The Rise of Dekaney

Last night at Cowboys Stadium, Spring Dekaney snapped Cibolo Steele’s 28-game winning streak and clinched the Class 5A Division II State Championship – the first football title for Spring ISD. On several occasions this year I’ve had numerous opportunities to cover the program as they feature one of the most talented running backs and an exciting offensive attack. Below is a feature I wrote for VYPE Houston after the Wildcats jumped out to a 5-0 start this season.

Here Come The Dekaney Wildcats
by Austin Staton

Growing pains are inherent. However, it is the resilient nature and yearning for success that breeds champions and builds character.

Four years ago, Dekaney High School fielded their first varsity football team under the direction of first-year head coach, Willie Amendola. Things weren’t easy as the squad didn’t feature a senior class and was bleak on upperclassmen as many student-athletes that were originally zoned to Dekaney opted to petition the district to stay at more traditional powers, Westfield and Spring.

With only an eight-game schedule due to Hurricane Ike, the Wildcats were winless in their first season of varsity competition. Moreover, they were outscored by nearly 35 points a game in district play and never crossed the goal-line more than twice per contest.

In both years two and three of the Amendola era, Dekaney began to provide hope for the program as they posted a 5-1 start during the 2009 season and finished the 2010 season with a 6-4 record with all four losses coming by a combined 13 points – including a pair of one point defeats at the hands of Tomball and Westfield.

That was the then.

With one of the most explosive and athletic running backs in the state of Texas in Trey Williams leading this season’s squad, the Wildcats are primed for their first playoff berth.

As an offense, Dekaney averaged more than 44 points per game through the first four games of the season. Finally catching the eyes of pundits across the Houston area, the Wildcats were set for a homecoming showdown with perennial power Klein Collins with a chance to stake their claim as one of the elite teams in the talent-rich district 13-5A.

Behind the efforts of Williams’ 215-plus total yards and three touchdowns – two rushing and one receiving – and D’Juan Hines’ four passing touchdowns, Dekaney clinched the programs’ first win over Klein Collins as they dropped the Tigers, 42-31, moving to 5-0 on the season.

“As a team we’ve talked about finishing (all season),” said Amendola. “We are more consistent throwing the football and the passing game is one of the biggest differences between this team and some of the other teams that we’ve had in the past.”

“The win against Klein Collins gave us a lot of confidence and we needed the win to show everybody that we’re here and we’re coming,” added Hines.

Through five games, Hines has completed 60 percent of his passes for 541 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Perhaps the best-kept secret on the team is Hines’ favorite target, Austin Garrett. The 6-foot-3 receiver possesses standout athletic prowess with the ability to make critical adjustments to the ball while it is in flight. Of his nine receptions on the season, the senior receiver has recorded five touchdowns and is averaging 25 yards per catch.

“All you have to do is throw it to this guy (Austin Garrett) and he is going to make a play,” said Williams, a Texas A&M commit.

In just four short years, Dekaney has formed a close knit group of student-athletes that look after each other and have a will to succeed.  Off to a 2-0 start in the ultra-competitive North Houston district, the Wildcats are right where they want to be – in the mix for their first playoff berth.

“We’ve wanted to make the playoffs for three-straight years and our time is now,” said Garrett.

“This is a team game,” added Williams. “We’re a confident team and we have a lot of team leadership and team unity. We plan on making it and hopefully God can keep blessing us to do well and protect our athletes.”

The original feature can be found here.

Unbelievably, Believable

Note: I began writing this at 2:20 a.m. on Sunday morning (Dec. 11). What a night and what a weekend it is to be a Bear. This will probably need a bit more work in terms of revising but I had to write down my thoughts in some form before I fell asleep.

Unbelievably, Believable
by Austin Staton

Last night, I watched the Heisman Trophy ceremony and what had once seemed like the impossible became a reality.

As Robert Griffin III accepted the Heisman Trophy, I was grinning ear to ear, nearly choked up, just reflecting how far the University had advanced in six years.

Times have changed in Central Texas.

“This moment right here, it’s unbelievably believable,” said Griffin. “It’s unbelievable because in the moment, we’re all amazed when great things happen. It’s believable because great things only happen with hard work. The great coach Art Briles always says great things only come with great effort, and we’ve certainly worked for this.

“To Baylor nation, I say this is a forever kind of moment, and may we be blessed to have many more like it in the future. God has a plan, and it’s our job to fulfill it, and in this moment we have.”

Robert Griffin III forever transcended the way that Baylor University will now be viewed across the country with those words.

For a program that was once the laughing stock of the Big 12, that has all changed.

As a freshman at Baylor during the fall of 2005, there was plenty of reason to be excited at the prospect of Baylor football. Just a year before, the Bears shocked the country with an upset-win over 16th-ranked Texas A&M – snapping a streak of 13-straight losses to the Aggies – and were off to a 4-1 start on the season.

However, the Bears dropped five of their final six games and fell just one win shy of becoming bowl eligible. During that stretch, Baylor was shutout twice and dropped a heartbreaker in double overtime on the road in Norman.

The next two years didn’t fare much better as football combined to win just seven games, forcing the hand of Athletics Director Ian McCaw to relieve Guy Morriss of his duties as head coach.

Despite the setbacks, I never missed a game.

During the final year of the Morriss era in 2007, I began working with Baylor Athletics as a student assistant in the Athletic Media Relations office. After finishing the season with eight-straight losses, we began to hear word that Art Briles would be named the successor to Morriss.

On Nov. 28 of that year, I was inside the Galloway Suite at Floyd Casey Stadium and was tasked with the responsibility to transcribe quotes from Briles’ introductory press conference to the Baylor Nation.

As both Briles and McCaw spoke to the crowd, we began to get the feeling that the hiring of Art Briles would be something special and that the reputation of Baylor football could be turned around.

It was a daunting task, but there was hope.

“Art Briles embodies all of the characteristics that I was seeking as we began our search 10 days ago for our new football coach,” said McCaw. “We have been very fortunate to recruit him for our football program. He shared a wonderful vision and brilliant plan on how he is going to build a championship football program here at Baylor.”

“That’s what drives you,” said Briles, when asked about taking a program like Baylor and becoming a winner. “As a competitor, you don’t feel like there is anything that can’t be done. I feel very strongly about the leadership here at Baylor University that I know I am going to get great support. All I’ve got to do is go motivate some student-athletes and get some folks in the stands excited.”

Hired just weeks before the recruiting dead period, Briles immediately hit the recruiting trail in attempts to secure the dual-threat quarterback that had previously committed to him at the University of Houston.

That quarterback was RG3 – a 17-yeard old phenom from Copperas Cove, Texas.

Graduating seventh in his high school class and enrolling at Baylor in what should have been the spring semester of his senior year, Griffin began spring camp battling incumbent signal caller Blake Szymanski and Miami transfer Kirby Freeman. Ultimately, Griffin would enter the 2008 season second on the depth chart behind Freeman, a fifth-year senior.

In their season opener against Wake Forest, Freeman and the Bears fell behind 17-0 after back-to-back 3-and-outs and drive that was squandered with an interception. Just 37 seconds into the second quarter, Griffin made his debut in the green and gold to a loud roar from the Baylor faithful.

Following a timeout with 3:23 remaining on the clock, Griffin rushed for 22 yards to his left, juked three defenders near the home sideline, and the Baylor faithful instantaneously knew that this wasn’t the same Baylor program.

Things were changing in Waco.

Although there were minor setbacks over the next two years, the program was no longer a cellar dweller in the Big 12 Conference. There was always a buzz about the football program on campus and we had faith in both Briles and Griffin and what they were doing to change the program.

This season I was fortunate enough to attend eight games and will be in attendance in what could be the final outing of Griffin in a green and gold uniform as the Bears are set to take on Washington in the Alamo Bowl.

When I graduated in 2010, I knew that coming back as an alumnus would be a rewarding experience.

Two years out of college, Baylor is the 12th-ranked team in the country and Robert Griffin III just won the Heisman Trophy.

“Everybody associated with Baylor University has reason to celebrate tonight,” Griffin furthered. “To my teammates, I’d like to say thank you. As we say, the hotter the heat, the harder the steel. No pressure, no dominance. We compete, we win. We are Baylor. Baylor we are, Baylor we’ll always be, but it’s up to us to define what that means, and this Heisman Trophy is only the beginning of that process.”

RG3, you’ve made this alum proud!

Sic’Em Bears!