Conwright, son of Lady Raiders star, develops into offensive playmaker for undefeated Mustangs

The Coronado football team is inching closer to a Class 5A Division I title.

 

With the recent success, the program has been compared to a wide array of deep playoff teams, a few locally and many from off the Llano Estacado.

But it might be fair to draw comparisons to Marsha Sharp’s Texas Tech women’s basketball team since both squads share a common thread: Carolyn Thompson.

The former Lady Raider standout will be at the Mustangs’ 2 p.m. Saturday game against Denton Ryan for the Region I championship. She’ll be in attendance supporting Blair Conwright, a junior receiver and kick returner, as well as his friends.

Conwright, who put up about 350 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns last week, is the son of Texas Tech’s all-time leading points scorer regardless of gender.

“We’re extremely proud of Blair,” the former Texas Tech star and current head principal at Lubbock ISD’s Matthews Alternative High School. “As a matter of fact, I probably don’t see his talents the way others see it because I always question, ‘Are they playing tough teams for him to get four touchdown and the amount of yardage?’ I see him as just my son, not as a great athlete. Although he is a great athlete. I’m beginning to realize that.”

Like mother, like son

Thompson — who is now Thompson-Conwright — saw her son torch the Colleyville Heritage defense last week for 202 receiving yards on four catches, run for 64 yards on a sweep and return a kick off more than 70 yards in an 80-62 shootout.

She sees a lot of her talents from the hardwood making their way to the football field.

Back in 1979, Thompson-Conwright signed with Texas Tech to partake in women’s college basketball, an NCAA sport which became sanctioned midway through her career.

Sharp’s arrival coincided with the NCAA’s adoption of women’s basketball, and it didn’t take long for the Lady Raiders to start unloading on all Southwest Conference schools not named Texas. Even the Longhorns had buckled by the 1991-1992 season as Texas Tech worked its way to six conference titles and two shared titles through the 1999-2000 season.

The Lady Raiders basketball program reached its peak with the 1992-1993 national championship.

Thompson-Conwright was on the front edge of the Sharp dynasty.

Following the bloodline

Think of Saturday’s game as another opportunity for Conwright to build up Coronado’s own reputation like his mother did for Texas Tech and his big brother as a Mustang.

James Conwright helped get Coronado’s previous ball rolling in the early 2000s before walking on as a defensive back at Texas Tech for the 2004 through 2007 seasons. Austin Zouzalik got the Mustangs to the regional semifinal round in 2007, which was tied as the program’s best finish with the 2016 team until last week.

Coronado head coach Seth Parr inherited a struggling program and endured 3-7 seasons his first two years before enjoying a breakthrough the last two seasons.

And that first jump featured a sophomore Blair Conwright, who ranked third on the team with 543 yards and six touchdowns behind two seniors — one being Oklahoma State signee Noah Sifrit.

Blair Conwright, who’s listed on the roster as 6-feet and 140 pounds, isn’t the most imposing wideout when on the field. But his ability to fly past defenders, or find an open spot in the defense, has allowed him to record a team-leading 1,503 yard. He’s one of two receivers who have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

The athletic receiver also has a passion for basketball, baseball and track and field. He’s expected to be a major contributor after the football season ends.

“Number one, he’s not fully matured yet,” Parr said. “I know his body will mature. Number two, he has the confidence of Michael Jordan. He doesn’t think there’s anything he can’t do other than practice in cold weather. And then he’s going to get faster. He plays two sports, and it eats up a lot of time. But once he gets into (college) strength and conditioning it’s going to be unbelievable.

“The guys up there said they thought he’d have 10 or 15 offers by spring time. Colleyville Heritage’s coach has been really complimentary.”

Gaining recognition

Not only has Heritage coach Joe Willis lauded Conwright’s talents after last week’s game, he’s taken an active interest.

He told Parr in a good luck phone call earlier this week he’s telling his college connections to watch the receiver’s film.

“My freshman year, I was a quarterback,” Conwright said. “I was moved to receiver last year and that’s when everything was difficult. You have to have good footwork to be a receiver, and I did not want to do that or run. But that’s what you do to be a receiver. It was a big switch, but I overcame it. I’m here.”

Coronado should become more visible for college coaches and fans of Texas football alike should the Mustangs get by a Ryan team that shares the same record, 13-0. The winning team will play its next game against either Dallas Highland Park or Mansfield Lake Ridge at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The allure of playing inside an NFL stadium, turning on the practice field’s lights at 4 p.m. and sleet blowing in the West Texas wind remind Conwright and his Mustangs teammates of just how far they’ve come.

“When I was in middle school, I started to realize the full scope of state championships,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to win one. I’ve wanted to win one since sixth grade. We’re close.”

Making his own name

“Thriller” was the top song in the nation and Ronald Reagan was the president when Thompson-Conwright’s basketball career wound down. There was no WNBA to advance toward and her playing career was over after guiding the Lady Raiders to their first-ever, first-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

The Southwest Conference Hall of Famer scored a career-best 707 points in 30 games played and set a new career high in shooting percentage at 57.4, four points higher than her junior season.

Her No. 44 jersey is retired and hangs from the rafters at United Supermarkets Arena along with Sheryl Swoopes and Krista Kirkland, plus a symbolic jersey for Sharp.

Now, she’s ready to watch someone else carve out a legacy.

“When I compare myself to Blair, he is probably a much more dedicated athlete,” Thompson-Conwright said. “His work ethic is a lot stronger than what mine was. Blair’s the type of kid that’ll go work out and do things when no one is watching. We probably have a lot in common when it comes to competing.”

Just the facts

Who: Coronado vs. Denton Ryan

What: Class 5A Division I state quarterfinal

When: 2 p.m., Saturday

Where: Abilene Christian University’s Wildcat Stadium, Abilene

Records: Coronado 13-0; Denton Ryan 13-0

Updates: Follow Mike Graham on Twitter at @AJ_MikeGraham

Notable: The Mustangs are the first LISD squad to reach the state quarterfinal round since 1992 and first Class 5A squad dating back to 1974.

 

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