HOUSTON - When Kenny Harrison arrived at Summer Creek in the spring of 2018, he went down to the middle schools to see and visit with the players who would be pulling on Bulldog gear the next fall as freshmen.
"I just knew it was a special group with a lot of confidence," Harrison said. "So, I was really looking forward to that. It was difficult not thinking about those guys knowing how special they were."
Four years later, that group has now grown into the Class of 2022 and with a 62-41 victory over Cinco Ranch on Saturday afternoon made program history reaching the State Quarterfinals for the first time ever.
Making history is something these now seniors experienced first as those freshmen in 2018.
That year - Harrison's first leading the program - the Bulldogs went 9-4 and reached the Regional Semifinals for the first time ever after being bounced in the second round in the programs' four previous playoff trips.
"They knew what exactly what was at stake," Harrison said of his senior class in this playoff run.
In 2018, Harrison admits that he considered moving up the freshmen to varsity because of their talent. But instead leaned on a solid senior group, including Jack Zelezinski, and let the young guys play freshman football and in turn win a district title.
That move to keep them together is now paying huge dividends.
"They bonded and gelled together, and their confidence went through the roof," Harrison said. "Their parents as well as the kids have always trusted the process. They knew exactly what we had coming once we got to this point."
Harrison felt that this kind of season could have come in 2020 but due to a rash of injuries - including losing three starting offensive linemen at one point - and playing a tough District 21-6A slate paired with that they went 3-6 and missed the playoffs a second-straight season.
But now back healthy for 2021, the process that Harrison put in motion back in 2018 is still working today and has helped guide Summer Creek to its deepest playoff run in school history.
"I'm living the dream, it definitely works," Harrison said. "I'm blessed that Humble ISD and Athletic Director Troy Kite understood my vision and gave me the opportunity. Because like you said, it's a win-now business and we did not have success over the last two years. But from the administration they stuck with it and gave me an opportunity to get my freshman class through and we're having success.
"So, I guess it paid off both ways."
Now, to make more history - reaching the State Semifinals - Summer Creek has to take down nine-time state champion Katy on Saturday.
"I have the upmost respect for Gary Joseph and what he's done at Katy," Harrison said. "He's a very good friend of mine and a mentor. The thing I told our kids after the game was I feel good about our chances against anybody if we take care of our business. If we play for the brand on our chest, play together and not worry about who the opponent is ... Let's just play Summer Creek style football, be physical and play our brand of football."
Outside the business talk of getting ready for Katy, and making history, ask Kenny Harrison this week if he's having fun? If practicing and playing in December is fun?
“I’m having the most fun since I’ve been here,” Harrison said. “Just seeing the excitement on our guys’ faces, getting the opportunity to come and practice on Monday. I love all of it. I just want it to continue and be back next Monday.”