By Mike Keeney
Its not how you start, its how you finish. Just ask Nimitz High head coach Randy Rowe and his Nimitz Cougars.
After eight weeks, the Cougars were 3-5 and on the outside looking in as far as their playoff chances were concerned. But in Week 9 in a must win situation against Stratford, the Cougars came through with a 28-13 victory and the following week they defeated MacArthur High 31-28 on a last-second field goal to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
Still, the Cougars needed a little help, ironically enough, from Stratford to see their playoff chances become reality. As fate would have it, Stratford provided a huge boost when they upset Memorial, knocking Memorial out of the playoffs and putting Nimitz in.
And Nimitz made the most of its opportunity once they got into the playoffs.
The Cougars reeled off three straight wins to reach the Region III finals for the first time in school history and although Nimitz fell to Katy in the Region III finals, Rowe said the 2003 season will be one that he and his players will never forget.
I just felt good about our chances once we got in the playoffs, Rowe said. We felt we could make a run, and thats exactly what we did. We went about it the tough way, but things ended up working out for us.
The fast finish and march through the playoffs earned Rowe the Northeast News Coach of the Year Award for the second time in three years.
Nimitz was definitely the local Cinderella story for the 2003 football season.
The Cougars entered their bi-district tilt against Baytown Lee as 21-point favorites, a fact Rowe made sure his team was well aware of prior to kickoff.
I read them an article on the field right before the game that basically said we had no chance to win. That kind of fired all of us up.
The Cougars trailed 21-7 at half-time to Lee, but rallied for a 24-21 win on a field goal by Jose Guerra with 11 seconds left in the game.
The following week, the Nimitz defense stepped up to lead the Cougars to a 28-7 win over Galveston Ball.
A week later, Nimitz upended Hightower 14-13 in overtime to reach the Region III finals for the first time in school history.
Although the season ended there, Rowe said the run his team made was a total team effort.
Our defense started playing better, we protected the football on offense and our special teams played great, and Im not just talking about our kicking game. Our coverage was good and our punt team really pinned teams deep. Our coaches did a great job of keeping the faith and getting the kids to believe in one another.
Rowe added his players never lost sight of what could be accomplished, even when they were 3-5.
Even when we were 3-5, the kids kept believing they could get it done.
Each Monday we would point out in our scouting report what we would have to do to win that week. To their credit, the kids paid attention and bought into what we were saying. It wasnt easy, but you know what, this year kind of parallels life.
We all face adversity and these kids will face adversity the older they get. They can look back on this season and draw from this experience when they are challenged as adults. These kids are fighters. They could have folded the tent, but they didnt. I could not be more proud of a group of young men and our entire coaching staff.
Rowe just completed his fourth year at Nimitz. In his four years on the job, he has led the Cougars to the playoffs three times and has forged a 26-22 overall record at the Aldine ISD school.
The 39-year-old has also served as head coach at Skidmore-Tynan, Palestine Westwood and Cleveland. Prior to taking the Nimitz job, Rowe was the athletic director at DeSoto High School for two years.
Rowe, a graduate of Northwestern University, credits his father with influencing him on becoming a football coach.
My dad was an educator and a football coach for 33 years. Hes always been my hero. I go to him for advice to this day, said Rowe, whose father taught and coached in the East Texas town of Lovelady.
Rowe, who has 15 years of experience in the profession, said the 2003 season will forever be etched in his memory.
This was probably the most enjoyable year Ive spent as a head coach because of the things we accomplished. I cant say enough about the job our coaching staff did and the job our kids did. Like I said before, they never gave up.
And while he was proud to be named the News Coach of the Year, Rowe was quick to point out that the award would be shared with his staff.
Our coaches did a great job of keeping the kids up and preparing them each week. A lot of people outside of the profession dont realize how much coaches impact young peoples lives on a daily basis. Im proud to work with these men and while Im proud of this award, I believe it should go to my staff, who I think is the staff of the year.
Aldine Coach of the Year Rowe at forefront of Cougars dream season
By Mike Keeney