Welcome back high school football!
After an unforgettable 2021 campaign, the Big Game Coverage (BGC) Newsletter returns just in time for the 2022 football season to get underway. Over the past few weeks, the KSAT 12 Sports page has been inundated with Big Game Coverage previews. Photographer Mark Mendez spearheaded the endeavor, visiting high school campuses across the area to talk to coaches and players before the season officially kicks off. There are tons of intriguing storylines to explore, but before we dive into the details, let’s take a quick moment to preview the newest event on the high school football calendar: the KSAT Pigskin Classic.
This year, the KSAT 12 sports team is teaming up with Texas Sports Productions to help kick the season off in grand style with the first ever KSAT Pigskin Classic, a triple-header at the Alamodome that concludes Week 1′s action on Saturday, Aug. 27. The pregame show begins at 11 a.m. with game one scheduled to kick off at 11:30 a.m., beginning an all-day football extravaganza that will be broadcast and streamed live on KSAT 12 and KSAT.com. (General admission and VIP tickets are still available.)
Where did they all land?
No surprise here, the Brennan Bears enter the season ranked as the team to beat in San Antonio for the second straight year. Dual-threat quarterback Ashton Dubose torched defenses throughout the Alamo City en route to an undefeated regular season and a deep run in the playoffs. But the Bears will have stiff competition right out of the gates against Steele, who enters 2022 as the No. 2 ranked team in 12′s Top 12. Who else made the list?
With those rankings in mind, let’s take a moment to focus on six specific local teams that could be in line for special seasons:
CLASS 6A - JUDSON ROCKETS
There’s no way around it. Judson is looking for redemption in 2022.
After an impressive hard-fought victory over DeSoto in Week 1, the Rockets combusted, losing four straight games and falling out of the playoffs entirely for the first time since 2006. The 4-6 overall record was the program’s worst finish in recent memory, snapping a record-setting run of 44 straight seasons with a winning record. The disappointment was palpable. Now, the Judson community is turning to one of their own to help turn the program around.
Homegrown head coach Mark Soto returns home to Converse after leading Johnson to an undefeated regular season in 2021. He’ll have two dynamic playmakers to work with on both sides of the ball. Defensive lineman Johnny Bowens will anchor a stout front, while wide receiver Anthony Evans will provide all kinds of offensive flexibility after notching 700 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in 2022. Even with only six teams in district this year, Judson has its hands full against No. 2 ranked Steele, New Braunfels and East Central. All three were playoff teams last year, and the Rockets lost to all three in 2021. But Judson played all three teams tough. Their combined margin of defeat in those three losses: 10 points.
Whether they manage to regain past glory or come up short in the process, the Rockets are definitely a team to keep your eyes on throughout the 2022 season. Judson kicks off their season in the Alamodome as the second game of the KSAT Pigskin Classic by facing Soto’s old team, Johnson, on Saturday, Aug. 27 at 2:30 p.m.
Here’s a look at some of the other Class 6A teams KSAT 12 has visited this past month:
CLASS 5A - ALAMO HEIGHTS MULES
It’s hard to overstate just how successful Alamo Heights has been since Ron Rittimann took over as head coach in 2020.
Over the past two seasons, the Mules are 20-4. That includes an impressive 13-1 record last year that featured an undefeated regular season and culminated in a third-round playoff battle with Liberty Hill. This year, they face a new challenge: finding a starting quarterback. James Sobey has lined up under center for the last two years, but he has since graduated. The same goes for veteran linebacker Roan Erwin.
That’s not to say the Mules don’t still have plenty of talent on the roster. Look no further than returning wide receiver Rett Andersen, who provided a large chunk of Alamo Heights’ offense last year with 64 catches for 1,193 yards and 21 receiving touchdowns. He also proved to be a dynamic kick and punt returner. Linebacker Tommy Colligan will help hold down the Mules’ staunch defense after recording 76 tackles and 19 sacks in 2021.
This year, Alamo Heights will line up against San Antonio ISD schools in District 14-5A Division II. The Mules kick off their season in Seguin against the Matadors on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Here’s a look at some of the other Class 5A teams KSAT 12 has visited this past month:
CLASS 4A - CUERO GOBBLERS
After two down years, Cuero returned to prominence with an electric 13-2 campaign in 2021. They’ll look to match that same success in 2022 under new head coach Jerod Fikac.
The Gobblers certainly enter this season with the weight of expectations. They are ranked as the No. 6 team in the Class 4A Division II poll after advancing to the state semifinals last year. Senior offensive lineman Kyle Weghorst will anchor a dominant offensive line that helped open holes for running back Tycen Williams throughout the 2021 season to the tune of 2,165 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns. Meanwhile, linebacker Sean Burks is one of eight starters returning from a dominant defensive front that stifled opposing offenses.
Time will tell if Fikac can lead the Gobblers back to their first state title game appearance since winning it all in 2018. Cuero opens their season on the road against No. 4-ranked El Campo on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Here’s a look at some of the other Class 4A teams KSAT 12 has visited in the last month:
CLASS 3A - MARION BULLDOGS
In 2021, Marion jumped out of the gates and enjoyed one of the best starts in program history. They cooled off towards the end of the season, but the Bulldogs still finished 7-4 overall and 3-3 in district.
With 13 starters returning, head coach Ryne Miller has plenty to work with. It helps when you have the reigning district running back of the year on the roster. Aidan Rios stole the show, rushing for 1,225 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2021, but wide receiver Dominic Castellanos ensured that the Bulldogs were balanced offensively with 691 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Castellanos was just as impressive on the other side of the ball as a defensive back. He and linebacker Kross Kelso will hold down a defense that recorded two shutouts last year and kept Marion in plenty of ballgames.
The Bulldogs will kick off the 2022 campaign on Friday Aug. 26 at home against Hondo.
Here’s a look at some of the other Class 3A teams KSAT 12 has visited in the last month:
CLASS 2A - SHINER COMANCHES
How on earth do you top what Shiner has done over the last two years?
Head coach Daniel Boedeker has led the Comanches to back-to-back state football titles thanks in large part to the dynamic brother duo of Doug and Dalton Brooks. The “thunder and lightning” duo terrorized defenses with a punishing ground game while also stifling opposing offenses on the defensive side of the ball. The formula worked, and for 30 straight games, Shiner has proved untouchable. It’s one of the best stretches of football dominance in recent memory.
As the Comanches enter 2022, only the lightning remains. Doug has since graduated and taken his talents to Texas A&M Kingsville, while Dalton, a Texas A&M commit, is one of nine returning starters that will carry Shiner’s streak of perfection into this season. It won’t be easy, especially against District 15-2A Division I rival Refugio, who has battled the Comanches in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
Shiner will begin their quest for a three-peat on the road against Hallettsville on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
TAPPS - TMI EPISCOPAL PANTHERS
It’s been awhile since the last time TMI enjoyed a season like 2021.
The Panthers cruised through the regular season en route to a 9-0 overall record. Their narrowest margin of victory was 10 points, a 17-7 victory over Lake Country Christian in week three. TMI dominated the remainder of their schedule by averaging nearly 38 points per game. Their offensive firepower was a big reason for their success. Senior wide receiver Jaylen Gardner played a massive role, recording 590 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He’s one of 13 starters returning from last years squad hungry for more in 2022.
TMI opens their season on the road against Bruni on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m.
Football isn’t the only sport this fall! Volleyball and cross country are both in full swing, while water polo is just starting its first season as a UIL-sanctioned sport. Here’s some highlights from the first few weeks of local sports action:
Follow KSAT 12 Sports on Twitter
As always, this season will be filled with twists and turns, dominance and upsets, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We can’t wait to share every experience with you this season! Make sure you catch all the action all season long by following the KSAT 12 team on twitter:
We’ll see you on Thursday for the start of the 2022 season!
Andrew Cely, KSAT 12 Sports Producer and Reporter