Shadow Creek has traveled great distances to play football
Originally appeared on Vype.com.
Are we there yet?
Family road trips can test anyone’s patience, but imagine travelling with 50 of your siblings for a 20- hour round-trip in three days.
Bags of fruits, snacks and drinks lay on a conference table inside the Shadow Creek athletic office. Coolers are wedged in the back of the room.
The scene looks like a family vacation or a college road trip is about the go down.
Well it’s somewhere in between. The Shadow Creek Sharks are a team that has been forgotten. The new Alvin ISD football program was left out of a district in the last UIL realignment because it was just opening.
Their other athletic programs compete in District 23-5A, but football?
Coach Brad Butler left an assistant coaching job at Manvel to take over the new school. To say he’s had challenges would be an understatement, but he’s the right guy for the job. He’s built a great staff and his demeanor doesn’t seem to get flustered with the bumps and road-blocks he’s had to deal with.
When Shadow Creek was not placed in a district, Butler had to do virtually the impossible – pick up teams who would schedule the unknown Sharks.
Tricky part was that he not only had new freshman and sophomores, but juniors who were allowed to come to his school if they wanted more opportunities. A handful of Manvel athletes took the opportunity to get more playing time at the new school.
What that meant was that this year they would be seniors and would need to play varsity games, not junior varsity. So Butler built his schedule a year ago to find any varsity program in the state to play him.
“Not being in a district, we knew we would not have the opportunity to make the playoffs,” Butler said. “So as a coaching staff, we wanted to give the seniors the best opportunity and football experience we could, and respect the position they were in. So we put together a schedule of varsity games. At the same time planting the seeds for the future.”
The first year they mostly played junior varsity teams with a few varsity teams sprinkled in. Entering year two, some teams dropped them and they scoured virtually every varsity team in Texas that had a gap in their schedules.
“That’s why we ended up having to travel so much,” he said. “We wanted to get our seniors as many traditional Texas Friday Night football experiences as we could.”
He had to look far and wide.
The Shadow Creek Sharks are road warriors. They will travel over 2,500 miles to play football this season in places like Marshall, Midland, Brownwood and Leander, Texas.
“It’s kind of like we are in the playoffs,” Butler said. “We don’t have a lot of prior knowledge on the teams we are playing and we are travelling distances to get there. In the long run, I think this is going to help us mature as a program. But make no mistake about it, it’s controlled chaos.”
With Hurricane Harvey, they lost a home game so Shadow Creek will only play at the Shark Tank twice this season.
“It’s a challenge to build school spirit because the student body hasn’t been able to see them play much,” he laughs. “It takes real dedication to drive out to Midland and Brownwood to see us play.”
On the field, the Sharks have some players, and it all starts with the seniors.
Receiver Malik Rodgers is an Air Force-commit, while linemen Kelechi Anyalebechi and Donovan King hold down the defense.
“I came over from Manvel and wanted a new beginning – a new family,” Anyalebechi said. “I wanted to build something new. I wanted a new opportunity.”
While it was a risk to move over to a new school, it seems to have paid off.
“Our junior year was really cool,” Rodgers said. “We played some varsity team and the experiences really opened our eyes. I wouldn’t have gotten that somewhere else. Our high school football experience is coming to an end and we wanted to build something here first, so the kids who come after us can get noticed. It’s all for the next generation, but we know that we got it started.”
The seniors were thrown into immediate leadership roles, and have grabbed the torch with both hands.
“Because of the travel, we really have to keep everyone focused,” King said. “Sure we have some fun and goof off, but we have to keep the sophomores from being sophomores and the freshmen from being freshmen. We are in this situation where we all have to grow up.”
While the seniors are clawing for some shine this year, the future looks promising at Shadow Creek. QB Jamarian George has shown the ability to lead the offense, while sophomore Alec Bryant and junior Cam’Ron Johnson are the future on defense. Bryant is the younger brother of Lance Bryant, now at Indiana.
“I thank the older guys for what they have done for us,” Bryant said. “They have built the foundation, and we just want to continue it and not let them down.