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Randle junior quarterback Leo Garza.
Leo Garza was cleared to return to the football field on August 1. It was cause for celebration after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his left knee last October.
Garza’s comeback became official 24 days later.
In his first full contact game since, the Randle junior quarterback lit up the black night in Pasadena last Thursday, completing 21 of 34 passes for 426 yards and eight touchdowns in a 53-17 win over Pasadena Memorial.
Lamar Consolidated ISD’s sixth and newest high school played its first varsity football game and won. Garza was the headliner.
“I wasn’t nervous about my knee giving away,” Garza said. “The way they built my knee, they did the same surgery on soccer players. But I was anxious. I hadn’t played or done anything in 10 months. It was kind of an exciting feeling. After that first touchdown, I was good.”
He kept feeling better and better, early and often.
Garza threw touchdown passes to six different receivers: three to sophomore Jaxon Montelongo, and one each to juniors Cortney Brown, Alex Sanders, Jaydon Osbourne, Cannon Davis and Marc St. Fort. He averaged 20.2 yards per completion and 12.5 yards per attempt.
“It was definitely (offensive coordinator) Coach (Brooks) Haack and my receivers,” Garza said. “We saw that the defense was playing the safeties up front a bit. We saw that the deep balls would work. My receivers kept telling me to watch the safeties, watch the corners. Without those guys, that night would not have been possible.”
\u201c8 Td\u2019s, 426 yards, 0 Int. We had a great WIN for our 1st game of the season! We coming \ud83e\udd2b #WeAreLions #HearUsRoar #GodFamilyFootball @BrianRandle40 @CoachHaack09 @quarterbackmag @QBHitList @vypehouston @densilva02 @TexasRankings @fbheraldsports @ihss_houston\u201d — Leonardo Garza (@Leonardo Garza)
As expected, Garza showed some rust. He was early on some throws, late on others.
“If he connects on all of them, he might’ve thrown 12 touchdown passes,” coach Brian Randle said. “He was leading them a little bit too much. A lot of nervous energy. First varsity game.”
But all in all, it was an unreal performance from a young man admired within the school’s walls for his character and resilience.
“Leo has a lot of heart,” Randle said. “He competes. He’s a boxer, he plays baseball. He plays all the sports. He’s just a true leader to his core. He’s a tough kid.”
Garza has been a stalwart of the Lions since the school opened its doors last August. A captain since day one.
He is a leader with his words and actions. His latest act was his most inspiring.
Garza suffered the knee injury during an Oct. 8 game against Lake Belton in Temple. He tore it in the first quarter but remained in the game and played through.
“I was limping, but I guess it was the adrenaline,” Garza said. “After the game, I go to the hotel and I couldn’t bend my knee. The next day, the doctors thought it was my meniscus. They didn’t know it was my ACL. They thought I’d be out six weeks, max.”
When the team returned home to Richmond, Garza got an x-ray. It showed the ACL had been torn, too. The six-week timetable ballooned to 9-12 months.
“I was devastated,” Garza said. “It was heartbreaking.”
The surgery, he said, “was the most pain I’ve ever felt.”
Garza started rehab the day after surgery at Methodist Hospital. For the first two months, rehab consisted of nothing more than sitting in a chair and lifting his leg up and down. Garza threw a football from his bed or chair, working on accuracy and talking about accuracy with whomever was around.
His leg was braced in February, and for the next three months he walked on crutches. In May, Garza was off crutches, doing squats, lunges and light running.
Through all of it, Randle athletic trainer Amanda Gillam— “Ms. G,” as Garza affectionately calls her—was by his side. For the last three months, once Garza’s insurance ran out, Gillam was his only source for rehab.
“She did everything for me. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here,” Garza said. “It was really her words. She encouraged me so much and pushed me. She put me through these weird workouts that were amazing. One of the workouts, I’d just stand on a BOSU medicine ball thing and had to grab a dumbbell and do a 360. It was weird, but they worked.
“Around the 8-9-month mark, she started running me and doing some cutting. That was hard because I hadn’t run. After 10 months, I was cleared.”
Randle junior quarterback Leo Garza.VYPE Media
Garza was on the field for the first day of fall practice August 1. He introduced himself to Texas high school football on August 25 in Pasadena.
“I was really babying my knee,” said Garza, who did not wear a brace in the game. “But this game really pushed me and motivated me to keep going harder every day and keep working with my teammates. Keep trying. It’s made me really confident about myself.”
Last week’s result may have surprised some, but not Garza and his teammates or coaches. The Lions saw consistent glimpses of their potential when they played a junior varsity schedule with only freshmen and sophomores last year and went 8-2.
Last week’s win was a culmination of what has been initiated so far in building a program from scratch.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be on this team,” Garza said. “Great coaching staff, great players, great school. Our principal is one of our biggest supporters. Even other players that are at other schools. We’re a new program so people didn’t expect us to be the team we are, and we’re getting so much love and support for it.”
SOFTBALL IS IN BROOKS HAACK’S DNA.
Haack’s father, Kalum, coached the sport collegiately for 18 years and is in his 26th year leading the vaunted Katy High program, having won two State Championships and more than 700 games.
Haack’s mother Leslie, the deputy superintendent of Katy ISD, coached wh she opened the Cinco Ranch softball program in the late 1990s.
“Rumor has it (Kalum), run-ruled her and helped make her decision to get into administration,” Haack joked.
Haack’s sister Matte played collegiately, competing for a National Championship her freshman year at Arizona.
So, while Haack was a NCAA Division I quarterback at Louisiana-Lafayette and Northwestern State following an all-state career at Katy High, where he still holds the program record for single game touchdown passes, he takes pride in starting up the softball program at Randle High, as much as being the offensive coordinator for the football program.
“Softball’s been the lifeblood of my family,” Haack said. “It’s one of those things where, if it’s another sport I have to coach, I want something I thoroughly enjoy and that’s been running through my blood since I was born.”
Randle High School is the 28-year-old Haack’s second stint as head softball coach. He led Westfield’s program in 2020 after serving as an assistant softball coach at George Ranch in 2019.
Haack is ideal for building a program like Randle’s from scratch. He is fundamental oriented, much like his father. He’s always engaged in the subtleties of the sport.
“Any time you can steal an out, a base, or a run, that’s something I’m going to do,” he said. “Small ball wins you games. Everybody now wants to hit home runs and get the slugging percentage up. Now, is there a time for that? Yes. But everybody on our team will be able to get a bunt down when it’s called.”
Haack remembers vividly Kalum using the squeeze play three times during the 2019 UIL State Softball Tournament, including one with two strikes that led to the winning run in the State Semifinal.
“It’s more so the thinking of the game,” Haack said of what he’s learned from Kalum. “Being two steps ahead of what everybody else does. The way he teaches the game, teaches the fundamentals. Just the way he’s able to coach and reach his players. If they know you have their best interest at heart, they’re going to play hard for you and they’re going to respond to you.”
Haack wants a program culture of unity and “great team atmosphere.”
He expects to lean on freshmen Peyton Perry (shortstop), Jasmine Tovar (pitcher) and Scarlett Cuevas (catcher) as team leaders.
“I’ve expressed all year to these girls that they’re getting the chance to do something special, laying the groundwork and foundation for the years to come,” Haack said. “So, how do they want to lay that? Do they want to start a successful program, or is it something that’s going to have to build once they’re gone?
“They’ve all bought in that they want this thing to be great early and set that standard high.”