Despite loss to Kincaid, it's great to be back playing Wildcat Football!
Houston Chronicle Sports Writer: Jack Marrion
As with most varsity football teams in the Houston area, Kinkaid and Westbury Christian were scheduled to begin their 2017 regular season last week. Instead they spent the week getting through a tropical storm and then aiding families affected by flooding.
While both teams appreciated the opportunity to serve their community, they also welcomed the chance to get back on the field Sept. 8 on Houston Baptist University’s Dunham Field. Kinkaid pulled away for a 45-13 victory, capping a night full of the typical sights and sounds of football.
“This is a great group of guys,” Westbury Christian coach Mark Krimm said. “This week we worked in four different houses with these guys, pulling out floors, pulling out drywall, having fun. They were working hard. We came in Saturday and lifted and ran, then the guys went out and worked on a house. It’s been good to get back to some kind of normal. We got our teeth kicked in a little bit and we’ve got to get better, but I’d take that over not being able to play football.”
Both teams showed signs of early progress, as the Westbury Christian band and a cheerful group of fans provided the soundtrack. The Wildcats were as close as 24-13 in the third quarter before Jonathon Thomas’ second and third touchdowns opened the deficit.
Kinkaid, which joined St. Thomas High School in a community-assistance effort the previous week, performed as expected in its first game after a tumultuous week.
“We shifted our focus for a while to all the hurricane stuff, first off survival,” Kinkaid coach Nathan Larned said. “It was good to get back out there. On Tuesday, the first thing we did was take a moment of silence for everything and try to bring us back together. We played well for the most part.”
The teams were scoreless until the final play of the first quarter, exchanging fourth-down stops on their first possessions. The Falcons took advantage of a short field on their third drive as Josh Williams accounted for all 30 rushing yards, including a broken tackle on a five-yard touchdown run.
Kinkaid’s defense made it 14-0. Marquis Hubbard’s sack forced a fumble near the Westbury Christian 20, with the ball rolling into the end zone before Adam Harter recovered for the touchdown.
The Wildcats got their offense going, driving for a missed field goal before making the most of a short field on their next drive, set up by a tackle for loss by Mannie Nunnery and a sack by Sebastian Toh near the Kinkaid end zone. Alec Ralph converted a fourth down, then found Jayvon Hill for a 26-yard touchdown with 3 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the half.
Kinkaid answered with Williams and Thomas, who took a direct snap for a five-yard touchdown and a 21-6 halftime lead. The Falcons opened the second-half scoring when Hayden Rome drilled a 45-yard field goal. The senior added a 60-yard punt in the half.
The Wildcats turned a fourth-down stop into their second touchdown as Ralph found Ubong Okon in stride downfield for a 55-yard touchdown. But touchdown runs of two and 45 yards by Thomas gave the Falcons a comfortable lead and Alex Garcia’s 19-yard run finished the scoring.
Larned was pleased with his team’s first outing, which included a defense that allowed less than 200 yards and only two yards per carry. Michael Horne recorded two sacks, while Ameer Mustafa, Jack Nevil and Kami Nader all had multiple tackles for loss. Will Kunetka was among the leaders in tackles.
“Our defensive line is the best we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Larned said. "Our backers are high-level great players. We have a young secondary, all first-time starters so we’re still working through that. They made a couple mistakes but they’re good.
“Jonathon’s Jonathon. He’s a guy we just have to get the ball to. We’ve got a couple other playmakers and we’ve got to do a better job executing so they can make plays. Our quarterback (Zach Daniel) took some hits. They did a good job of getting pressure on him, shook him up a little bit. He took a little while to get going, then had a great day.”
The Falcons were able to resume their regular season schedule earlier than many schools, though this week will not necessarily be routine. Kinkaid travels to Connecticut to play The Loomis Chafee School, a college prep program. The teams met last year at Kinkaid, with the Falcons winning 56-55 despite a four-touchdown Loomis Chafee rally.
“We’re going to fly into Boston, stay there for the night,” Larned said. “We’ll go see the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Freedom Trail. We might go to Boston College-Notre Dame or visit Fenway (Park). A good cultural experience, but then also a lot of football and have some fun.”
The Wildcats hit the road as well, albeit a much shorter trip to Katy to face St. John XXIII at 7 p.m. Sept. 15. Krimm said the team has room for improvement, even accounting for the opponent, but the talent is in place. The defensive backfield was solid, led by Hill and Nunnery. Brant Banks, Joseph Harper and Christian Harper were among those making consistent plays up front.
“Kinkaid’s a big program and they do a great job,” Krimm said. “We play a tough pre-district schedule. We think we can be district champions. The interesting thing about our school is we’ve got about 30 different zip codes. These guys, from Aug. 1 they spent four days at camp together. If they’ll come together, we’re going to be a special team.”
The Wildcats bonded unconventionally at times the previous two weeks, experiencing the same trials as many families in the area. But Krimm was proud of the way the community responded.
“We’re fortunate,” Krimm said. “Our coaches are so relational with our athletes, so immediately we knew where all our athletes were. As soon as it dried up we were all over at one of our players’ house that got water. We have a close staff. Our school, as much as you hate to have something like this happen to our city, it does bring out the best and make you grateful things aren’t as bad as everybody thinks they are.”