Recruiting: The Other Trinity

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By Johnathan Wells, Inside Texas Recruiting Contributor
Posted Sep 30, 2013
Copyright © 2020 InsideTexas.com


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Trinity High School boasts a talented and productive pair of senior linebackers this season, both of whom could be playing on Saturdays a year from now. If you're a seasoned observer of Texas high school football, that statement in itself likely isn't surprising. But it might be once I clarify that I'm not referring to perennial 5A powerhouse and three-time football state champion Euless Trinity, but to the 2A school in Trinity, Texas, a program whose last playoff win came during the Reagan administration.

 


Trinity (the town) is situated in the southwest corner of Trinity County, 20 miles northeast of Huntsville and - according to Google - 28 miles south of Crockett. Trinity (the high school) hasn't been a consistent winner or producer of college football talent in recent years, but the current roster and staff is working to change that. Last year, the Tigers made the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but lost in bi-district to finish with a 5-6 record. Trinity's second-year head coach Jarrod Smith isn't sure how long it has been since the team last finished with a winning record (he thinks the last time was in the early 2000s), but he does know the program's last football playoff win was in 1988.

There are some encouraging signs that the school's 25-year wait for its next playoff victory may be ending soon. They've got a lot of experience on defense, along with some exciting younger players on both sides of the ball. Going into their bye week before the start of district play, the Tigers are 3-2, one win better than they were at this point a season ago. They've already avenged one defeat from last season, and their two losses were by a combined 25 points, which can be viewed as progress since Trinity lost to those same two teams (Kountze and Alto) in 2012 by a combined 54 points. One big reason for the team's improvement and present playoff aspirations has been the play of senior linebackers Terrance Potts and Pat Ward. They are the two inside linebackers in Trinity's 3-4 defensive alignment, and have been by far the team's leading tacklers over the past two seasons.

Ward stands 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, and whether you're watching his highlights or those of his teammates on the defensive side, he always seems to be around the ball and ready to make the tackle if someone else doesn't first. He was Trinity's second-leading tackler as a sophomore with 72, then led the team as a junior by recording 119. Though he doesn't have blazing 40-yard-dash speed - even for a linebacker - he's quick getting to the ball and smart when dropping into coverage. He won't be mistaken for Dalton Santos any time soon, but he does have some athleticism to him, which on film shows up more in his appearances on the offensive side of the ball. Ward has spent little time on offense over the past two seasons, but as a sophomore he played tight end and H-back and was Trinity's third-leading receiver, catching 12 passes for 251 yards (20.9 yards/catch) and two touchdowns.

"Ward has a great nose for the football, a natural instinct," Coach Smith says. "He reads the play really well and doesn't get caught up in the trash that can get in his way when he's trying to make a tackle. And he's a very strong young man, probably the strongest guy on our team."

Potts is the taller and faster of the two. He's 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds with what Smith calls "an amazing frame" that could put on 20 pounds of muscle easily. He recorded 118 tackles in 2012, finishing one behind Ward for the team lead. Smith describes Potts as "tall and rangy", and says, "He's able to see the play develop and he is quick getting to the football. He's a downhill runner and is probably the hardest hitter on the team. His speed is definitely his biggest attribute."

As a sophomore, Potts played safety and running back; he recorded 18 tackles and was Trinity's second-leading rusher with 812 yards and 10 touchdowns. Like Ward, he now spends almost all of his time on defense after being a significant contributor on offense earlier in his varsity career. Ward is the more complete linebacker of the two right now, though that could be partly attributed to him having played the position for essentially his entire football career, while the more athletic Potts has only played the position since the start of his junior year. On film, Potts doesn't always play as fast as his 4.6 forty speed would suggest, but he shows glimpses of his potential when he makes full use of his speed and striking ability. He could be a very good college linebacker with more experience and a few years in a college weight room.

After finishing within one tackle of each other in 2012, Ward and Potts have been hoarding the tackles even more in 2013, and are on pace to shatter their stats from last season. Through five games, Ward holds a slight lead with 77 tackles (15 for loss) to Potts' 75 (12 for loss), which is more than double what any other player on the team has. From reading their game-by-game stats one can picture the two battling every Friday night like Legolas and Gimli at Helm's Deep to see who can wrack up higher totals. Coach Smith says there's some accuracy to that. The two have a friendly rivalry when it comes to their stats and do talk about them at times, and each made sure the other knew who finished with more tackles (Ward) and tackles for loss (Potts) at the end of last season. Their assault on the stat sheet (and opposing ball carriers) has been to the chagrin of opposing offensive coordinators, but has not yet gotten either of them offers from college football programs. 

A number of college coaches visited Trinity in the spring, and Ward and Potts are at least on the radar of a number of schools at the Division-1 level and below. One Big-12 school showed particular interest in Potts during the spring, but they haven't followed it up with any contact since then. What interest Ward has received has mostly come from the FCS and Division-II level (e.g. Sam Houston State and Lamar). Coach Smith believes both Ward and Potts have what it takes to play at the Division 1 level, and once they get the requisite test scores (both of them took the ACT for the first time in September) and have coaches watch their senior film, interest in the pair should increase.

There may be other future college athletes on the team as well. Coach Smith names senior wide receiver Ke'Mon House as a player who he believes deserves a look from college programs. He has been Trinity's go-to receiver over the past two seasons, and has made 50 receptions for 805 yards (16.1 yards/catch) and 12 TDs during that time. He also plays cornerback, and in the past season and a half has recorded 62 tackles and 4 interceptions. Smith projects him as a slot receiver in college and says he is "incredibly quick" with 4.5-4.6 speed in the forty.

Junior Michael Lewis has received most of Trinity's snaps at quarterback this season, but likely projects best as a safety at the next level. Through five games this season he has made 15 tackles and 2 sacks while playing strong safety. As a sophomore in 2012, he made 46 tackles and intercepted 4 passes, one of which he returned for a score. He also played on varsity as a freshman in 2011 and recorded 27 tackles. The 6-foot-2 180-pound Lewis can be seen in his sophomore film making plays in coverage and delivering some big hits in run support. Smith says he's "an outstanding safety with great instincts." He also has some athletic genes, as his older brother Demontrae Lewis was a star defensive end at Lufkin.

And when it's all said and done, the best athlete to come from this year's Trinity Tigers squad might just be freshman Ja'Vonte Oliphant. He has already gotten some snaps at QB and has been a playmaker at times as a safety on defense. He intercepted three passes in Trinity's week 3 win over New Waverly, and has 11 tackles over parts of three games. Coach Smith says Oliphant has a build similar to that of Lewis, and describes him as "a very talented athlete" with a "natural instinct to find the football". Though only about 5-9 or 5-10 now, Smith expects Oliphant will have a growth spurt within the next few years. "He's just a smart football player who understands the game. In two or three years he's going to be incredible. By the time he's 17, he could easily be 6-2 and 215 pounds." Sounds like he'll be one to keep an eye on.

You can watch highlights for the above-mentioned players at the following links:

If you'd like to get an in-person look at any of these players, or try to keep a count of Pat Ward and Terrance Potts's tackles, or just cheer on a team that last won a playoff game back when Rick Perry was still a Democrat, here is Trinity High School's remaining schedule:

October 11 - at Teague
October 18 - vs. Crockett
October 25 - at Palestine Westwood
November 1 - vs. Franklin
November 8 - at Elkhart

 

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