3 transfers fitting nicely with Rockets
Newcomers have carved out vital roles on title contender
Michael Chandler II, Daniel Williams and Lucas Coley believed that football was football, no matter where you played it.
Then they arrived at Judson during the offseason after transferring from other area schools, and came away with a new point of view.
The Rockets’ six UIL state championships, staterecord streak of consecutive winning seasons (now at 42) and huge, enthusiastic crowds were a “shock to the system.”
“When we got here, we look on the board, and state’s the first goal,” said sophomore Lucas Coley, who transferred from Brennan.
Judson is two wins from a seventh championship,
but the next step in reaching the goal will be the biggest to date. The Rockets (12-0) face Austin Lake Travis (11-1) in the Region IV-6A Division I final at 2 p.m. today at the Alamodome. It is a rematch of a 2017 second-round game that Lake Travis won 47-39.
“Being in the (state) quarterfinals is cool and all, but it’s not our main goal,” Coley said.
The Rockets are in the state quarterfinals for the 23rd time in the past 37 seasons and the first since 2015. Even with the graduation of standout quarterback Julon Williams, the Rockets figured to be a regional-title contender. But thanks to the arrival of Chandler (from Johnson), Williams (from Clemens) and Coley, they have become a state title threat.
“These kids just kind of buy in what we preached, and the winning — knock on wood — kind of backs up what we preached every day,” Judson coach Sean McAuliffe said. “This is a unique situation over here. It’s a game of production, and that’s what we preach to kids.
“Just like in life, if you get a job, you’ve got to produce or you’re not going to have a job for long,” McAuliffe said. “Race, religious beliefs, age, height, weight — none of that matters to us. It’s all about who can produce. If you can produce, you’re going to play.”
McAuliffe made that clear to Chandler, Williams and Coley after their former schools approved their transfer forms.
The players, who played with or against some of their current teammates on the little league level, were up to the task.
Chandler, a junior quarterback, succeeded Williams, a four-year starter who signed with the University of Houston after amassing 10,084 yards — 6,715 passing and 3,369 rushing — and 118 touchdowns. Chandler has thrown for more than 2,300 yards and 24 TDs and rushed for nearly 700 yards and 11 scores.
“It’s big shoes to fill, but I like the challenge, I guess,” said Chandler, who quarterbacked Johnson to its first district championship last season.
Williams has combined with Texas A&M commit Demarvin Leal, Corey Parks and Samari Crane to form an imposing defensive line. A senior, Williams has 79 tackles — 40 solo and five for loss — two sacks and 13 hurries for the Rockets, who yield just 14.3 points and 223.2 yards per game. They have recorded 25 sacks and 73 tackles for loss.
Coley has played quarterback, defensive back, wide receiver and outside linebacker. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 253 yards and four TDs, rushed for 127 yards and a score, and caught six passes for 134 yards and a TD this season. He also has 15 tackles, eight solo.
“Probably the atmosphere, talent and everybody pushing each other to be great (is the biggest adjustment),” Coley said. “We never really back away from a challenge. That championship mentality was built in all of us from a young age.”
The championship mentality served Williams, Chandler and Coley well once they arrived at Judson. Even so, the buzz and size of the opening-night crowd, the competition for playing time, and the lofty aspirations were eye-openers.
“I think what’s unique about it is the first-game experience of playing here,” said McAuliffe, who is 54-12 in five seasons at his alma mater and has led the Rockets to two state semifinals (2014, 2015), two district championships (2017, 2018) and five playoff berths. McAuliffe was a defensive lineman on Judson’s 1992 state title and 1991 statesemifinal teams.
“The crowd and the intensity that they see kids that have been in our program have when the lights come on, those eyes get dilated, and it’s ready-to-gotime.”
Four months later, the excitement hasn’t stopped for the Rockets. And the three transfers have been crucial in a deep playoff run.
“After the first game, everything kind of came to me,” Chandler said. “(My teammates) brought me in like family.”
Lucas Coley, a transfer from Brennan, runs untouched on a 73-yard touchdown reception in Judson’s first-round win over Hays.
Clemens transfer Daniel Williams is part of an imposing Judson defensive line.