E.J. Hawkins, 1, and the Sterling Rangers finished the season with a 1-9 record.

Despite 1-9 record, coach is optimistic

Sterling High School football might have seen its overall record dip to 1-9 from two wins a year ago, but it would be hard to argue against the thought the Rangers were a better team this year.

Despite being swept in District 21-6A play, the Rangers were outscored 35.4 to 15.2 per game this season with five defeats coming by two scores or less compared to a year ago when Sterling  was outscored 40.6 to 13.8 per game with 44 of their points coming in one game, a win over Nimitz.

Only one of those eight losses in 2018 came by two scores or less.

So, it would be hard to dismiss that competitive progress was made in Robert Toomer’s second season in charge of the program.

“You try to find some good things and it was one of those seasons where we didn’t accomplish our goals of making the playoffs or having a winning record, but sometimes wins and loss columns do not truly represent the program,” Toomer said. “Where we are right now and the progressions, playing better defense and understanding the schemes better as you look back through it it still wasn’t a pretty season, but you could see spurts.

“The competitiveness and effort were there. The understanding of what we are trying to accomplish was there.”

The ability to overcome adversity and not cause self-afflicted damage to its own cause, was a problem Sterling battled all season even if progress was made. That’s what the offseason and spring football could remedy.

“We have to come up with a plan to help our kids overcome adversity,” Toomer said. “There are different phases to it and now in our third year we have to say, ‘Here’s what we need to do.’ Our kids improved, but our win-loss column didn’t.”

Defensively, the Rangers went from last to fourth in the district and Toomer admits the offense now needs to make that jump.

“The offense did improve by scoring more points and we moved the ball a lot more,” Toomer said. “We spread the ball around more and got more people involved.”

It didn’t help that District 21-6A seemed to be deeper competitively as North Shore rolled to a title, but week in and week out, teams like West Brook, Deer Park, La Porte, Beaumont United, C.E. King and Channelview were knocking heads with little wiggle room.

“Last year, we were out of games by halftime,” Toomer said. “This year, we were much more competitive in the first half and we need to learn how to stay more competitive for four quarters. Now we have to find out how we can sustain this.”

Toomer attributed some of the slow fade this season to the learning process many of his younger players endured while remaining competitive in the second half.

Toomer will have to replace 18 seniors and brings back six returning starters on defense and offense as well.

Some of the seniors leave Sterling with positive feelings.

“Even though we went 1-9, I wouldn’t trade the season for anything else,” senior Tayvion Haggerty said. “I built some relationships and when it came down to playing football, the record didn’t mean that much to me. For the next class coming in, I feel we set the tone for what we want here. It’s only up from here.”

Haggerty felt the team’s intensity was much higher after going through the motions more the year previous. 

“Next year coming into it, the underclassmen know what will be expected of them,” Haggerty said. 

Three Burning Questions with Toomer:

Do they have the players returning to maintain progress in 2020?

“Defensively, we return some experience and we only lose one guy on our offensive line - Trace Smoak was our only senior. It starts up front.”

Will a veteran offensive line lead to more finished drives and scoring?

“Absolutely. Any time you have a good offensive line, that’s a plus especially with a veteran quarterback. Sometimes you can’t have both. With a veteran offensive line coming back and understanding the scheme better it will make them better. Every team you see that their O-line and D-line are good, everyone else around them usually follows suit.

Would dropping to 5A make a difference?

“For us, being on that level where we have about the same amount of numbers, but we aren’t going to cry whether we are in 5A or 6A. It’s about us. We have to still prove ourselves. There are some 5A programs as good as 6A ones. We will play the schedule designed for us.”


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