The south Houston area is loaded with talented athletes who give it there all in their respective fields of play.
Here are the UTMB Athletes of the Month, as the Fall season wraps up.
Addison Moss, Pearland Dawson Volleyball
Jamey Wright (VYPE)
Dawson (38-10; 11-1) has become a model on consistency in recent memory.
After winning the district title for the fourth time in the last five years, the Eagles went on to reach the Regional Tournament for the seventh-consecutive season this Fall.
Even though they ultimately fell to the eventual state finalist Cinco Ranch in Round No. 4 of the postseason, Pearland Dawson has nothing to be ashamed of, considering they featured one of the most complete rosters in all of Texas.
With stars such as first-teamers Kennedy Jones (Jr. MH), Jenna Thedford (So. DS), Keaton Points (So. MH), and the district Offensive Player of the Year Dominique Phills (Sr. OH), it's easy to see how the Eagles reached this height.
The most prolific player off all, however, was senior S/OH Addison Moss.
The Boise State-commit (sand volleyball) experienced one of her best showings in her high school career, registering 274 kills, 322 digs, and a whopping 725 assists which garnered her the honor of being named the District 23-6A MVP.
Ashton Hampton, Pearland Football
Jamey Wright (VYPE)
The Oilers came to play in 2023.
Despite competing the vastly competitive District 23-6A, Pearland (9-3; 6-1) exceeded expectations to finish second in the district prior to their playoff run, which saw them advance to the Area round.
Combined with an impressive rushing attack, helmed by the Offensive MVP Ladamion McDowell, the other side of the ball proves to be a real difference-maker in their successes this Fall.
Senior FS Ashton Hampton was a key piece in Pearland's stingy defense, which limited opponents to roughly 19 points per game on the season.
Individually, the Texas Tech-commit racked up 39 combined tackles, five interceptions, seven passes defended, and two forced fumbles on the year to earn himself first-team all-district honors.
Ashley Richardson, Clear Springs Volleyball
Bradley C. Collier (VYPE)
Over the course of the regular season, it was made perfectly clear that Clear Springs was going to be a contender in the playoffs.
Following an undefeated district championship, the Chargers (33-14; 12-0) would advance three rounds deep into the postseason thanks to the efforts of the premier competitors on the court.
Speaking of which, senior setter Ashley Richardson played a major role in Clear Springs' success in 2023.
Richardson finished the season with nearly 400 kills, 483 digs, and over 600 assists which earned her the title of District 24-6A MVP.
Alongside Co-Offensive Player of the Year Anzley Rinard (442 kills), Setter of the Year Morgan Durdens (940 assists), and first-teamer Abby Fuller (620 digs), this Clear Springs squad will undoubtedly be one to remember.
Landon Vessel, Clear Falls Football
Jamey Wright (VYPE)
As expected, Clear Falls (7-5; 5-1) was a force worth reckoning in the District 24-6A race.
After finishing second in the district, the Knights reached the Area round of the playoffs for the third time in four years, where they would narrowly fall to C.E. King.
Despite the season ending sooner than preferred, there were several bright spots which should not go unnoticed -- particularly that of the Knights' signal-caller Landon Vessel.
The Clear Falls QB had yet another impressive outing in 2023, in which he threw for over 2,000 yards with 12 touchdowns while scoring 12 more on the ground for 459 yards.
Without question, Vessel was a worthy candidate to be selected first-team all-district.
McKinley Cole, Clear Creek Volleyball
Jamey Wright (VYPE)
Despite experiencing a series of ups and downs during the regular season, Clear Creek (25-21; 8-4 in district) was nothing if not resilient throughout.
Following a second place finish just behind Clear Springs in District 24-6A, the Wildcats advanced to the Area round of the postseason.
There were bright spots all around for this squad. From Olivia Jones (Jr. OH), to Alison Figueroa (Jr. DS) and Laila Paulino (Jr. RS), it was clear who the stars were for Clear Creek.
However, who it was senior McKinley Cole (Temple College-signee) who consistently elevated the squad to their highest potential.
From the setter position, Cole tallied nearly 900 assists on the year, while also racking up 450 digs to earn a first-team all-district selection.
For the first time since 2001, the St. Thomas Eagles have advanced to the TAPPS title game.
It doesn’t come as quite a shock, given the expectation the team had prior to the season, although the dominant fashion (12-0; 4-0) in which they’ve proceeded has been something truly special for their fans.
However, it hasn't always come easily for coach Rich McGuire and company.
The Eagles have overcome various injuries to key players throughout the Fall including star RB Johann Cardenas, Michael-Anthony Okwura (Sr. DL) and Donte Lewis (Sr. QB).
“The good news for us at this point, is that we seem to be as healthy as we’ve ever been all season,” said McGuire. “But, the team has just been resilient no matter who went down. We have the ‘next man up’ mentality. Somebody else needed to make plays, which speaks to the team’s depth.”
Jamey Wright (VYPE)
While most eyes may veer towards Cardenas on the field – for good reason, considering he’s tallied over 2,200 yards rushing this season – St. Thomas has an entirely different threat behind center.
“He (Donte Lewis) is a different cat,” McGuire said. “He’s so dynamic athletically. People don’t realize he runs a 4.4 (40-yd dash) which is probably the fastest on our team. Just like in baseball, he’s got a cannon for an arm, and he’s so elusive on the field.
“I’ve coached a lot of good quarterbacks here, but Donte can hurt you just as badly with his legs than with his arm. I’ve been very blessed as a coach to have this kind of talent.”
St. Thomas' Donte Lewis (2022-23 Baseball Season)Bradley C. Collier (VYPE)
Following their 73-62 victory over Prestonwood Christian a week ago in the State Semis, the Eagles are now slated to face off against Parish Episcopal this Friday at the Waco ISD Stadium.
While their offense has been a juggernaut, it will be the defense that decides the outcome, according to McGuire.
“It starts with the age-old adage – don’t turn the ball over, don’t make mistakes,” he said. “We’ll need to play clean offensively. At this point in the season both offenses are good, and the same can be said defensively. So, at the end of the day it’s going to be a matter of which defense steps up and gets the necessary stops.”
Said defense stops for St. Thomas will likely be a result of performances from the aforementioned Michael-Anthony Okwura (Cal-commit), senior LB Tyler Day (Rice-commit), and Aron Valentine (Sr. S).
The last time St. Thomas has won a TAPPS state championship dates back to 1996. Given the significance of the occasion, what’s going through the mind of the long-time St. Thomas coach?
“I tell the guys all the time that if we get a gold ball on Friday, I may just get an Uber, drive to my lake house in Oklahoma with the ball and never look back,” McGuire laughed. “All kidding aside, I’m still going to be around no matter what happens. This game and these kids definitely keep me young.”
Tune in Friday to see if St. Thomas can finally end their championship drought once and for all.
For more than two decades, the Meekins’ name has been synonymous with Westfield High School.
Corby Meekins became the head coach in 2004, before brother Matt Meekins took over.
That is the model of consistency.
“Westfield is a special place for me,” Matt Meekins said. “Every day, I’m on duty before school and talk smack to the kids coming into school. I laugh at these kids and tell them that I’ve been at Westfield before their parents were even holding hands.
“These are great kids here. They are fun,” he said “It’s always a great day to be a Mustang.”
The ‘Stangs are 11-2 on the season and 7-0 in district play.
“Our early games got us prepared for the playoffs,” he said. “Games against North Shore and Hightower taught us a lot against really tough competition, along with our district foes.”
Next up is Duncanville Saturday afternoon. It’s the Class 6A DI Region II Final and a State Final Four berth is in the balance. They know each other well.
“We are familiar with Duncanville,” he said. “Last year, we gave ourselves a chance (28-21).”
Duncanville would go on to win the State Title over North Shore.
“It all starts up front with the offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “We have to protect the QB and open up some lanes. It all draws up nice, but if you don’t win the line of scrimmage, you don’t have a chance.”
QB Miles Dent has thrown for 1,800 yards and RB Taji Atkins has rushed for over 2,200 yards… 2,200 yards! WRs Austin Abram, Emmanuel Yancy and Desmond Dixon stretch the field, but it’s all about the trenches.
Ray’quan Bell, Joseph Peters and Ryan Anderson are the bigs. They control the line of scrimmage.
“Duncanville has a strong defensive front,” he said. “We are gonna need to get a push or have a stalemate up front to win the game.”
On defense, District Player of the Year Bryson Balka and Xavier McCray anchor the defense up front. Linebackers Breylon Wyatt and Keshawn Monroe are solid in the middle of the field, while Carson Williams and Joseph Albright patrol the secondary.
The names change, but the philosophy stays the same.
“They go out there and do their job,” Meekins said. “They just hit people. Play from the snap to the whistle and get ready for the next play. All of the other stuff is irrelevant.”
In last season’s game, both teams were heavily penalized for extra-curricular activities. The jawing, the personal fouls, the unsportsmanlike stuff.
“We just need to keep our heads,” he said. “That is extremely important just to keep our composure. I tell the guys, ‘Don’t let it be you’.”
Run the ball, play physical defense and play with pride and the Westfield Mustangs could take down the defending State Champs.
That has been the Mustangs’ winning formula for over 20 years… the Meekins Way.
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