they’ll come back.”
In taking over at his alma mater, Penson, Class of 1995, is glorifying the past.
Edgar Glover, the late great former Willowridge principal, preached class and character when Penson was a student-athlete roaming the halls. Penson is adamant about bringing those traits onto the football field.
“Class,” meaning the best of its kind. “Character,” meaning being who you are, no matter where you are.
Penson holds “character lessons” on Wednesdays for his players. He plans to have former Eagle greats as guests to speak to the kids about class and character.
“It’s a way of life here,” Penson said.
Willowridge is Penson’s first head coaching job. He succeeds Ramon Chinyoung, who left after two seasons to take an assistant offensive coaching job with the Denver Broncos.
Penson, who played collegiately at Alabama State, has been coaching for 20 years, including stints at Fort Bend Marshall, Elkins, Chavez and, most recently, as assistant head coach/offensive line coach/run game coordinator at Hightower.
“It’s a dream come true,” Penson said. “Being here with some of my peers I’ve known throughout the years and being able to help my community, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Penson has been busy going to McAuliffe Middle School to boost the numbers in his program. Recruiting his kind of guys, Penson said.
What is his type of guy?
“First, he’s a student-athlete with great charisma,” Penson said. “He has to be a controlled soldier. That’s what we want. When it’s time for battle, he’s on and he’s ready to go. He’s fearless. But once that clock hits zeroes, he’s back to that student-athlete. Controlled aggression, controlled soldier.”
Penson will bring a spread offense, having learned it under Dennis Brantley at Elkins.
“We have the bodies for it,” Penson said. “We have good receivers coming back, a good running back. Offensive line should be pretty good. But my scheme fits what they need around them.”
A considerable boon will be Penson’s son, Kendron Jr.
Kendron Jr. was a standout sophomore quarterback in leading Hightower to the regional finals last season. The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 2,488 yards and 21 touchdowns to just five interceptions, while rushing for 257 yards and six more touchdowns.
Penson said it was his son’s decision whether to stay at Hightower or come to Willowridge.
“He was a varsity football player and varsity baseball player over there, and he gave that up to come play for his pops,” Penson said. “I love that. The experience last year made him a great leader. Now he can show these guys over here how to win and the ways of excellence. We have some great kids here. It only makes them better because he’s been there before. These guys haven’t been to the fourth round, but we plan on being there.”
Foster baseball coach Mick Tosch poses for a picture with wife Carmel, daughters Mickayla and Jordan, and son Rob after winning his 300th career game on Saturday, a 14-4 win over Kempner.
Last Saturday’s 14-4 win over Kempner was more meaningful than most for Foster baseball coach Mick Tosch. It marked his 300th.
Of his 20 years as a head coach in baseball, Tosch has spent 16 at Foster. With the Falcons improving to 9-1 in District 24-5A, 15-8 overall, with the win over the Cougars, Tosch reached another milestone of a distinguished career.
“It’s gratifying. It also means I’ve been coaching a long time,” Tosch said, laughing. “It’s a cool milestone. I’ve been around the game and coaching profession pretty much my whole life, so it’s pretty neat to reach 300. You can’t win without good players, and I’ve been blessed with good players. I’ve also been blessed with a wonderful wife who’s been very understanding of the time needed to run a successful program. My kids are understanding and supportive. I’m just so fortunate for good players and a great support system at home.”
Tosch was coached by his father, Billy, as a standout shortstop at West Columbia High School. Tosch’s wife, Carmel, is a volleyball and track coach at Briscoe Junior High. Their two daughters, Mickayla, a junior, and Jordan, a freshman, are multi-sport athletes at Foster. Son Rob, the youngest of the kids, is an athlete as well.
Tosch, who played collegiately at then-University of Texas Pan American (now Texas-Rio Grande Valley) from 1994-1997, said he is not as fiery in the dugout as he used to be. As baseball and society has evolved, so has he.
The biggest adjustment Tosch said he’s had to make over his coaching career is infusing his team ideas and philosophies with that of the private instructors more and more kids are using nowadays.
Tosch still applies some of the coaching he absorbed from Billy.
“He’s probably the best hitting instructor I’ve ever listened to,” Tosch said. “Not just saying that because he’s my dad, but the way he breaks down a swing … he does a great job of simplifying things. So, I’ve been able to listen to him talk about hitting for a long time and use some of those things to teach the guys that come through Foster High School.”
During his 16 years, Tosch has led the Falcons to six district championships. Foster went to the regional finals in 2013 and the regional quarterfinals in 2018.
If Foster wins its remaining six games, it will be district title No. 7 for Tosch.
“Coach Tosch is a steady force,” junior Coleman Biggs said. “He’s unwavering in his beliefs and is humble in all of his achievements. As a player, he encourages me to get out of my comfort zone and expects me to be my best self, on and off the field. He inspires me to be better by example.”
Tosch has been just as inspired by this year’s team, which has won seven of its last nine games.
Guys like Biggs and junior Hayden Holchak have selflessly switched positions out of team need. Biggs, an outfielder, moved to second base this year. Holchak, a district Newcomer of the Year as an outfielder last season, is playing catcher.
“We’re starting to hit the ball now,” Tosch said. “Our pitching has been fine all year long, but we struggled early in the year being consistent hitting and giving run support to our pitchers. The last two weeks, we’re stringing multiple hits together in innings. They’ve been grinding every day to make themselves better.”