The calm after the storm
The devastation of Hurricane Ike showed how resilient our area can be — and how high school football can help
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.
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.”
Spirits were high as Galveston Ball players prepared to resume practice at La Marque High School in the wake of Hurricane Ike.