Editors Note: This is the last in a four-part series wrapping up the 2018-19 athletic years at our four area high schools; Navarro, Marion, Lifegate Christian and Seguin. See the other three year-end wrap-ups online at www.seguingazette.com.

A winning culture, an attitude change, a positive mental outlook, a psychological shift.

It began with football, and then simply continued throughout the year at Seguin High School.

Whatever one calls it, Seguin’s athletic programs made huge strides this past year, the third year of athletic director and head football coach Travis Bush’s time at the school.

Bush, who came to Seguin after coaching at the collegiate level with several schools including Texas State, UTSA and Houston, and in the pros in 2015 with the Buffalo Bills, applied what he learned at those higher levels to the athletic programs at Seguin.

This year, he began to see the fruits of that labor.

The decision to return to the high school level came in part from his dad, a longtime athletic director and coach in high school, and in part from his family, and the desire to settle down. 

“My dad was an A.D. and coach for 42 years and I played for him,” Bush said. “So I always saw myself being an A.D. and head coach — and I have two sons and always wanted to coach my boys. My wife and I always talked throughout my career that at some point, when the window of opportunity was there, we would like to get back to high school.”

When the job opened at Seguin, and after a year apart from the family while he coached in Buffalo, it seemed a perfect fit.

“It worked out well,” Bush said. “All the alone time I had was what really helped me put together the philosophy stuff I had learned in the 15 years I was coaching. That’s where everything was drawn up and prepared me to come back, looking for high school jobs — and ultimately led to me coming here.”

That knowledge is having an effect at Seguin, which saw a banner year in 2018-19 across the spectrum of sports teams at the school.

Football

The Matadors turned things around on the football field last season, making the postseason for the first time in 12 years, and back-to-back two-win seasons his first two years at the school.

“Coming in three years ago, we knew it was going to be tough and knew what we were getting into to,” Bush said. “We hadn’t had a winning season in more than 10 years, so we knew we needed to make a culture change.”

That shift in attitude, Bush said, has come from an approach to coach more than just the physical side of the game, but to also work on the mental aspect.

“We train our bodies so hard, but people say the game is more mental than physical,” Bush said. “We’ve worked to establish the culture of our program to focus on that mental toughness. Winners don’t just win on Friday nights, they win every day of the week. They win in the classroom, they win in the weight room and on the practice field, so it’s been a mindset and a culture of winning every day.”

The Matadors took that new mindset into District 12-5A last fall, steamrolling several district opponents on the way to a 6-1 mark, and tying for first place in the district with Dripping Springs and Austin LBJ. The final game of the district season, with LBJ, went into overtime for the outright district title, LBJ coming out on top 35-28.

The Matadors season ended in the first round of the playoffs with a 21-6 loss to Georgetown, and they finished the year 7-4 overall.

“We’ve gotten to the point now where we expect to be in the playoffs, and we expect to be competing for championships,” Bush said.

Jhalen Mickles, who split time with senior Anthony Gonzales last year, returns as the starter at quarterback for the Matadors this fall.

“He played a lot the last two years, and will be the sole starter for us this year,” Bush said. “He’s matured physically, mentally and is one of the leaders of the team.”

Senior running backs Jacob Berkley and Darien Shannon were all-district performers for the Mats last season, while two members of the state- qualifying 4x100 relay team, Tavawn Williams and Marques Washington, will step into those roles for next season.

“They both saw time last season,” Bush said. “It’s a position that gets gassed and tired, so we roll a lot of fresh guys in there.”

Returning are most of the offensive line that led the way to more than 4,700 yards of total offense in district play last year.

Receivers Dravan McKnight and Jonathan Patterson, along with sophomore Clark Ullrich, will look to replenish a receiving corps that amassed almost 2,500 yards receiving in district play.

Defensively, Chance Brewster, a two-time all-district selection at defensive end, returns for his senior season, and Chanse Hernandez and Tanner Schuehle will come back to lead a defense hit hard by graduation.

The Matadors lost nine starters off that defense, and five more on offense. But the incoming group of sophomores, who have gone 26-2-2 over three years in their junior high and freshman seasons, gives the coach reason to be optimistic for the seasons ahead.

“That’s where it starts,” Bush said. “They don’t know losing, all they know is winning, so we’re excited about the future.”

Other teams, athletes

The Lady Mats volleyball team continued the trend of the new-found winning attitude at the school, earning its first district championship in 28 years, with a perfect 16-0 mark in District 26-5A. 

“Our two most consistent programs since I’ve been here has been volleyball and softball,” Bush said. “They’ve been the playoff contenders every year. The cultures of those programs have been good since I got here, and that’s why they win.”

Coach Kristi Stanley has been the head coach for seven years now, and took the Mats (30-10 overall) to the third round of the playoffs, where they fell to Dripping Springs.

Emmy Riordan earned Offensive MVP honors in the district, while seniors Presley Engelke and Carsyn Dietz, and junior Riley Brittain were named to the All-District First Team.

Also in the fall, the cross country teams finished fourth in district, with Jerry Garcia and Cheney Stephenson finishing fourth and fifth at district, and making it to regionals as individuals.

“Those were the first three sports of the year, and they really kickstarted everything,” Bush said. “You had your first district championship in 28 years in volleyball, the first district championship in 12 years in football and the first regional qualifiers in cross country in several years, so it really kicked off the semester.”

The basketball teams went up against some tough competition with realignment, thrown into the same district as state qualifier Wagner and Boerne-Champion on the boys side and Tivy and Veterans Memorial for the girls.

“They’re two programs kind of in the building phase,” Bush said. “Especially for the girls, as head coach Jamie Moore was in her first year. They had some young players there, and although their record didn’t show it, they showed a lot of improvement this year.

“The boys have a good nucleus returning, and have been working hard in the offseason,” Bush continued. “They lost a lot of close games to some really good teams, so you can see the signs of them being able to get over that hump.”

The girls soccer team got it’s first district win in more than four years, with Chelsea Hernandez and Brenda Vargas leading the scoring for the Lady Mats. The boys finished with a similar mark of 3-11 in district action.

On the track, Mary Lee, Nayla Harris and the boys 4x100 team qualified for state, the first time in many years Seguin has sent that many athletes to the state meet in Austin.

On the tennis court, Devon Gonzales, Hailey Merkel, Ashley Medellin and Alex Martinez all finished the year with winning records in both singles and doubles. Golfers Keaghan Holt and Jake Garrison were the top Matador finishers at the district tournament, as both teams finished third.

Baseball, softball

First-year coach Dusty Brittain took the Matadors to the playoffs for the first time in five years, and the boys won their last six games in district to qualify. 

They fell to perennial power Dripping Springs in the first round, two games to one.

“I felt baseball had been close, so we decided to make a change and bring Dusty in from Copperas Cove,” Bush said. “Now they know what it takes to get there, so we’re looking for them to take the next step as well.”

The softball team advanced farther than they ever have in the playoffs, reaching the fourth round before falling to Calallen. The Lady Mats dropped the first five games of the season before going 29-6 (11-3 in district) the rest of the way.

“They do it year-in and year-out,” Bush said. “They are accountable and they are tough — and that’s what it takes to win in any sport.”

Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at sports@seguingazette.com.

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