Tomball High School, located in the Tomball region of the Houston metropolitan area, plays in the Division 6A of Texas high school football. With over two thousand students enrolled, the school’s gradual student body growth has led to the Tomball cougars joining the Texas 6A division as of 2020. First-year head coach Dave Handal was tasked with following up a 6A D2 state semifinal appearance after the departure of a large senior class and a relatively small rising senior group of eighteen players. Even in the midst of a big transition year, Tomball were able to advance to the regional playoff game after two notable playoff wins, including a last second victory over an undefeated New Caney football program. With their lone playoff loss coming to eventual 6A D2 champion DeSoto, Tomball were able to put together an excellent season and I spoke to Coach Handal about how Tomball were able to pull off such an impressive feat.
Coach Dave Handal joined the program as a defensive coordinator under Kevin Flanigan in 2017 before being promoted to the head coaching position after Coach Flanigan accepted a position as the athletic director for Tomball ISD.
The most important thing that Coach Flanigan taught me, something that I’ll never forget and that we live by each day in our program, is that your culture is the most important part of any successful program. It’s not about how talented you are, you can be very successful if you really spend the time to develop and teach the expectations of your culture to your kids.”Dave Handal, HC
Asking Coach Handal about what the expectations were prior to the season beginning, he emphasized the importance of focusing on getting better each and every day and disregarding the word that so many often used: rebuild. After an 0-2 start, the team really started to find their identity and had a huge morale boosting win against Dawson High School before beginning district play, a win which kicked off a 6 game winning stretch for the Cougars. With this mindset in place, the rest took care of itself.
Finding consistency was one of the challenges the team undertook in the first few weeks of the season. The flashes of a good quarter came here and there, but it took until week 3 to be able to put a full game together, where the team first demonstrated how to finish a game. Some of the high points of their season included beating school rivals Tomball Memorial for the second year in a row, the first time in school history to do so. Defeating a New Caney team going on an eleven-game undefeated season was also a proud moment for the Cougars, where they were able to neutralize 4 star Ole Miss recruit Kedrick Reescano.
“We really talk about trust being the foundation of our culture, the relationships and connections with out kids, not just player to coach but outside of that whole realm. This is a life-long relationship, it’s all about the connection and trust, these kids know that their coaches truly care about not just as athletes but as people. It goes beyond the day they leave our program, whether they go to college or enter the work force or whatever they might do, that they truly know that we want them to be successful and we’ll do anything that we can to help them be successful.”Dave Handal, HC
Coach Handal explained that the team’s core values are Fast, Hard, Finish Together. Finishing everything together and remaining nine units strong, meaning there’s trust among all nine units on the team. He expressed that these values transcend the football field and that they are taught how to apply them in their day-to-day lives.
“That’s what it’s all about, where they can utilize all these things that they’ve learned in Tomball football to be a better husband, a better father, a better brother, a better student, whatever the case may be, that’s the biggest thing that we’re looking to do.”Coach Handal, HC
This year, Tomball’s senior class consisted of eighteen players, all of which Coach Handal was incredibly grateful for. Dwindling down from the sixty freshmen that started with the program in the season before the pandemic, coach described them as a resilient, determined, and positive group of kids who overcame even the grimmest of situations. Prior to the season beginning, Carson Collins, a sixteen-year-old junior on the team, lost his life along with his brothers and grandfather in a tragic homicide incident. The Tomball players were able to turn this gut-wrenching incident into a learning experience about the value of life and community, overcoming the adversities and obstacles in the season in memory of Carson.
Before letting him go, I was able to ask Coach Handal to highlight some of the talent he had on both sides of the ball that would be returning to help the team build on a great season.
Quarterback Carter Noyes, a junior this past season, played every snap in his first year on varsity. Going into his senior year with a full year of experience under his belt after making tremendous strides throughout the season, Coach Handal is excited to see what he can lead this team to this upcoming fall.
Running Koby Fosher, splitting carries in the backfield this season, had a great season as a do-it-all dynamic player for the team, and is set to shoulder an even more important role for the team next year.
Tight-end Colby Dawson, with a 6’4″ 240 lb. frame, is set to also take on a bigger role next season.
On the defensive side of the ball Ramon Pernas is set to anchor the defensive line after an impressive junior season that saw him selected to 1st team All-District, amassing 77 tackles and 12 tackles for loss.
His brother, Lucas Pernas, is also set to help lead the defensive line after a sophomore season in which he accumulated 63 tackles and 5 tackles for loss.
Looking towards the future, Coach Handal, hopes that the football program at Tomball continues to grow, having overseen three freshman teams this year. He stressed that the focus is not to talk about results or championships, but rather focus on continuing to get better and build upon the foundations that they’ve developed in the past few seasons.