By SMSD Communications
Mention the Stafford High football team’s senior class and watch Spartans head football coach Ron Counter’s face light up with joy.
“We have an excellent senior class of 27 players,” Counter said. “We have five to 10 players who could play at the Division I level. At a 4A school, you rarely see that happen.”
Two of those seniors – wide receiver Hezekiah Jones (Texas A&M) and defensive back Jalen Pitre (Baylor) – have already verbally committed to college football programs, while several others have scholarship offers.
Counter, entering his fourth season at Stafford, arrived when this group of seniors were freshmen. The coaching staff kept the group in tact as freshmen on the freshman team, where they went 10-0 in 2013.
Last season, that group helped Stafford finish 11-1, earning the program’s second football district championship and first since 1989. They enter the 2016 season as the No. 18 team in the state in 4A Division I.
The Spartans (1-0) opened the season with a resounding 33-13 victory at Houston North Forest – after a 90-minute lightning delay in northeast Houston. They’ll visit Class 5A Port Lavaca Calhoun (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in Port Lavaca. It will be anything but a trip to the beach, as the Sandcrabs lost to eventual Class 5A State Champion George Ranch, 27-26, last season.
Offensively, the Spartans are going to open things up even more than they had in 2015.
“We’re going to be doing more of a spread offense than we had before – we’re going to play to our talents,” Counter said.
Several members of last years 4A state championship track team will be key contributors on the football team, including the senior running back tandem of James Brown and Cameron Montgomery.
“They make up the fastest combination of two running backs I’ve had in 28 years of coaching,” Counter said.
Counter said Montgomery —the reigning 4A 100-meter state champion who has offers from Air Force, Army, Navy and Rice – runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine lists Brown as running a 4.38. Brown is being recruited by defending SWAC champion Alcorn State, and Texas Southern.
Junior quarterback Walter White was the Spartans’ backup last season, but he’ll be taking the snaps this season. White is equally adept at passing and scrambling.
“He has all of the intangibles and is poised to have a great year,” Counter said.
White has several quality targets at wide receiver. Jones – the 2015 4A 200-meter state champion – may receive double-or-triple coverage, but that will just open things up for the likes of senior wide receiver Desmond Mathis, who’s also the starting point guard for the Spartans basketball team.
Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Curry will become a varsity starter this season, and he has already received a scholarship offer from Auburn.
Senior Kameron Hill, who Counter says will play in the NFL in the future, will move from tight end to offensive line, and he’ll also start on the defensive line. Hill, who’s ranked 14th academically in the class of 2017, has a scholarship offer from Air Force.
Senior Charles Hester will join Hill as an offensive line/defensive line starter. Hester runs a 23-second 200-meter dash, which according to Counter, is almost unheard of for a lineman. Senior Moses Horn will return on the offensive line this season, with Eric Reid returning on the defensive line.
Defensively, the Spartans will run a 4-2-5, playing on the strength of a secondary that features Pitre, senior David Allison and sophomore Josh Scott, who played quarterback on the freshman team last season.
“Pitre is like a coach on the field – he is definitely a leader for our team,” Counter said.
On special teams, the Spartans return sophomore kicker Kirvin Bonilla, who joined the varsity team as a freshman.
While the Spartans may be better than last year, that may not be reflected in the win-loss column. After registering an undefeated regular season, scheduling opponents became a challenge.
“When you go 10-0, not a whole lot of teams want to play you,” Counter said.
Stafford hosts Bellville, the No. 7 team in the 4A, Division II state rankings, in its home opener on Sept. 9. The Spartans will wrap up non-district competition on Sept. 16 at perennial state power Navasota.
District play begins on Sept. 23 with Stafford hosting Bay City. Most of the prognosticators are calling for either Stafford or El Campo to win District 12-4A, Division I. The Spartans will visit the Ricebirds on Oct. 28 in the regular season finale. The Spartans have reached the second round of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. They’ll look to advance to the third round for the first time in school history this fall.
Aug. 26 Stafford 33, Houston North Forest 13
Sept. 2 at Port Lavaca Calhoun, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. Bellville (Senior Night), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Navasota, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Bay City (8th Grade Night), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 at West Columbia, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Needville (Homecoming), 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Brazosport, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 vs. Sealy (Cheer Night), 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 at El Campo, 7:30 p.m.