Making a Rocket

Football to take on Judson team rife with questions


Davis Kuhn

Working upfield, returner Brayden Bafidis goes skyward against South San on Oct. 15. Bafidis’ special teams acumen has been integral to the Rangers’ success this season.

Jackson Posey, Sports Director

The story of David and Goliath is well-known. A member of an underdog tribe takes a shot at a giant, hits his mark and fells an entire empire.

Oh, wait – that’s actually the story of East Central and Judson.

The upstart Hornets (5-2, 3-1) walked into Rutledge Stadium on Friday with two significant streaks playing against them.  They hadn’t beaten the Rockets since 1981, but then again, neither had most teams: the Rockets entered this season with a 44-year streak of winning seasons. With four losses on the books, that hung in the balance entering Week 8.

But with two seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Hornets snapped both streaks. Down four points with 43 yards to go, quarterback Caden Bosanko stepped up in the pocket and launched the ball to double-covered receiver Jack Stewart, who managed to haul it in and stay in bounds. The extra-point try failed, but the damage was done. East Central won, 30-28.

That loss was not an isolated incident for the Rockets. After upsetting state-ranked DeSoto in Week 1, they finished their preseason slate losing consecutive games to Top 10 teams Austin Lake Travis and College Station A&M Consolidated, both by double digits. 

A last-second field goal spoiled the Rockets’ district opener against New Braunfels, and they mustered just 14 points at Clemens in another three-point loss. After the bye week, they beat South San, 37-0, but Stewart’s catch brought them back to earth the following Friday.

Later that weekend, KSAT 12 Sports reported that Judson ISD and head coach Rodney Williams were parting ways.

Many fans have spoken of the firing as if the losing was the obvious cause, but Scott Hanson of San Antonio Redzone reported that the firing was “not results based.”

The Express-News quoted Williams as being “shocked at” the decision, and reported that Judson ISD athletic director Trivia Corrales gave him no other reason than that “the district wanted to go in a different direction.”

“You don’t know what all went into that, so you don’t … want to speculate,” Smithson Valley head coach Larry Hill said. “You know, it’s unusual, obviously, in the high school level, or any level, but at the high school level to do something in the season. So I’m not sure about that. (But) we have a lot of respect for him and his staff and program, so, you know, it’s a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for sure.”

As always, the Rockets are chock-full with talent. According to 247 Sports, four Judson players have earned FBS offers, including Texas A&M commit Johnny Bowens. But for the past two seasons, that talent hasn’t translated to wins.

“You know what they are,” Hill said. “You turn on the tape, you see the same schemes defensively and offensively, see the same caliber athletes, the same method of doing things, the same physically imposing challenge that they are. They just haven’t won. It doesn’t mean they won’t, doesn’t mean they can’t. We feel like it’s gonna be the best team we’ve played all year.”

“It’s hard to say (why they haven’t won). There’s no lack of effort, there’s no lack of execution. They’ve made some mistakes at crucial times – like you do, typically, when you lose a game – but there’s no absence of playmakers, there’s no absence of effort. So, I don’t know. Just, football’s a strange game sometimes. I think in their case, though, they can just turn on a dime. This is not a team that’s getting spanked. This is not a team that doesn’t know how to win. So, we know what we’re getting ready to get into, and our players are preparing for just that.”

The Rockets are slated to play at Ranger Stadium this Friday, and with UIL realignment looming this spring, this could be the last meeting between the longtime rivals. Smithson Valley may move down to Class 5A following the opening of Pieper High School, while Judson has reportedly grown since the last realignment cycle.

A game swirling with this many storylines would be a fitting close to what is perhaps District 27-6A’s fiercest rivalry. Smithson Valley leads the all-time series, 10-6, but the teams evenly split their 10 matchups in the past nine seasons.

A year ago, the Rangers stole an upset win at Rutledge in Week 11 to dash the Rockets’ hopes of winning an undisputed district championship. The season prior, someone allegedly doctored a Snapchat photo of Ranger players to include a slur aimed at Judson. Tensions always run high between these teams, and tempers have flared even more in recent years. Whether the series will go out with a bang or a whimper – or not until the next realignment cycle – has yet to be seen.