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Keel sets sail for new coaching position

Shepherd High School former head coach and athletic director Chip Keel.Shepherd High School former head coach and athletic director Chip Keel.

By Mark Anderson
Sports Reporter

This past week, shock reverberated down the halls of Shepherd High School as head coach and athletic director Chip Keel resigned his position after four seasons to become the head coach and athletic director at Rusk High School.

As Isaiah Moye said, “I’m very surprised.” For Coach Keel, it simply was an opportunity he could not pass up.“I originally saw the facilities and I saw the way things were headed,” Coach Keel told The San Jacinto News-Times in an exclusive interview late Sunday evening. “I felt really good about the program and the way things were headed.”

“He noticed the potential in me. I love him for that.”

After going through both an informal process, which included meeting with the superintendent, and the formal process with the Rusk school board, Keel was offered the Athletic Director job.

Offensive coordinator Miles Robinson has been named interim athletic director for Shepherd high School, replacing Keel until a permanent successor—which does not exclude Robinson, by the way—can be found. Shepherd must now go through the process of posting that job for 14 days and then begin the search for Keel’s replacement, whether that be from within the program or outside it.

Coach Keel came to Shepherd in 2012, replacing Coach Bob Jones after an abysmal season in 2011. He moved Tyler Schlittenhardt from quarterback to wide receiver, and inserted senior Cody Everitt as the starting quarterback. The results spoke for themselves, as both players played well. Shepherd lost an epic game to Cleveland in overtime, and missed out on the playoffs.

In 2013, two young, unproven quarterbacks named Royce See and Zach Truelove began seeing time. Shepherd was one win away—and again, they lost to the Indians, this time in Cleveland. This time, the score was not close, and the result of being left out of the playoffs stung the Pirates and Coach Keel.

In 2014, Shepherd took out their frustrations on the Indians in the opening game of the season at “The Field of Pain,” when they handed the Indians a 34-0 loss. That victory propelled the Pirates to a great start. The toughest game that year was against Coldspring. The toughest loss of all, however, happened in the playoffs. Only a few plays separated Mexia and Shepherd on that night.

In what would turn out to be Coach Keel’s last season at Shepherd, Keel’s Pirates came out of the chute like gangbusters, and never slowed down. The moment of truth for Keel and the Pirates came when Royce See, who had been the starting quarterback, severely sprained his ankle. Zach Truelove, who had battled for the starting job each of the last few years, was inserted as the starter. Truelove began having good success, and led the Pirates to victory.

When See was healthy, Keel was faced with what outsiders saw as a difficult decision. However, Royce See made the decision to keep Truelove as the starting quarterback an easy one.

“My whole life I’ve never been a selfish player and he made it clear to me that I was an instant impact wherever they put me,” See, the future Bearkat, said. “When I came back Zach was playing at his best and the offense was really on a roll shifting from more of a run style offense before I got hurt to more of a passing style.” See understood that he could be an impact player at wide receiver. And See pointed out, “With me at receiver [it] gave the offense another go to threat to air out the ball.”

That decision—which mirrored the Schlittenhardt/Everitt decision four years before—paid big dividends for Shepherd the rest of the way out. With See and Truelove, the dividends were even bigger in reaching the state playoffs for the second year in a row—with the best record in the last 11 years, and probably much further back than that.
Coach Keel made an impact on his players in the four years he was at Shepherd. Royce See explained that impact was both on and off the field.

“He was a huge part of our success,” See told the News-Times. “From the time I got into high school my freshman year our program took a huge change in the way we did things—not only because of him but the rest of the coaching staff too.”
See shared that what brought change was the vision Keel had for Shepherd athletics. “Me and the rest of my senior class bought into the vision that they had for us,” See said late this week. “As him being the AD and the head coach everything ran through him.”

Keel’s impact did not stop on the field, however. “I personally looked up to him. He’s always been a great role model no matter what anyone says about him,” Royce said. “He’s always been someone that you could come to at any time for anything, and I can’t think of one time that he hasn’t.”

Royce summed up his feelings about Coach Keel’s impact when he said, “He’s the type of guy that everyone looks up to. I hate to see him leave, but he has definitely positively impacted not only our athletic program, but our community as well.”
Isaiah Moye also felt the impact of Coach Keel. “He noticed the potential in me. I love him for that.” Moye said.
Players felt that Coach Keel had made an impact on them. However, Coach Keel felt he had been impacted by Shepherd itself. “Shepherd made an impact on me,” Coach Keel said late Sunday evening.

The elephant in the room now is the future of Shepherd athletics. In closing, Keel was asked if he felt that he had laid a good foundation for Shepherd High athletics going forward.

“The last four years have been the moist successful years ever in Shepherd history,” Keel said. He pointed to the back-to back playoff appearances in football, as well as playoff appearances in other sports as well. “Depending on what choice they make for their next coach, the future is still bright for Shepherd.”

Wheatley Wildcats Stop Coldspring Trojans

Baxter Smith (5) Senior Guard drives around Jeremy Jones of Wheatley during the Friday night Area Playoff Game. Baxter Smith (5) Senior Guard drives around Jeremy Jones of Wheatley during the Friday night Area Playoff Game.

By Charles Ballard
San Jacinto News-Times
Sports Reporter

Atascocita - Coldspring ended their 2016 playoff run against the Wheatley Wildcats, Friday night at Atascocita High School in the Area Play off. After bringing home the “Bi-District” title against Bridge City with a win of 57 – 54 the Trojans fell just a tad short against the Wheatley Wildcats with a score of 73 to 58.

Coldspring posted 15 points to Wheatley’s 24 points during the first period, which kind of set the momentum in the Wildcats court. From the tipoff to the final buzzer, the Trojans played one of the best games that I have ever seen, a Trojan team play. However, the well-oiled machine of the Wildcats, no stranger to the playoff scene, came to play.

At the tipoff, the Wildcats scored 3 baskets within the first few seconds of the game that really moved the momentum in the Wildcats favor. After the Trojans managed to regroup and started their run, they had an uphill battle to perform.

The second period showed promise for the Trojans as they managed to match shot for shot against the Wildcats, scoring 11 points to Wheatley’s 11 points. Trey Cole, point guard for the Trojans managed a nice 3 buckets and one shot from downtown. After the half the Wildcats came out with fire in their eyes posting 23 points to Coldspring’s 15.

The Trojans went in at the half and regrouped their strategy, but then again so did the Wildcats. The fourth quarter was a lot more like the “Fighting Trojans” but the defense of the Wildcats manage to stop the run and held the Trojans to only 17 points. Which was better than Wheatley’s 15 points. The point spread was just too far to recover during the last few minutes of the game. Coldspring retained the “Bi-District” title and walked away with “Area-Qualifier”.

Folks, it was a loss but it was only a loss in points. The Trojans played one of the best games that I have seen in many, many years. They did come to play. Sometimes the opponent is just a little better than the home team. I normally would say that the winner just wanted the win a little more than the opponent. However, this time I can say without a doubt that the Trojans wanted this win more than I have ever seen. It was just not in the cards for the Trojans. The Trojans will be moved to the 3A division next year and it will not be any easier than the 4A division. The only good item in the basket is the schools that we will be playing are more on the Coldspring size, and this should be a lot more in Coldspring’s level.

Congratulations to the Coldspring Trojans and the Lady Trojans for making the 2016 playoff season, and that is the way I see it “Above the Rim”

Basketball Trainers Dream Comes True

The Coldspring Trojan basketball team helped make Splendora senior Zach Mills’ dream come true during the game against Splendora on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Pictured from left to right, back row:  Edward Hayes, Cadarrius “Tunk” Harrison, Ave-on “Red” Gilbert, and Brett Lewis; front row: Anthony Richard, Terrance Griffin, Zach Mills (Splendora), Trey Cole, Baxter Smith and Coach Devers. (Photo by Jason Vela)The Coldspring Trojan basketball team helped make Splendora senior Zach Mills’ dream come true during the game against Splendora on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Pictured from left to right, back row:  Edward Hayes, Cadarrius “Tunk” Harrison, Ave-on “Red” Gilbert, and Brett Lewis; front row: Anthony Richard, Terrance Griffin, Zach Mills (Splendora), Trey Cole, Baxter Smith and Coach Devers. (Photo by Jason Vela)

The Coldspring Trojan varsity basketball players and the Splendora Wildcats set aside the spirit of competition for the spirit of cooperation to help make a Splendora senior’s dream come true on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Zach Mills, a Splendora senior trainer, loves the game of basketball but has never been able to play as a result of his battle with cancer. Splendora Basketball Coach Jason Vela wanted to see that changed.

“On Tuesday night, Coach Vela put a plan into action so that Zach could have his time to shine, and the Coldspring basketball coaches/athletes did a great job in helping make it possible,” wrote Splendora Athletic Director Marcus Schulz in a thank-you email to COCISD coaches and administrators.

Schulz said Zach went into the game on two separate occasions and was able to score 4 pts on the night. “The best part was seeing the Coldspring coaches/athletes come over after the game to congratulate Zach,” wrote Schultz. “The game was more than just a game Tuesday night!!! Thank You!”

Coach Jason Vela wrote a letter to the Trojan Varsity players, as well:

“Most of you probably don’t know this, but I have been coaching against Coldspring for the last 15 years here at Splendora. Over those years I have been fortunate to win a few times (not many but a few) and I have had some tough losses. Never have I driven home after one of those games feeling like both teams won (until) last night. Everybody won last night because sometimes winning is more than what is on the scoreboard. You were part of something special and you handled it with great class. Zach loves the game of Basketball probably as much or more than you and I. He fulfilled his dream last night... Thank you again for everything. I will be your number 1 fan the rest of this season.”

Congratulations to Zach Mills, and kudos to the basketball coaches and players for both teams, for showing the true spirit of sportsmanship.

Shepherd ‘TKO’s’ Coldspring

by Charles Ballard
San Jacinto News-Times
Sports Reporter

Terrance Griffin (1) takes a layup against the strong Shepherd defense, during the Coldspring VS Shepherd District game. Photo by Charles BallardTerrance Griffin (1) takes a layup against the strong Shepherd defense, during the Coldspring VS Shepherd District game. Photo by Charles BallardCOLDSPRING - If Friday night’s basketball game would have been a boxing match the only thing you could have said was Shepherd had a TKO on Coldspring. The Coldspring Trojans entered the game tied with only two losses with Huffman and was planning on a coin toss, but The Shepherd Pirates had a different idea about the game Friday night. The opening toss was toppled by Red Gilbert, Center for the Coldspring Trojans, but was quickly stolen and first blood went to Shepherd. I wish I could say that the Trojans quickly rebounded, but it was a long night for the Trojan Nation. There was only one three point by Trey Cole during the entire first half. The Shepherd Pirates just about shut down the Trojans during the first period, the Trojans only hit for 10 points during the first period and only 12 in the second period. The Shepherd Pirates had 12 in the first and 19 in the second period. During the second half the Trojans tried to ramp up the pressure but it was way too late. The Pirates had already stole the momentum during the first half and it remained in Shepherds hands during the entire game. However, the Trojans managed to match shot for shot in the second half, but the damage was already done in the first half. The Pirates boarded the busses and headed back to Shepherd with a 64 to 56 win and securing a spot in the UIL Playoffs.

The Trojans did manage to put away the Splendora Wildcats with a 72 to 38 land-slide on Tuesday night’s district game. Coldspring out-shot Splendora in every period. The third and fourth period’s posted 22 and 23 points.

The Huffman Falcons lead the district with a 9-2 record, followed by Coldspring: 8-3, Shepherd: 7-4, Liberty: 7-4, Cleveland: 4-7, Tarkington: 3-8, Splendora: 1-11.

Coldspring will face Tarkington, Shepherd will face Liberty and Huffman will face Cleveland during the last and final district game.
Folks that is the way I see it “Above the Rim”.

Coldspring takes two from Tarkington

By Charles Ballard
San Jacinto News- Times
Sports Reporter

Red Gilbert takes the opening tip off to start the nights competition against the Tarkington Longhorns. Red Gilbert takes the opening tip off to start the nights competition against the Tarkington Longhorns. COLDSPRING - The Coldspring Duo took two major district games from the Tarkington Longhorns. You heard right, both the girls and boys won during the Friday night’s district 23 4A game. The Lady Trojans managed to maintain a great show of force during the game against the Lady Horns. After going down by only two with a score of 40-42 against Shepherd, they came out and dusted the court with the Lady Horns. Sydney McAuliffe shredded the boards with a total of 20 points for the night. This included four 3 point shots from downtown. She hit in all four periods sending the Lady Trojans to a very nice win over the Lady Horns, 65-54. At several points in the game, the point spread gapped almost 20 points. Destiny Thompson, 5 ft. 5 in. pack of dynamite posted a cool 10 points, and was 6 of 6 at the foul line. BreAzya Bookman posted 13 points and was 10 for 14 at the line. The Lady Trojans were hot during all four periods posting 17 points in the first period, 14 in the second, 18 in the third and rounding out with 16 in the final and fourth period.

The Coldspring Trojans manage to get the win also, during the Friday night game against the Tarkington Longhorns, with a score of 58-48. After taking a win against the Shepherd Pirates, 63-59 the Trojans managed to keep the win at home against the Horns. Red Gilbert received game honors for his performance against the Pirates from MaxPreps with a Player of the Game. Jake Monroe said, “During the Shepherd game we again, got off to a slow start but managed to bounce back in the fourth and final period to bring the win back to Coldspring.”
Trojan, Gilbert got the evening started by sending the opening tip off to Tre Cole, and it was not but just a few seconds until the Trojans scored and got first blood. The game was very close during the first half with Terrance Griffin and Anthony Richard hitting two three point shots turning the momentum to the Trojans. The Trojans defense continued to hold the opponents at bay, while the three point shooting set the momentum of the Trojan game plan. The Trojans will be facing Huffman with a 4–2 record on Tuesday. The first Huffman match went to Huffman at their court. Lets hope that that the Falcons will not find the loose boards in home game advantage this time. With a good finish during the second half of the season it will put the Trojans in a very good spot for a nice playoff run. And that is the way I see it “Above The Rim”.

Coldspring youth basketball league opening day

Above the Rim
By Charles Ballard
San Jacinto News-Times
Sports Reporter

Kenyan White, a future point guard handles the ball with precision of a true basketball player during the opening scrimmage of the CYBL.  (Photo by Charles Ballard)Kenyan White, a future point guard handles the ball with precision of a true basketball player during the opening scrimmage of the CYBL. (Photo by Charles Ballard)Coldspring - Last Saturday morning the Coldspring High School Gym became very busy with future Trojans basketball prospects. The “CYBL” had its opening day and began the 2016 season. President of the league, Jon Alexander said, “ We are looking for a very good year this year. With 10 teams and 90 plus athletes it is sure to be a very good year.” As the young athletes began to warm up and get ready to kick off a new season the excitement was high. A few of the coaches installed the lower basketball goals for the first few games.

Sometimes the basketball is almost as big as the player himself. Coach Monroe commented, “These young athletes expect to have a very exciting and competitive year of ball and I expect nothing else than the same.” Alexander commented, ”I expect these young athletes to have fun and also learn the fundamentals of basketball”.

One of the many young athletes that have gone through the CYBL and have continued on to the High School ranks is Stacy McAuliffe. She is now playing as a freshmen on the senior high team and the team looks to have a great future for the 2016 season. Coach Trey McKinney, a former CYBL and High School Basketball star is now coaching and assisting in refereeing the games. McKinney commented, “I will be coaching the Pelicans this year, I wanted a different name from the past, “Lakers” because we are in a rebuilding mode and I want to have a fresh start.” McKinney also commented, “Chad Allen is also coaching this year and it is going to be “Game On” against him. He and I were team mates several years back and now he is coaching here at CYBL with us.” Chad Allen was also a huge basketball and football star at Coldspring that finished his career in college in the Beaumont area.

If you get a chance to visit one of the games you will not be disappointed. If you enjoy watching he very young learning how to play basketball or even the heated battle of the older Athletes you will have a great Saturday morning of fun and excitement. And that is the way I see it “Above the Rim”.