Pearland's Heath loves a good challenge
by Darrell K. Ardison
June 20, 2017
PEARLAND — Tony Heath has never been one to back away from a challenge.
His high school football coaching career has been built around overcoming obstacles and navigating potential potholes.
Following an 8-4 campaign and second-round playoff exit in 2016, the Pearland High School head football coach felt the program may have lost some of its edge and needed to re-create its culture.
That meant participating in spring football for the first time since 2012 and concentrating on personnel, fundamentals and technique.
"We wanted to address the toughness and accountability within our program," Heath said. "I felt that it was time for a change because the standard had slipped a bit.
"I think we were living on the past. Our goal was to get the kids working with enthusiasm while the coaches were coaching on the run," Heath said. "By the time spring ball had finished, I believe we re-established that." While four losses in a single season may be acceptable in some circles, the bar has been raised in Pearland under Heath's leadership.
"Some things get skipped over in the fall because you're trying to get ready for game one," Heath said. "This spring we got repetitions to a lot of kids so that we could see who really wanted to play. We saw some strides in our kids that enlightened our eyes.
"We needed to strengthen our offensive line and we think we've found some players there," Heath said. "Overall among our frontline players we've got some pretty good prospects. It's still up in the air as far as depth is concerned."
The 2017 season will be Heath's 21st at the helm of the Oilers. Meeting a big challenge head on is what brought the former La Marque High School assistant coach to Pearland in the first place (1997).
A 17-game losing streak was underway and the streak reached 23 consecutive losses before a 24-13 victory over Pasadena on October 17, 1997 ended Pearland's streak of futility.
The days of scheduling Pearland High School for homecoming would soon be left behind.
Pearland is 195-53 overall under Heath and he's become the winningest coach in PHS history. The Oilers have qualified for the post-season in 17 consecutive seasons.
Prior to Heath's arrival the Oilers were 6-63-1 from 1990 to 1996, including three 0-10 seasons. Those years are ancient memory now while Pearland has become one of the elite high school football programs in the Lone Star State.
Defeating No. 1 nationally ranked Euless Trinity 28-24 in the 2010 Class 5A Division I state championship game to cap off a 16-0 season put a stamp on the program's rise to prominence. That also included disposing of the Katy Tigers in the 5A Region III championship game before over 41,000 fans at Rice Stadium.
A return to the 2013 state title game against defending state champion Allen was further proof of the Pearland Oilers' credibility.
Heath credits his staff with much of the success Pearland football has enjoyed over the past two decades. "I'm just the orchestrator; (my assistant coaches) are the nuts and bolts," Heath said. "They're the reasons we've been able to get to this position."
Meanwhile, one of the fastest growing communities in Texas continues to reverberate with excitement as a once dormant football program has evolved into a perennial powerhouse.
2017 Pearland Oilers Football Schedule
Fri - 9/01/17 Clear Springs Home 7:00 p.m.
Fri - 9/08/17 SB Memorial Away 7:00 p.m.
Fri - 9/15/17 Manvel Away 7:00 p.m.
Fri - 9/22/17 Pas Memorial Home 7:00 p.m.
Thu - 9/28/17 *Alief Elsik Away 7:00 p.m.
Fri - 10/06/17 *Alief Taylor Home 7:00 p.m.
Thu - 10/12/17 *Alief Hastings Away 7:00 p.m.
Fri - 10/20/17 *Dawson Away 7:00 p.m.
Fri - 10/27/17 *George Ranch Away 7:00 p.m.
Fri - 11/03/17 *Brazoswood Away 7:00 p.m.
Fri - 11/10/17 OPEN
* Denotes District 23-6A Game