McKenna Whites, now a freshman at Texas Tech, was a cornerstone in Lake Country Christian’s success last basketball season.
The Eagles won the TAPPS 4A state title, her second ring in three years.
Her dad, Wade, is the football coach and athletic director at the school. Her brother, Hayden, is now a sophomore running back. And her grandfather, Gary, is an assistant coach.
“I’ve been joking with them recently saying you guys better win state. I can’t keep carrying two state championships all by myself,” McKenna said.
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Wade and Hayden have a chance at winning a state title when Lake Country (8-4) takes on Shiner St. Paul (5-8) in the TAPPS Division IV final at noon on Saturday at Waco Midway’s Panther Stadium.
“To be coached by my father and granddad is a blessing,” said Hayden, who’s accounted for 2,300 yards, 31 touchdowns, five interceptions and 55 tackles. “The experience of them and the tough love has pushed me to become who I am today. I have a long way to go, but I’m sure with their guidance and Christ in my heart I will be the best I can be when it is all said and done. I am honored and blessed to be playing for my family and with my family.”
Gary Whites has been coaching for 49 years, most notably at Burleson, where he spent over three decades as an assistant. He was inducted into the Burleson ISD Hall of Fame in 2015.
But as soon as Wade got into coaching at Fort Worth Southwest Christian in the early 2000s, Gary followed. The pair have shared the sideline for the past 17 years.
“These have been special years with my dad,” Wade said. “I got into coaching because of the love for the game. I grew up watching the difference my dad had made in so many of his players and students’ lives.
“His players and the men that he has coached with have adored my father. He has always coached for the right reasons and the relationships he has built over the years are lifetime commitments and every player he has ever coached knows it.”
Wade spent 10 seasons at Southwest Christian and seven as the head coach. There they went from 1-9 during his first year to the state semifinals the following season.
By the time Wade left the school, he had taken the program to two state finals and seven state semifinals.
After a stint in the college game with Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, he returned to Fort Worth and took over at Lake Country in 2009.
Gary, who still worked at Southwest Christian, returned to coaching to rejoin Wade.
“I loved Burleson, but jumped at a chance to coach with my son again,” Gary said. “So when he returned, I wanted to reunite with him. It has been a great ride to not only coach with Wade, but also with the many great coaches over the years. It has meant the world to me to be able to coach my sons Wade and Ward, who works for ESPN Central Texas. But to now be able to coach my grandson and be a part of the successes that he has had is an absolute blessing. Coaching is a hard life and to be able to hold out and be able to coach Hayden is really icing on the cake.”
Hayden rushed for 350 yards and five TDs, and got a quarterback sack when the Eagles clinched a spot in the final four after beating Dallas Covenant, 51-14.
“Hayden loves his teammates and he understands that without their efforts he wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Gary said. “They have truly forged a bond and a brotherhood and have picked each other up all year.”
Lake Country knocked out Dallas First Baptist two weeks later, 56-26, which tied a season-high in points, to clinched its first state title game berth. This all coming after the Eagles started 0-2 and 2-4.
St. Paul started 0-7 and went 2-8 in the regular season before winning its first three playoff games. The Cardinals beat Hallettsville Sacred Heart, 24-17, in the semifinals.
They’ve won four state titles in the past decade including back-to-back in 2015 and 2016.
“Our team has continued to improve week in and week out,” Wade said. “Saturday will be a very tough game because Shiner St. Paul is a hard-nosed football power that executes their jobs to perfection. We are truly looking forward to the test.”
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Hollingsworth has thrown for 12 TDs while junior running back Koby Haynes has added 12 TD rushes and 672 yards. Haynes has a team-high 92 tackles. Senior linebacker Luke Cummings is second with 70.
The defense has 28 takeaways, including 20 interceptions, and 26 sacks.
“This team is so special and I am so proud of the boys and their journey,” Wade said. “Each one of them has played a tremendous role in getting us here to this point. Each young man has sacrificed time, blood, sweat and tears and have pushed themselves to grow closer as a team and closer to Christ.”
Lake Country is averaging 36 points per game while allowing 17.
“We’ve been working so hard since the summer,” Hayden said. “We have bonded so much throughout the months and we’re ready to win it all for the glory of God. Throughout this whole season we have been focused on keeping God in the center of our victories and stayed faithful through our defeats. He alone has forged us and prepared us for this next step.”
“To be able to share this time with my dad and Hayden is amazing,” Wade added. “It’s amazing for dads who are in the stands getting to cheer on their sons, but to share the sideline with not only my father but now my son as well has been the ultimate reward for years of dedication and hard work.”