HABCA All-Star Game a final reunion and end of an era for two area coaches
6/22/2017 6:28 PM

Tuesday's Houston Area Baseball Coaches Association 6A All-Star Game, a 3-2 victory by the South squad over the North, was more than just a celebration of 40 top-tier Houston student-athletes.

For two coaches, the event served as a bow tied neatly around a 16-year relationship: student and teacher, mentor and mentee.

"The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master."

The above quote is, of course, Darth Vader from 1977's Star Wars. But it could just as easily have been Corey Cephus, speaking to Armando Sedeño in the North team's dugout.

Cephus is, and has for the last year been, the head baseball coach at Cy Ranch High School. Prior to taking the job with the Mustangs, Cephus was a longtime Sedeño assistant at Langham Creek.

Notably, Cephus was still very much a part of the team during the state semifinal run two seasons ago that, in Sedeño's opinion, earned the Langham staff the honor of coaching the North squad. Sedeño said after Tuesday's game that it only felt right to offer Cephus the opportunity to join the rest of the Langham coaches in the dugout at the University of Houston's Schroeder Park.

"He was with us on that run," Sedeño said. "And I got the award because of that run, I think, so I just believed that it was the right thing to do."

Cephus and Sedeño both had a plethora of Cy-Fair ISD players to coach over the course of their one-night reunion, with 11 of the 20 North roster slots going to 17-6A standouts. Shortstop Tommy Tolve, a Langham Creek Lobo, was a varsity player when Cephus was still on staff. Right-handed pitcher Kel Bordwine, shortstop Hayden Evans and centerfielder Eric Bohnert were all stalwarts on a Mustang squad that went 27-8 and three rounds deep in the playoffs in Cephus' rookie season at the helm.

Besides, Cephus doesn't turn down baseball, particularly not in the offseason drought.

"When your boss of 17 years calls and says, 'hey, I'm being honored to coach a team – would you like to come with me?' that's a no-brainer for me," Cephus said. "Those years we were together were very special to me. The run Langham had [two seasons ago] was special. So when he reached out, I had a couple of kids here, as well, so it's a win-win for me. And I'm always up for a good night of baseball."

For Sedeño - honored by HABCA for the second time, though not since the '90s, prompting him to impishly wonder aloud whether 'they' had 'forgotten' about him, despite a 2015 Ray Knoblauch award from HABCA he has surely not forgotten – the experience of coaching the North squad was all the richer for having Cephus, once again and for the last time, coaching by his side.

"I've known him for 16 years," Sedeño said. "It's always a good thing to have him out there. I brought him in out of college, and he stayed with me until he left this past year."

Asked about the experience of watching Cephus grow, from virtually a blank slate out of college to the head coach of a perennial state-title contending team of his own, Sedeño said it was rewarding, if bittersweet.

"For me, it's almost like watching your kid get married," Sedeño said. "You know they're ready to go, and it's time to leave the coop."

Cephus said that he sought out Sedeño as he began his career, based on his already-sterling reputation at the time. It's safe to say that decision worked out. Now at the helm of the Cy Ranch Baseball program, Cephus freely credits Sedeño for his help in getting there.

"When I graduated from college, I needed a job, and his name was out there, and I said, 'I need to go work with that guy,'" Cephus said. "He's been a legend in the Houston area, and so when I had that opportunity, I jumped on it. I owe a lot to him."

Cephus saw the value in one last ride alongside his former Langham Creek compatriots, under Sedeño's direction. Yes, technically, the Cephus-Langham era ended more than a calendar year ago, but not much in baseball moves quickly. Tuesday's all-star contest will likely be the last opportunity for Cephus and Sedeño to coach on the same staff. From now on, they'll face one another as rivals, twice a year in the regular season for the foreseeable future, with the potential, even, to eliminate one another from playoff contention, as Langham Creek did to Cy Ranch in the regional quarterfinals two seasons ago.

One last chance to coach together was a fitting way to commemorate the time he spent learning under Sedeño, says Cephus, and it was a comfort to know that, behind or beneath the rivalry, that same, familiar bond still exists.

"It wraps it up nicely," Cephus said. "It's funny – we competed against each other this year, but when the season was over, we came back and rekindled that bond that we had. He's a great man, and I love him to death. When he asked, of course I responded immediately."

The result – a loss – was a pretty unfamiliar one. Cephus didn't do much losing when he was an assistant at Langham. In fact, neither coach is much accustomed to losing, together or apart.

But all in all, a good night for baseball, one last nine-inning oasis before a long offseason amongst old friends for one, last time..

"Of course, you want to win the last one," Cephus said. "But hey, it was a good night."

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