Taylor High School, Mustangs, Texas high school football, Katy ISD

From setting records to making history, Taylor produces unforgettable season

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 12/15/19

After he had talked to his team following its Class 6A-Division II state semifinal loss to Austin Westlake on Dec. 14, with applause and tears parading from a solemn but not defeated locker room, Taylor High coach Chad Simmons offered perspective.

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Taylor High School, Mustangs, Texas high school football, Katy ISD

From setting records to making history, Taylor produces unforgettable season

Posted

After he had talked to his team following its Class 6A-Division II state semifinal loss to Austin Westlake on Dec. 14, with applause and tears parading from a solemn but not defeated locker room, Taylor High coach Chad Simmons offered perspective.

Fitting, since perspective is what his team had all season during a historic run into mid-December. Not once did players waver or hang their heads through adversity that included a tough regular season, injuries, and an even more difficult season finale.

Players talked often about being disrespected. They saw the scoffs and doubts from outsiders on social media. They even heard it directly from people they talked to.

They knew how much talent and heart they had, even when others didn’t.

“It didn’t the end the way we wanted it to end,” Simmons said in the quiet bowels of McLane Stadium after the 63-3 setback. “I thought it’d be more competitive than what it was. You start with 64 teams in the (playoff) bracket, and 63 end with a locker room like ours.

“However, we made some firsts for our school and finished a season for us by a pretty large margin. We started a legacy.”

In making the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, the Mustangs accomplished the following:

>> Senior safety Braden Hay set the program career mark for interceptions.

>> Junior quarterback J. Jensen III set the program single-game mark for passing yards in a game.

>> Junior running back Casey Shorter set the program single-game mark for rushing touchdowns in a game.

>> Junior safety Trevor Woods had four interceptions returned for touchdowns, including three in the playoffs.

>> Taylor won its first regional championship in surpassing the regional semifinals for the first time in program history.

“We built something that will last for a while at Taylor,” junior offensive lineman Hayden Conner said. “The brotherhood and the winning, I think those things stay.”

It was certainly an inauspicious start to the season for the Mustangs, though.

Taylor went 5-5 during the regular season, was outscored 319-261 over that span and needed help the final week to get into the playoffs.

But once the Mustangs got there, they flipped a switch.

The Mustangs topped 8-2 Fort Bend Elkins, 51-41, in the bi-district round; nipped 7-4 Houston Memorial, 21-14, in the area round; took care of 10-2 Humble in the regional semifinal, 35-14; and walloped 9-4 Cypress Creek in the regional final, 58-20.

Taylor's six losses this season were to Atascocita (12-2, 6A-D1 regional finalist), Dickinson (10-2, 6A-D1 area finalist), Mayde Creek (9-3, 6A-D2 area finalist), Tompkins (11-2, 6A-D1 regional semifinalist), Katy (12-1, 6A-D1 regional semifinalist), and Westlake (14-1, 6A-D2 state finalist).

The defense was the Mustangs’ identity, led by Woods, Hay, linebacker Martin Nowlin and defensive end Marcus Daniels, and the offense was as balanced as it has been in quite a while. Taylor’s ability to throw the ball, and not rely exclusively on its run game, was a game-changer.

In the end, however, Taylor ran up against a buzz saw in Westlake. The Chaparrals were a team many projected would get that far, whereas Taylor was the surprise story of the playoffs as the only team in the state that placed fourth in its district to make it to the state semifinals.

“It’s great to take a step for the future generation of Mustangs,” senior running back Gavin Belue said. “Hopefully we can build something up like Katy. I feel like we built that if you have a brotherhood and you play your butt off for your teammate, you’ll never fail.”

Taylor graduates 32 seniors. Of the 22 players who started the state semifinal, only 10 graduate. Seniors like defensive back Lee Davis, running back CJ Tolbert, defensive end Mike Orechoneg, running back Marcus Grant, defensive end Shannon Johnson, punter Patric Talbot, offensive lineman Luke Sykes, defensive tackle Jahmai Edwards, defensive tackle Gregg Osaghae, Belue, Hay, Nowlin and many, many others will be missed. But their impact will linger.

“The seniors laid everything down and did a great job,” Jensen said. “They led us to where we are, and now we have to work harder. We came up short and we have to prepare and work even harder.”

That is the Mustangs’ next goal, their next purpose. Consistency. No longer is making the playoffs good enough. They have proven capable of so much more, and they understand and embrace that responsibility.

“We have to sustain this,” Conner said. “Long playoff runs. Great chemistry, a true brotherhood. This is amazing. We made a lot of history and used that as motivation and fuel for the playoffs. We just came up short.”

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