School Spotlight: C.E. King High School

C.E. King High School is a school located in the Sheldon district of the Houston area and it competes in the 6A Region III District 21 of Texas high school football. After a successful past few seasons that culminated in their State playoff quarterfinal appearance this season, it is safe to say C.E. King is quickly becoming one of the powerhouses not only of the Northeastern region but in the metro Houston area. C.E. King had a very successful season and despite playing in one of the most difficult districts in the nation, were able to win three playoff games en route to a quarterfinal playoff appearance where they more than held their own against Texas powerhouse Katy High School.

Head coach Derek Fitzhenry first became involved with the program in 2017 after a stint as an assistant coach at North Shore High School. He credited the opportunity to work with Dr. King Davis, Sheldon ISD superintendent, as a major contributor towards his decision, with Dr. Davis having a proficient athletic background and a passion for the combination of education and sport. With the school going 1-11 the season prior to Coach Fitzhenry joining, he knew there was a lot of work to be done but the potential that he saw as well as the promise of new facilities for the school convinced him to take the chance to build something special.

Coach Fitzhenry in the weight room with the team

A typical season for the C.E. King program starts with Panther Maker, a boot camp that emphasizes effort, attitude, and accountability. Speaking on how he first wanted to help positively change the mentality of the team, Coach Fitzhenry mentioned the importance of work ethic as a core belief. Making sure not only that student athletes put the hours in but that they wanted to put those hours in. The team and the community immediately embraced the challenge and the hunger they had to succeed has resulted in their recent success. Even in lopsided losses the team continues to give their everything until the final whistle.

One unique aspect of C.E. King is the devotion and dedication of the staff towards helping their kids gain scholarships to play at the next level.

“Some coaches say well you can’t get kids scholarships, you can’t but you can herd them and you can assist them. We put a lot of effort in because I was that kid, I was that kid that had to walk on because I didn’t get a scholarship and I wanted to play college ball.”

-Coach Fitzhenry

With fifteen kids signed in 2022 and seventeen in 2023, the program has triumphed in finding kids opportunities to play at the next level. The coaches not only help those who want to play football at the next level but also assist all other members of the program in figuring out what that next step after high school is going to be. They meet with the kids as freshmen and work all the way up to their senior year until they finish with football. Whether the next step is the military, trade school, or college, they spend the time necessary to start trying to help them achieve that goal. The staff wants the kids to know they are the ambassadors of the program and how they are truly valued as such. A lot of time is also put into their grades and academics, as the team starts a folder on each athlete from when they start that includes their transcript, an eligibility calculator, and all their contacts.

“You can’t be two people. You can’t be someone who focuses and works hard when it comes to athletics but then get to the classroom and not pay attention. You’re practicing that, that’s who you’re becoming, you can’t change that when it comes to athletics and vice versa. That’s the expectation all the time is that great effort in focus and applying it to everything they do.”

-Coach Fitzhenry
The team posing for a photo shoot (photo via VYPE)

The team had one returning starter on offense and four on defense so there were a lot of early growing pains. One of the biggest learning curves was a late season district loss against Summer Creek, where the team was able to start clicking as a team which fueled the four game win streak that followed. Being able to defeat historically great programs like Pearland that have competed for state championships was among the high points of the season. Beating Hightower in the third round playoffs in convincing fashion also said a lot about how far the program had come. Although they were eliminated by Katy they were able to put 34 points on them, something no team prior had accomplished that season and that was also a memorable highlight for the team, and something build off of.

When asked about some of the prospects we could potentially see break out in the 2023 season, Coach Fitzhenry opted to pause his assessment in this department until the end of spring football.

“There’s always surprises during spring ball that come out, sometimes a kid you don’t even know yourself sticks out if he’s had a good offseason, and start to look like college ready players. We definitely have a lot of young kids that are ready to step up all over the field.”

-Coach Fitzhenry

One name that does stand out however, is class of 2024 wide receiver Rae’g Dailey, a running back who in their game against Katy had 172 receiving yards and two touchdowns, as well as a 93 yard punt return.

In the future, Coach Fitzhenry is aiming for a district championship as well as reaching a state championship with King. The program has improved every year and he hopes that they continue to improve and progress further to achieve those goals. With the culture and foundations fully laid out with the program, there is no doubt plenty of success ahead for this promising football team.