ROSENBERG — Foster football coach Shaun McDowell preaches "doing what we do." Play Foster football. That means being physical, depending on the run and stopping the run.
McDowell did not see the Falcons do what they do in a Week 1 setback to Lamar Consolidated. He did, however, see it in spades during Thursday's 28-7 win over Fort Bend Travis at Traylor Stadium.
"We went back to work on Monday and got a great result tonight," McDowell said after the game. "We went old school a bit in practice, recentered our focus. Full pads, full tackling, don't care about the heat. We're still a work in progress, and our boys understand they've got to trust the coaching and trust themselves and their teammates. We saw a difference in them this week."
The biggest concern McDowell had following Week 1's 21-14 loss to the Mustangs was the flow, or lack thereof, on offense. Foster mustered just 175 total yards and had three turnovers.
But any issues were squelched Thursday, when Foster put up 357 total yards and turned the ball over just once. Junior JT Fayard, in a quarterback competition with junior Landon Godwin since the spring, got the start and excelled, completing 17 of 22 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns to one interception in his first career varsity start.
"My mind was on one thing, and one thing only. Consistency," Fayard said. "What we call fun over here is consistency at the highest level. Whether it's the easy things or hard things, it's coming to practice every day, working on my craft, working on everything I need to work on."
Smooth opening drive for @FosterFootball. @JtFayard finds @dapponey1 for a 13-yard score. 7-0 Falcons, 9:14, 1Q.… https://t.co/RgjBuK8GIZ— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)1630628040.0
McDowell praised Fayard's decision-making. Godwin got the start in Week 1, while Fayard played the second half. On Thursday, Fayard got the starting nod and played all the way until a few minutes remained the in the fourth quarter, with Godwin finishing it out.
QB1 appears to be Fayard's to lose.
"He'll definitely get the start next week, and we'll probably name him the starter as we go," McDowell said. "Landon is a great quarterback. Either could start for a lot of teams. JT has a slight edge because he can throw a little better, but going into the Paetow game (next Friday) we'll probably keep it the same."
The Falcons were able to get the ball downfield early and often against a Tigers secondary that played soft in coverage. That was a pleasant sign for McDowell, who, along with a quarterback, found some receivers he could depend on.
The big playmaker was 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior Kendal Stewart, the lone returning receiver with varsity experience. Stewart was jaw-dropping all evening long, leaping above and sprinting around hapless defenders in piling up 206 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.
That @JtFayard-Kendal Stewart connection again. 76-yard scoring bomb for @FosterFootball. 28-7 Falcons, 7:48, 4Q.… https://t.co/ZkuFPXmVZM— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)1630635391.0
"Last week, we were coming in with 37 new people that didn't play varsity last year," Stewart said. "Everybody got their first-game jitters out; I even got my first-game jitters out. This week, I went out there and showed everyone what I can do. I know they came in underestimating us, seeing how we lost Cody Jackson and guys like that from last year. I went out with a point to prove to them, like, I'm that dude."
Stewart had catches of 21, 38, 44 and 76 yards.
"He's got big-game experience," McDowell said. "He made it happen."
The Falcons also got big-play production from junior receiver Dylan Apponey, who caught two passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. Junior Cedric Adjet had the Falcons' other receiving touchdown on a 3-yard pitch from Fayard. Junior Eli England added a rushing score on a two-yard run.
>> 'D' DOMINATES: Foster held a typically prolific Travis offense to 117 total yards. Travis ran for 50 yards on 28 carries and threw for 67 yards on 9-for-22 passing. "We just saw our keys," said junior linebacker Andrew Kuntz, who had a sack in the red zone late in the first half. "We watched a lot of film and saw that when the H-back was in the game, he always takes you to the run. If he goes out, you have to swim over the top for the linebackers. If he goes across, you have to get into your gap. The O-line tells you what play it is. You just have to watch."
>> OVERESTIMATE THEM: Foster players said a critical takeaway from Week 1 was to not underestimate an opponent. Both Fayard and Stewart, unsolicited and in separate interviews, said as much. "Overestimate the opponent, if anything," Fayard said he preached to his teammates during the week. McDowell thanked Lamar Consolidated for recentering his team. "We can't underestimate any team that we play, no matter how good we think we are," Stewart said. "We had to start back from scratch. Monday's practice was hard. Tuesday's practice was just as hard. We kept that intensity and came out and got the win."
>> BROTHER TO BROTHER: Travis' lone touchdown came with four seconds left in the second quarter, when senior quarterback Anthony Njoku found twin Dominic Njoku on a 13-yard scoring catch.
RICHMOND — Before Tuesday's district showdown against Fulshear, Foster volleyball coach Morgan Hunter reminded her players they are better than they think they are. All they had to do was "put it all together," an essential intangible that had eluded the Falcons to that point.
Against Fulshear, Region III-5A's premier team, Foster heeded Hunter's words. And then the Falcons delivered.
Foster rallied dramatically for an emotionally intense 3-2 win (17-25, 25-21, 12-25, 25-21, 15-11) over Fulshear at Foster High, handing the Chargers, 2019 state champs and 2020 state finalists, their first district loss since Oct. 23, 2018, against Needville.
"It was a lot of heart and a lot of effort," Hunter said. "We talked at the beginning of the year about some goals that we want to set for ourselves. We wanted to make sure we competed and were really out on the hunt to win district, instead of just getting second like we have the last several years. Obviously, we know that's going to come down to the Fulshear-Foster matchup. Our girls just played lights out."
.@Foster_vball coach Morgan Hunter talks about her team’s big district win over Fulshear tonight, 3-2 (17-25, 25-21… https://t.co/gfIQXbn8ix— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)1630464518.0
Foster improved to 13-12 overall and 2-0 in District 24-5A. Fulshear, which had won seven of eight games entering the night, fell to 16-12, 1-1.
"We're just young," Fulshear coach Sydney Zimmerman said. "I think we get ahead of ourselves. We start our sets out pretty quick and then we get a little comfortable. We've talked about how our district is not the strongest district in the area, and so … we get a little comfortable and think we've got it taken care of. Got too relaxed and we struggled."
Fulshear jumped out to big leads in all five sets. But every time the Chargers let up even a little bit, Foster pounced.
Fulshear led 2-1 after three sets (the third, a decisive 25-12 rout) and was up late in the fourth before Foster put together a stirring, gutsy comeback to push the game to its brink.
In the fifth set, the Falcons got clutch play after clutch play from senior outside Kamryn Williams and sophomore middle Jackie Onyechi. Williams had two kills, back-to-back, in the deciding set. Onyechi had three kills and two blocks.
Annnnnnd @Foster_vball does it. Takes the fifth set 15-11 to hand Fulshear its first district loss since 2018.… https://t.co/DV1En3phr2— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)1630462904.0
"We know we're a good team," said Williams, who had 11 kills, two blocks and two aces. "We just have to keep pushing. Even when we felt like we were playing really bad in that first set, the score was still 25-17. We knew we could push through."
Zimmerman said Onyechi especially hurt the Chargers, particularly in system when she used her 5-foot-11 frame and athleticism to hit right over blocks.
"I wanted to come out and do something big for my team," said Onyechi, who finished with nine kills and six blocks. "My coach pushes me really hard to help me get where I am, and I wanted to really prove to her that I'm getting better and doing what I need to do."
Fulshear's Warren sisters, senior Brielle and freshman Bailey, were unstoppable throughout much of the game. Bailey had 22 kills. Brielle had 17 kills and a block.
But in the fifth and final set, they only combined for three points.
"Fulshear has a lot of talented hitters and does a great job scoring points," Hunter said. "We just had to find ways to respond, like making sure we fronted hitters so she could not hit through our block and getting to our spots defensively and making the plays we should."
Zimmerman commended Foster's coaching.
"I felt like Coach Hunter knew exactly what we were going to do," Zimmerman said. "They've got the athletes. Their defense stepped up against our outsides. Credit to them. They worked hard and they did not give up."
Junior Koryn Johnson had a team-high 12 kills to go with 14 digs for Foster. Sophomore Brinleigh Davis had a team-high 21 assists. Seniors Kalani Velasquez and Eliana Zepeda had 17 and 13 digs, respectively.
.@Foster_vball junior Koryn Johnson discusses the Falcons’ big 3-2 district win tonight over Fulshear. It is Fulshe… https://t.co/a3RDWRGmog— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston)1630464189.0
"It's a very huge win," Williams said. "We've had a rocky start to the season, and a win like this shows what we can do."
For Fulshear, the loss showed how far it must go.
"I think it'll light a fire under the girls and remind them that they're not where we're going to be in a couple of months when we go into playoffs," Zimmerman said. "We have a lot of work to do. We're not OK with this loss, but we've got to find a way to use it positively."