It was one of the best seasons in school history for the Memorial Mustangs football team, which advanced to the third round of Class 5A Region III playoffs. “We were extremely excited about what we accomplished,” said Memorial head coach Gary Koch. “Each week was a challenge, and each win was a blessing.”
Making the season especially challenging was that the Mustangs overcame major adversity in advancing to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2004. For starters, two of the Mustangs key components on the offensive line, Clay Beltran and Aaron Rosenthal, both underwent major surgery in the off season. Beltran tore the ACL in his knee while Rosenthal suffered a career-threatening injury to his leg. “Aaron was in a wheelchair at about this time last year after a major fracture of his femur,” said Koch. “We didn’t even know if he’d be able to play high school football again. Not only did he play, Aaron started in 12 of our 13 games and was an all-district selection. It’s an amazing story.”
During the season itself, Memorial lost four starters for the year with injuries, including leading receiver George Strake. “Our replacements did a great job of stepping up while making plays and doing whatever necessary to help us win,” said Koch.
Offensively, sophomore Justin “Boomer” White had a sensational season while rushing for over 1,500 yards and scoring 20 touchdowns. “Boomer had a big year,” said Koch. “He’s a pretty physical runner and is quicker than you might think. He runs especially tough for a guy his size. White was amazingly tough in the Mustangs regional semifinal against Clear Springs, where he rushed for 196 yards and scored three touchdowns in the game.”
At quarterback, Mustangs junior Wayne Taylor had an outstanding season. Taylor threw for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns, while also rushing for 852 yards and another nine scores. “More than anything else is that we kept improving as the year went on, especially on defense,” said Koch. “Senior linebacker Michael Williams led the defense with 107 tackles. He’s a three-year lettermen who was just tremendous.”
It was an historic run for the St. Thomas Episcopal boys cross country team, which captured the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Class 3A State Championship. The victory at the state meet was the first state cross country championship for the school.
In a field that included approximately 150 runners, St. Thomas Episcopal featured five of the top 11 finishers, including Andrew Hawk (3rd), Matthew Hawk (4th), Alex Miller (5th), Andrew Coulter (6th) and Mark Lui (11th).
“Our guys ran an incredible meet,” said head coach Brett Ramsey. “During the race, it was like a dream come true. We had five guys in the lead pack for much of the race. To see something like that at a state championship is incredibly rare. It was just awesome.”
With the victory, St. Thomas Episcopal also dethroned Ovilla Christian of Dallas, which had won the state championship for the last seven years in a row. “They had all of their top runners back from last year’s state title team, and for us to beat those guys was remarkable,” said Ramsey. “I’m just happy and proud to have been there to see it happen.”
On the girl’s side, it was also the best finish ever for St. Thomas Episcopal, which came in second at the state meet. Leading the way for the team were Christine McGough and Claire Coulter, who finished fourth and sixth respectively. “The girls also ran really well,” said Ramsey. By getting second this year, they’ll be ready to win it all next year.”
It was the highest finish ever at state for the girl’s water polo team from Lamar High School. Lamar advanced to the finals of the Texas High School Coaches Association Water Polo State Meet before losing to Clear Lake in the state championship game. “We’re extremely proud,” said coach Stephen McDonald. “The top three finishers in the state get banners, and it’s the first banner for Lamar in water polo. We’ve got it hanging from the ceiling in our natatorium.”
Lamar was led this season by sophomore power forward Tessa Holmes. “Tessa was tops in every offensive category,” said McDonald. “When we lost Samantha Pudwill to an injury, Tessa filled a major void. Senior Captain Cat Norman also had a great season. I’m proud of this whole team.”
Editor’s Note: Todd Freed is the host and executive producer of High School Sports Live, which can be seen each Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 6 p.m. on Houston’s 55, KTBU-TV. To submit information for possible inclusion in SportzBuzz, please e-mail (email@example.com) todd (at) thebuzzmagazines (dot) com.