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THE 2020 FOOTBALL SEASON WAS YET ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN FOR THE WOODLANDS CHRISTIAN ACADEMY AS THE WARRIORS MADE THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE EIGHTH TIME IN THE LAST 10 YEARS.
The Warriors went 4-3 overall and finished third in District 4 at 3-2 while competing for the first time in TAPPS Division II. TWCA closed the regular season with three straight wins, before falling to Geneva School of Boerne, 50-49, in a heartbreaking bi-district playoff loss.
Five underclassmen played key roles for the Warriors in 2020, including Class of 2023 running backs Roric Hawkins (225 rushing yards) and Ryan Leslie (375 yards, 3 TDs). Leslie was also a standout at linebacker with 4.1 tackles per game and an interception.
TWCA's key player to keep an eye on is Class of 2023 quarterback/ running back/defensive back Josh Johnson, who had a breakout campaign in 2020.
Johnson led the team in rushing (397 yards, 8 touchdowns) and passing (1,101 yards, 13 TDs) and also compiled 3.3 tackles per game and seven passes defended.
A junior class that included offensive lineman Colby Gorman, tight end Sebastian Bryngelson, running back Keaton Harvey, defensive lineman Ezekiel Jurado, linebacker Sean Kane and defensive back Dereck Felder returns to captain the crusade for 2021. Kane led the 2020 Warriors with 10 tackles per game to go with 2.5 sacks.
TWCA says goodbye to senior stalwarts and program cornerstones like receiver/punter Caedmon Parker, kicker Stratton Butaud and running back Davis Heise. Parker was the team's top offensive playmaker in 2020, catching 34 balls for 789 yards and 14 TDs, and led the team with five interceptions. He also averaged 34.1 yards per punt. He will be tough to replace because of his big-play ability. Butaud averaged 46.6 yards per kickoff with seven touchbacks.
In December, Randy Hollas stepped down as head football coach after four years at the helm. He will focus more on his duties as athletic director. Defensive coordinator Chris McClanahan was promoted to head coach and sustains the continuity and tradition the Warriors had established under Hollas.
ALL-STATE OFFENSE SECOND TEAM Caedmon Parker, WR HONORABLE MENTION Colby Gorman, OL Stratton Butaud, K ALL-STATE DEFENSE SECOND TEAM Sean Kane, LB Caedmon Parker, DB ALL-DISTRICT OFFENSE FIRST TEAM Colby Gorman, OL Roric Hawkins, RB Caedman Parker, WR Stratton Butaud, K SECOND TEAM Ryan Leslie, RB Sebastian Bryngelson, TE HONORABLE MENTION Colby Shilling, OL Keller Davis, OL Davis Heise, RB Keaton Harvey, RB Roric Hawkins, ATH ALL-DISTRICT DEFENSE FIRST TEAM Ezekiel Jurado, DL Sean Kane, LB Caedmon Parker, DB SECOND TEAM Ryan Leslie, LB Josh Johnson, DB HONORABLE MENTION Dereck Felder, DB Caedmon Parker, P
THE WOODLANDS CHRISTIAN ACADEMY FINISHED 14-7 AND EARNED A BYE IN THE BI-DISTRICT ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS BEFORE DROPPING A NAIL-BITING, FIVE-SET AREA PLAYOFF MATCH TO HYDE PARK IN THE SECOND ROUND.
The Warriors had three all-district, first-team selections in Claire Dewine, Abigail Adams and Jordan Booth. Second teamers were Katherine Tucker, Katie Wise, and Brooke Harris. Honorable mentions included Avery Buck and Madison Steed.
Dewine was a first-team, all-state pick and Adams was a second-team pick. Booth was an honorable mention, all-state selection.
ALL-DISTRICTFIRST TEAMClaire DewineAbigail AdamsJordan BoothSECOND TEAMKatherine TuckerKatie WiseBrooke HarrisHONORABLE MENTIONAvery buckMadison SteedALL-STATE FIRST TEAM Claire Dewine SECOND TEAM Abigail Adams HONORABLE MENTION Jordan Booth
STOP US IF YOU'VE HEARD IT BEFORE: THE WOODLANDS CHRISTIAN ACADEMY BOYS CROSS COUNTRY TEAM WON STATE.
Never mind, don't stop us. Because the fact remains coach Tom Earle's boys are still at the head of the class despite moving up in classification to TAPPS 5A. TWCA made it a four-peat as state champion in 2020, as three runners finished in the Top 10. They were first-team, all-staters Ben Shearer, Josh Mueck and Caleb Bigler.
The Warriors also won the district championship for the fifth straight year. Four runners were named as all-district, first-teamers: Shearer, Mueck, Bigler, Zach Bagnoli and Lucas Trevathan.
Shearer was dominant all season. He won the McNeil meet in Austin to earn a first-place ranking in Texas, public or private schools. He also won the Desert Twilight meet in Arizona, overcoming some of the top runners in the country from California, Arizona and Utah. That meet championship elevated Shearer to No. 3 in the country.
At the Nike Virtual Nationals, the Warriors finished 16th overall in the country.
The Warrior girls also enjoyed a stellar season.
The TWCA girls finished third overall at state, their ninth consecutive year finishing in the top three. They also won the district championship for the sixth year in a row.
The Warrior girls had four all-district, first-teamers in Lindsay Worthington, Fern Shirley, Zoe Calimani and Camille Young. Shirley competed against the large private schools in a 5K race and got seventh overall. She also competed against the boys in a 5K race in October and finished 26th overall.
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THIS WASN'T THE FIRST TIME THE WOODLANDS CHRISTIAN ACADEMY MOVED UP A CLASSIFICATION IN TAPPS, BUT IT CERTAINLY FELT DIFFERENT.
Last fall, the Warriors jumped from 4A to 5A in all sports, which presented an entirely new challenge – how to compete with the best competition in Texas?
"This was a massive shift in the maturity of the other programs we were playing," TWCA Athletic Director Randy Hollas said. "We knew this was coming…and that it was going to have a profound effect on athletics."
The Warriors, though, had no intention to ease their way into the new level of competition. They wanted to compete, and win, immediately.
In its first year of 5A competition, TWCA racked up an impressive number of achievements that include three state championships (boys cross country, boys basketball and boys golf), eight district championships (boys and girls cross country, volleyball, boys basketball, girls soccer, boys golf, boys and girls track) and playoff appearances from every program at TWCA.
That list doesn't include baseball, which at the time of publication was competing in the TAPPS 5A Division II semifinals.
This success didn't come overnight. The Warrior athletics program has been gradually building for years, something that Hollas and the entire department has invested a lot of time and effort into.
"What we know here is that we have a captured audience from the time they're in kindergarten up," Hollas said. "We know that we can take our athletes and start to introduce them to sports and fundamentals and culture very early. We started 'Warrior Leagues' (youth sports program) because we want our kids who come up through elementary to compete in our varsity level sports."
The Warrior athletics staff and the school's Senior Leadership Team believe that investing in their students is the best way to build a successful program. Over the past several years, TWCA has added a dedicated athletic period, brought in strength and conditioning coach Tim Walker and built a new weight room in order to instill a "culture of training" among Warrior athletes.
"That's how we compete with places that go outside of their school to bring in talent every year," Hollas said. "We embrace the challenge to grow our own."
Head volleyball coach and Assistant Director of Athletics Kori Parker echoed that sentiment.
"Adding the girls into the athletic period was the first big step we took toward success," she said. "It provided year-round training and consistency, both in the weight room and on the field or court. The expectation from the kids in our program is 'this is who we are, now.'"
Both Hollas and Parker also agreed that having a consistent group of leaders – both players and coaches – has allowed them to "keep doing what we know to be successful, while tweaking small things that we want to improve," as Parker put it.
"I believe we have the best run athletic program in the state," Hollas said. "It's a constant challenge to find the right group of coaches that get on the bus and all work to the same program goal. The group we have now work well with each other, support each other, they care about each other and have sincere care about whether everyone has success. That is extremely unique in sports."
Now, the challenge for TWCA is to build on the success it has enjoyed, something that Hollas doesn't take lightly.
"We're going to continue to do what we do well, but we're never ever going to stop looking at ourselves and think that we've arrived," he said. "I was told early on that you always seek to become better. You never rest on your laurels."
For Hollas, this includes seeking advice from successful programs across the state, internally accessing how each team within the program can get better, finding best practices and thinking creatively on how to grow the Warriors' success both on and off the field. "We want TWCA to be a place where our athletes advance to the collegiate level, in whatever sport," Hollas said.
"We also want to seek relationships with Ivy League and east coast schools that have higher profile academic institutions that fit what we do here academically."
Hollas, Parker and the entire Warrior athletic program know that the days of easy competition are over. Every game in district and in the playoffs will feature an opponent that is talented, organized and ready to compete.
"The days of state championships and district championships are going to become more special now," Hollas said. "We're ready to work to make those happen as often as possible."
While the Warriors won't let themselves think they've "arrived," the rest of TAPPS should know by now… TWCA is here to stay.