By Michael Sudhalter
“Our players understand what ‘protecting the legacy’ means they know what’s expected of them,” said Hurricanes third-year head coach Padriac McGinnis, who was an assistant at Hightower for six seasons prior to that. “They have that on their shoulders, built by the past teams at Hightower.”
Only four players with any starting experience return when Hightower now in the new Class 6A level ‚Äì open against Aldine Eisenhower at 7 p.m. Friday at Hall Stadium.
“Everyone thinks we’re in a rebuilding phase, which we are,” McGinnis said. “We have a real talented junior class. They’re real deep, and we may have 10 Division I athletes in that class. The seniors are providing the leadership. The team did 6 a.m. workouts on their own time, It shows me they want to make that run now (instead of waiting until next year). We’re kind of playing the underdog role, and I like that.”
One of those seniors is quarterback Neiko Hollins, who was 7-2 as a starter on last year’s team that finished 8-4, shared the district championship with Elkins and lost in the second round of the playoffs.
“He’s a great leader with a strong arm, and he attended the Manning Passing Academy over the summer,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis said the Hurricanes will be deep at running back.
“We have nine kids in our program who could be a starting running back at any 5A/6A school in the Houston area,” McGinnis said. “We will spread the ball around and rotate.”
Cortland Boykins and Terrell Malone and Elpressley Pleasant are expected to be the leaders in that group.
Receivers Keelan Johnson and Andre Lewis will likely be Hollins’ favorite targets.
Senior Terence Brigham, who was a part-time starter in 2013, will anchor an otherwise young offensive line that includes sophomores Lester Blount and John Horn.
Senior defensive back Christian Bertrand, a Rice University commit, broke his foot in the offseason and isn’t expected to return until early October.
“It’s going to hurt ‚Äì he’s a quiet kid who leads by example,” McGinnis said. “He’s the first one in the weight room all summer. He was the leader, and he’s still going to lead.”
Defensive lineman Darius Anderson, last season’s district newcomer of the year, is expected to lead on the defensive line, along with defensive end Micah Johnson, who McGinnis compared to Texans rookie Jadeveon Clowney.
“He’s got the similar type of skill set,” McGinnis said.
Hightower won’t be in the same district as nearby Ridge Point High ‚Äì one of the top teams in Class 5A, but the neighbors will still play each other in the “Battle of the Fort Bend Tollway.”
The schools have created a trophy for the rivalry series, with this season’s installment taking place ay 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at Hall Stadium.
After the neighborhood matchup, the Hurricanes will open 6A-23 competition against Austin High on Sept. 12 at Mercer Stadium.
“Austin High is going to be real tough,” McGinnis said. “Their coaches do a great job preparing them. It’s like a chess match when you play Austin High. Alief Taylor is so athletic, and Travis is a physical, well-coached team.”