Cougars set to face familiar team in Falcons
In order for Northland Christian to be ready for district and get back to winning state championships like in 2016, second-year head coach Brad Helm lined up three strong opponents to start the season.
The Cougars needed competition and they got it by facing Evadale, The Village and Cypress Christian.
They lost all three games, but Helm feels like it’s going to pay off in the long run as they start TAPPS Division III - District 4 action.
“We scheduled some pretty tough teams in our non-district,” Helm said. “The talent that we have seen so far has prepared us for our district.”
A lot of the players on the team were around for the state title the program clinched two years ago.
“They’re not going to accept anything but state championships around here, which is a great thing for these kids to have to strive for after winning one before,” Helm said. “They continue to work hard and have a good attitude.”
In week 7, Northland Christian (1-4, 1-0) will take on Frassati Catholic (0-3, 0-1) after a bye-week.
The Cougars will face the Falcons for the first time.
“We did 7-on-7 with them a couple of times during the summer,” Helm said.
With both schools being close to each other, a rivalry could blossom in the future as the programs face each other more and more.
“It could, you never know,” Helm said. “A lot of times when its private schools, close proximity, kids know each other. As we play them and as we compete with them, I think we’ll start getting to know each other.”
Despite no prior history together, the two schools are already linked by something more than just football.
“The coach for Frassati (Calvin LaFiton) is the step-brother of our running back (Trent Lair),” Helm said. “In that family there might be a little bit of rivalry already, so that ought to be interesting.”
The game is set for next Friday, 7 p.m., at Frassati Catholic.
“That’s worrisome when you have a lot of good players on the other side of the ball that you have to compete and game plan against,” Helm said. “That’s a big deal, I’m worried about that team.”
The Cougars claimed the TAPPS Division III state title last year under David Nelson, now at Houston Christian.
Helm entered the following year, out of Prestonwood, in hopes of continuing that streak.
Coming off a state championship, Helm knew expectations were high.
After graduating 17 players, the first season of building the program back up didn’t go as planned.
Despite finishing 2-7 overall in 2017, the program was in a state of having to be rebuilt and Helm was able to put it on a solid foundation.
“That was tough when we did not meet those expectations,” Helm said. “It was tough on the coaches, players and parents.”
However, once the players got into this past offseason they started working hard.
“They recommitted to this football team and made huge strides into getting this program back to where it was before,” Helm said.
The Cougars won their first district game by beating First Baptist Christian 58-12, Sept. 28.
“We won finally, I think our non-district schedule in the long run will have proven to gotten us ready for district and playoffs,” Helm said.
Helm returned a large senior class, including 15 starters.
The four captains, who kept the team together when they were having tough times, are linebacker/wide receiver Jarrett Phillips, quarterback Billy Eaton, defensive lineman/linebacker/offensive lineman Justin Gilliland and running back/corner back Trent Lair, who’s had at least 100 yards in every game this year.
“Those guys are doing a great job leading as captains,” Helm said.
Helm also pushes the rest of the guys.
’They can lead also, not as captains, but they can lead this year also on the field,” Helm said.
Some of those include wide receiver/defensive back Brady Kraner, wide receiver/running back Marshall Ingram and defensive lineman Cameron Fore.
Frassati Catholic is young but dynamic under two-year head coach Calvin LaFiton.
They’re led by junior wide receiver/defensive back J.D. Morgan, quarterback Forrest Winton and defensive tackle/offensive tackle Gabe Weitzman.
There’s also center Ben McKeig, tight end Reed Lyons, wide receiver Joey Abrams, linebacker Patrick Haggerty, defensive back Dominic Engbarth, defensive lineman Edwin Rice and running back Bryce Jones, who all play both ways.
“Honestly, I don’t know what to expect out of them,” Helm said. “What I see so far is a decent size team, well coached, good numbers and looks like a good football team, something we’re going to have to prepare for and play a good game to be able to compete with them.”
After Frassati Catholic, the Cougars will face Bay Area Christian, Lutheran North, John Paul II and The Woodlands Christian.
“We’re building and taking steps in the right direction,” Helm said.