SPRING HILL— Tivy’s football team experienced a brief scare during 7-on-7 games at Smithson Valley High School on Tuesday morning.
The Antlers’ all-district receiver, Colten Drake, grimaced in pain after snagging a pass from Cole Miears, immediately clutching his left knee as soon as he landed on the grass. He slowly returned to his feet, forcefully removed his helmet and hobbled toward the sideline.
He did everything he could to overcome the injury. He chugged the gallon of water that he brought with him to Smithson Valley; he jogged down a straight line.
Soon enough, Tivy coach David Jones ventured over to check on his wideout. After a short conversation, Jones offered him an important reminder.
“You’re not allowed to be injured,” said Jones, only half-joking.
The injury didn’t appear to be too serious. Drake eventually returned to the game, immediately catching a 15-yard cross through traffic, giving Jones a chance to exhale.
“Unless my bone is out of my body, I am going to play,” Drake said.
Tuesday’s scene captured just how much his role at Tivy has evolved during the past year. At this time last year, Drake was still getting to know his new teammates, having just transferred from Boerne High School to Tivy. He spent a lot of his time standing next to Tivy receivers coach Jason Crawford, trying to learn the Antlers’ route tree.
This summer is a different story. Drake is now an integral part of the Tivy football program, one of the main leaders that the Antlers can’t afford to lose this season. He caught 34 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, despite missing a few games with a concussion. He’s hoping to surpass those numbers in the fall.
“During last year’s 7-on-7, he was a little shy — definitely not the player he is right now,” fellow receiver Brooks McCoy said. “But once he got the hang of things, it was pretty quick in the season (last year) that he picked up a leadership role on the team. He is fulfilling that role even more this year.”
Crawford admitted that it’s unusual for a transfer player to become a leader so quickly at his new school. Then again, Drake isn’t your usual player. He quickly endeared himself to his new teammates with easygoing personality and work ethic. During the fall, he lifted weights on his own after practice, striving to improve his grip strength. On Tuesday morning, he arrived at Tivy’s field house at 6 a.m. for an early-morning workout.
All that extra work allowed Drake to thrive on the football field last season. He hauled in passes in tight coverage, becoming one of Miears’ favorite targets in the red zone. He consistently broke tackles after receptions, helping the Antlers average 447.4 yards and 42.2 points per game.
“He’s a hard-working kid, very respectful,” Crawford said. “His family has done a great job raising him and we are fortunate to have him. … For me, having Brooks and him as my position players, it makes me look like a much smarter coach than I really am — having two dynamic athletes like that who can make plays, especially with their physiques. You are looking at two guys who are possibly D-I receivers.”
“It was easy for him to slide in and fit in with the guys,” Crawford said. “And it says a lot about our kids: They welcome people who move in with open arms. It’s easy for kids to fit in, especially if you have the character and work ethic that Colten has.”
The good news for Crawford is that he has one more year to coach Drake, who enters his senior year with high expectations. Not only does he hope to have 55 catches this fall, but he and McCoy are also in a competition to see who can have fewest number of drops in practices and games.
“I’m just trying to be perfect,” Drake said.
He probably won’t attain perfection this fall, but he can achieve another personal goal: Helping the Antlers advance past the third round of the playoffs for the first time in five years.
This upcoming senior class has always had talent. As sophomores, they lifted Tivy’s junior varsity team to an undefeated record. Most of them started as juniors, helping the Antlers win their first district title since 2015.
And the class became even stronger when Drake’s family decided to move from Boerne to Kerrville.
“I want to go to state this year,” McCoy said. “That’s the goal. That’s what the whole team is aiming for.”