The calm af­ter the storm

The dev­as­ta­tion of Hur­ri­cane Ike showed how re­silient our area can be — and how high school foot­ball can help

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - SPORTS SUNDAY - JENNY DIAL CREECH­ny­di­al­creech

Jenny Dial Creech re­calls how Galve­ston Ball proved af­ter Ike that foot­ball can help heal.

Charles Evans re­mem­bers it like it was yes­ter­day.

He stood in a cor­ner of the La Mar­que High School aux­il­iary prac­tice field and watched as about 25 young men car­ried their foot­ball equip­ment from across the street.

They had come from all over — some from the area, oth­ers from Hous­ton, one all the way from Dal­las.

Evans, a Galve­ston res­i­dent and Ball alum, was stay­ing with fam­ily in Texas City.

“I heard the foot­ball team was get­ting back to­gether,” he said. “So I de­cided to go and check it out. I wasn’t sure if we’d have a foot­ball team again at that point.”

That was late Septem­ber 2008 — about two weeks af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ike hit Galve­ston and sur­round­ing ar­eas, caus­ing dam­age and de­struc­tion that dis­placed sev­eral res­i­dents.

Evans went to watch the Ball Tor­na­does prac­tice for a few days on the La Mar­que field. Their coach at the time, Ron Holmes, lived across the street.

Holmes had bits of equip­ment — pads, hel­mets em­bla­zoned with gold B’s, mouth­pieces, cleats, a few tires in his front yard.

It was all hands on deck for the re­main­ing play­ers who rum­maged through large trash bags look­ing for their stuff so they could put to­gether a makeshift prac­tice.

The team would miss four games that year but played the rest of the sea­son and fin­ished 2-5.

A few of their play­ers never re­turned.

“They fig­ured it out, though,” Evans said. “They played a lot of games on the road, and there weren’t al­ways a lot of fans, but it was good for the com­mu­nity that they tried to get things back to nor­mal.”

As the greater Hous­ton area braced for Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, sev­eral area foot­ball coaches were all too fa­mil­iar with how to get their prac­tices and scrim­mages resched­uled. From Hur­ri­cane Rita to Ike to sev­eral storms in be­tween, this area un­der­stands se­vere weather.

Next week, things could be right back to nor­mal.

Min­i­mal dam­age, flood­ing gone, sched­ules back on.

That’s what we all hope.

Long-last­ing dam­age

For oth­ers, the dam­age can last longer and be harder to over­come.

Ball over­came that year and had a sea­son. So did other schools that faced can­cel­la­tions in the area, like La Mar­que.

But those schools and oth­ers along the coast lost play­ers who evac­u­ated for good af­ter the storm.

“Some peo­ple never came back,” Evans said. “Their homes were de­stroyed, so they moved on and moved away.”

Dur­ing Ike, play­ers who evac­u­ated worked on foot­ball else­where.

The Ball punter went to San Mar­cos and found a park where he kicked the ball around him­self.

The quar­ter­back was in the Al­dine area and went out­side when the rain cleared and threw the ball to his brother.

They went four weeks with­out play­ing a game.

A few years be­fore Ike, the Hous­ton area be­came home to sev­eral dis­placed play­ers from the New Or­leans area.

Some were in high school and en­rolled and played im­me­di­ately dur­ing the 2005 sea­son. Oth­ers were much younger but be­came im­pact play­ers down the road.

Pear­land stand­out run­ning back Dustin Gar­ri­son led the Oil­ers to a state cham­pi­onship in 2010. When he was in mid­dle school, he and his fam­ily left New Or­leans dur­ing Ka­t­rina and never re­turned.

‘We can again’

For the ma­jor­ity of play­ers and teams, Har­vey will be gone next week and foot­ball will go on with­out a hitch.

For oth­ers, storms like these can be life-chang­ing.

The sea­son starts this week, and the an­tic­i­pa­tion is as high as ever.

High school foot­ball sea­son in Texas is as ex­cit­ing as it gets.

Hope­fully, Har­vey will come and go with­out putting a damper on it.

For those af­fected, though, foot­ball finds a way to re­sume.

It’s not al­ways easy or con­ve­nient, but the sport is an im­por­tant part of the cul­ture in the area, and in a lot of ways, foot­ball can help com­mu­ni­ties heal af­ter nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

“I couldn’t get back to work,” Evans said. “I couldn’t go home. So I went out and watched the foot­ball team. I watched them get to­gether and start to come back, and it helped.

“I hope our com­mu­nity won’t have to go through that again. I don’t think it’s ever been the same since Ike. If it’s bad again, though, we’ve re­turned to nor­mal be­fore and we can again.”

Kirk Sides

Spir­its were high as Galve­ston Ball play­ers pre­pared to re­sume prac­tice at La Mar­que High School in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Ike.

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