3 trans­fers fit­ting nicely with Rock­ets

New­com­ers have carved out vi­tal roles on ti­tle con­tender

San Antonio Express-News - - SPORTS - By Ter­rence Thomas

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.”

Marvin Pfeif­fer / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Lu­cas Co­ley, a trans­fer from Bren­nan, runs un­touched on a 73-yard touch­down re­cep­tion in Jud­son’s first-round win over Hays.

Ronald Cortes / Con­trib­u­tor

Cle­mens trans­fer Daniel Wil­liams is part of an im­pos­ing Jud­son de­fen­sive line.

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