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SportzBuzz - August 2017

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Ta’zhawn Henry

TALENTED TEXAN Standout running back Ta’zhawn Henry, who rushed for 1,450 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, is one of several Lamar Texans being recruited heavily by major collegiate football programs. (Photo: Mark Hawkins)

As the 2017 football season kicks off later this month, it has all the makings of another outstanding year for the Lamar Texans. The Texans are loaded with major collegiate prospects, led by senior cornerback Anthony Cook, who is rated as the ninth best overall player in the country by Rivals.com.

In addition, wide receiver Al’vonte Woodard, defensive back D’shawn Jamison, defensive lineman Josh Landry and running back Ta’zhawn Henry, who rushed for 1,450 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, are all being heavily recruited by many of the nation’s top collegiate football programs. Last season, those players helped lead Lamar to the third round of the playoffs and an overall 11-2 record.

“It’s a talented group,” said Texans head coach Tom Nolen. “The key now is finding a replacement for Owen Holt (Harvard University) at quarterback. But I really like the attitude and work ethic of this entire team.”

Even in his 33rd season as Lamar’s head football coach, Nolen remains as excited as ever for the opening night of football. “The good thing about coaching is that every year it changes. There’s a new group of kids and a whole new dynamic. I enjoy putting the pieces together. Plus, I love the kids and the game of football.”

Episcopal Knights softball team

CHAMPION KNIGHTS The Episcopal Knights softball team posted a trio of dominant victories to win the SPC Tournament Championship. Episcopal finished the season with a 27-4 record while also winning its 13th SPC title in the last 20 years.

The Episcopal Knights softball team closed out the last school year with another SPC Championship. The Knights beat The Kinkaid School, Houston Christian and John Cooper to secure their 13th SPC title in the last 20 seasons. “The girls had a phenomenal season,” said Knights head coach Kim Randolph. “We were 27-4 and also defeated several large UIL schools like Clear Lake, Clear Falls, College Park and others. We played a really great schedule.”

It was an especially great season for Episcopal’s Sarah Venker. Her 14-1 record on the mound included a no-hitter in the SPC final. At the plate, Venker hit for over a .500 average with a team-leading eight home runs. “Sarah hit a home run against Pearland that hit the outfield scoreboard. It was one of the longest homers I’ve ever seen in high school softball. She’s being recruited as both a position player and a pitcher, which is a rarity these days.”

Junior catcher Alexis Aboulafia, who’ll play college softball at Ball State University, homered, tripled and doubled in the SPC-title victory over John Cooper, while sophomore second baseman Amber Hatfield put up some big numbers at the plate in the SPC tournament.

The team’s RBI leader was sophomore third baseman Rachel Boeker, who batted over .400 with 34 RBIs. Freshman Alexis Sagers also hit over .400 and was second on the team in RBIs and home runs. Randolph also had high praise for senior left fielder Charlotte Spector, whom he called one of the major leaders on the team.

In soccer, the Houston Express 99G Navy team beat out the state’s top-tier youth soccer teams to win the championship of the prestigious STYSA (South Texas Youth Soccer Association) State Cup. The victory also earned the team a berth to the US Youth Soccer regional championships in North Carolina. The 99G Navy team consists of the top 17- and 18-year-old girl players from the Houston Express Soccer Club. Many of the girls attend local high schools such as Bellaire, St. John’s, Kinkaid, St. Agnes, Emery/Weiner and others. “Texas is full of great teams and talented players that are college bound, and for us to win the South Texas State Cup is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Houston Express executive director Colin Chesters

The Texas Cup Championship capped off an amazing turnaround for the team under the direction of first-year head coach Vedad Hadzajlic. “We went from being one of the worst defensive teams in the Southern Regional Premier League to one of the best,” said Hadzajlic. “The girls did a great job of adapting to our system.”

“The big goal now is to get these kids scholarships to play collegiate soccer,” said Chesters. “We just had Allison Schachter commit to play at Penn.” In addition, Madeline Beavers (UT Tyler), Hannah Bodron (Nicholls State University), Cameron Koerner (St. Mary’s University), Natalie Festa (Swarthmore College) and Amber Meade (Union University) will all play soccer at the next level.

“I expect that several more of our girls will also get collegiate offers in the next six months or so,” said Chesters. “It’s really an important part of our club’s mission.”

Editor’s Note: Todd Freed is the Emmy Award-winning co-host and producer of the KUBE SportsZone, which airs Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. on Channel 57-KUBE. To submit high school sports news for possible inclusion in SportzBuzz, please email [email protected].

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