Your password needs to be at least 8 characters and one number.
HOUSTON – When senior quarterback Gavin Session went down with a season-ending injury, Craig Stump turned to the next man up.
Sophomore Zion Brown.
The young signal-caller has worked his way through six games as the full-time starter, two of those as playoff wins over Deer Park (49-10) and Dickinson (22-21), to get Atascocita (9-2) back to the Regional Semifinals for a seventh consecutive season.
"I think the biggest thing is being more aware of his surroundings," Atascocita coach Craig Stump said of Brown's development. "A lot of times with a young guy that hasn't played much they are really focused on what they are doing and as a quarterback they may not know the receivers are lined up wrong. I think being more comfortable, obviously, and being aware of the environment and not having tunnel vision."
His development has been aided by Session.
Despite the injury, that hasn't deterred Session from being at every Atascocita game and virtually being another coach for the Eagles on the sidelines.
"Gavin has done great," Stump said. "I know he's disappointed in his injury, but he's been to every game. He sits with [Zion] on the bench and talks to him after I get done talking to him. I've encouraged that along the way. I told Gavin he was doing a great job helping, especially in those first couple of games."
As Atascocita pushes into the third round, Ridge Point – the team that ended their 2020 season with a 55-45 loss in this exact round – is awaiting them Friday night at University of Houston's TDECU Stadium.
The catalyst to the Ridge Point offense is senior quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr.
The Panthers' signal-caller last week against Cy-Fair in a 41-20 victory went 8 of 20 for 118 yards and had 14 carries for 155 yards and three touchdowns.
"His running ability is what makes him go," Stump said. "Not only the quarterback runs that are designed but on pass play that isn't there, if you don't stay in your rush lanes, he'll see a crease and go. He's big and tall. He just glides and he's hard to tackle, it's like he has grease all over him when you watch film.
"I think on passing situations it's real important that you make him play quarterback. Make him go through a progression and throw the ball, which is easier said than done because he can pull it down and run."
To get to the program's second State Quarterfinal in three seasons, Stump admits they have to clean up their mistakes from their win over Dickinson, especially with turnovers and on special teams.
But as far as the "big game" aspect goes, this Atascocita group is battle-tested.
This year wins over District Champion Klein Collins, perennial-power Allen and playoff teams Klein Oak, Denton Guyer, Summer Creek and C.E. King all grace the 9-2 record.
"Our guys have shown all year that they're going to show up and play," Stump said. "They've been in too many big games. They know how these games go. I think with that early-season schedule we don't get flustered. It's about the end of the game that matters. We've just got to do what we have to do to get to that point."
HOUSTON – As Kent Battle made his way to the sideline after a defensive stop, the senior linebacker lauded his teammates for their play.
That role once held by University of Miami's Corey Flagg is where those lessons of leadership came from.
"He just told me when I'm gone you've got to be a leader when it comes to this defense," Battle said following a 31-21 victory for North Shore over Atascocita on Friday. "So, when it comes to this I know I've got to make plays and then I have to keep my teammates up so they can make plays too."
North Shore (9-1) finished off yet another District Championship on Friday with the win. It's the fourth-straight and the eighth in 10 years for the program.
And going through District 21-6A, which they have won each of the last two years, is no cakewalk with the likes of C.E. King, Atascocita, Beaumont West Brook and Summer Creek in the mix.
"It's such a tough district," North Shore coach Jon Kay said. "I think a game like this speaks volumes about 21-6A and you come out here and it is a heavy-weight fight. Coming off a game against C.E. King and Summer Creek it feels good because I know what brand of football is being played on this side of town. We're just proud to represent it."
What Kay didn't know going into the night is that just before gametime he would have to make the decision to start a freshman quarterback.
Normal starter Wyndell Mitchell suffered an injury in pregame and so instead of pushing it, the coaches decided to role with Kaleb Bailey – the 6-foot, 195-pound freshman.
His first start of his high school career would come in the District 21-6A Championship.
Bailey utilized his size and arm throughout the game, connecting with David Amador II on a 34-yard touchdown and Joseph Richard for a 29-yard score in the win. He also used his legs multiple times to convert first downs for the Mustangs.
"I thought he was great," Kay said of Bailey. "Obviously, he made a lot of mistakes but that's not on him. He's just lacking that experience, but we will never be able to recreate what he experienced tonight. So, this is going to be a huge step in his development. We're excited about his future and ready to get back to work."
Bailey finished 5 of 8 for 83 yards and two scores, while rushing for another 71 on 18 carries. Amador had two catches for 44 yards and the score.
TOUCHDOWN @NSNationFB!! @unexpectedkb9 hits Joseph Richard across the middle and takes it 29 yards for the Mustangs TD!! And then comes into the living room for the celebration!! #txhsfb 3rd - 9:10Atascocita - 14North Shore - 28@MaxPreps @texashsfootball @IIAmador8 pic.twitter.com/jol1BJcbGA— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) October 30, 2021
For Atascocita, sophomore Zion Brown finished 16 of 33 for 290 yards and two touchdowns - both to Chase Sowell, who had four grabs for 127 yards and the two scores.
From the offense to defense, it is a mix of youth and experience and mixing and matching pieces, including running four different backs out of the backfield and Jacoby Davis stepping up to cover Atascocita's Chase Sowell in Denver Harris' absence.
"It's a great group, it's a challenging group," Kay said. "I love the way they work together. We are still working through some things. To me, that's exciting. I think our best football's ahead of us."
As North Shore heads into their bye week before facing Deer Park in the Bi-District round of the playoffs in two weeks, Kay knows they have to continue to work on "situational football" but felt his special teams unit "took a big step forward" in the 31-21 victory on Friday over Atascocita.
"We embrace games like this," Kay said. "Our kids don't fear failure and anytime you line up with Atascocita you understand that they've got the capability to beat you and beat you bad. I love this kind of football. I think it's a great atmosphere and great for Texas high school football."
VYPE 🎥: @NSNationFB coach Jon Kay talks about the win, another District 🏆, @unexpectedkb9 play in his first start of season and now getting ready for playoffs. #txhsfb @texashsfootball @KRISTOPHEROSS @GalenaParkISD @battle_kent @Calebflagg_ @IIAmador8 @TavonGriffin2 pic.twitter.com/2RB0K7HKaT— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) October 30, 2021