Katy rode its defense and bruising run game to its ninth state title in a 51-14 victory over Cedar Hill in the 6A Division II state title game on Saturday afternoon.
“Credit to these kids and what they went through and fighting the coronavirus and the pandemic. Being there, not knowing each and every day when they were going to get to play or who they were going to get to play,” Katy head coach Gary Joseph said. “Great lesson in perseverance and resilience.”
The Tigers scored two defensive touchdowns and forced three turnovers overall, while Seth Davis rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown and his brother Jalen added 109 yards and a touchdown of his own as Katy controlled both sides of the ball for all four quarters.
“It starts with my o-linemen. They’ve worked hard all year, and they gave a great push. I’ve never not trusted them. Going into every play, my trust with them is 100%,” Jalen Davis said. “I know where to hit the keys and it’s all thanks to them.”
After the game though, it was Seth, his sophomore brother, who was awarded Offensive MVP honors.
“I learned a lot from him and he’s learned a lot from me. I love him more than anything and I’m blessed to share the backfield with him for this team,” Jalen said. “I’m extremely proud that people are taking notice of my little brother. We’ve always worked hard from all the workouts and being competitive from a young age and it’s all starting to pay off.”
Katy was in control of the game from the opening quarter.
The Tigers struck first as Caleb Koger connected with his receiver Taylor Saulsberry for a 37-yard touchdown pass on a play action bootleg with just over a minute to go in the first quarter.
The Tiger defense stepped up after that as linebacker Shepherd Bowling made a diving interception to get the Katy offense the ball back. With good field position, the offense took advantage as Jalen Davis scored on a three-yard toss play to put Katy up 14-0.
Katy continued to extend its lead as the second quarter continued. After Nemanja Lazic nailed a 48-yard field goal for the Tigers, Katy pulled out some trickeration out of its back pocket on its next offensive drive. With the clock winding down in the half, Isaiah Smith took a handoff, froze and hid the ball to fake out the Cedar Hill defense, and then suddenly burst into full gear for a 55-yard touchdown run that gave Katy a 24-0 lead at the halftime interval.
Lazic added another field goal to open the third quarter before Katy’s defense struck again midway through the period. Safety Dalton Johnson punched the ball free from a Cedar Hill ballcarrier and Hamilton McMartin did the rest, scooping the ball up and racing 55 yards down the sideline for a score that extended Katy’s lead to 34-0 and just about out of reach of the Longhorns.
Kaidon Salter finally got Cedar Hill on the board after that with two rushing touchdowns either side of a third Lazic field goal, meaning Cedar Hill entered the final quarter with a glimmer of hope only down 37-14.
However, Katy quickly squashed any hope of an improbable comeback as Seth Davis scored on a 25-yard run to put Katy back up by 30 just 90 seconds into the final quarter.
Then on the ensuing Longhorn possession, Katy’s defense added one more highlight reel play for good measure. As Salter looked to dump off a swing pass to his running back, defensive end Cal Varner leaped up and snatched the ball, returning it 15 yards for the score for a J.J. Watt-esque pick-six that put Katy up 51-14 with ten minutes still to go.
“All the film we watched with coach, I saw the running back going out for a swing pass,” Varner said. “I played into the tackle, and I just came off at the right time. He threw it right at me, and If I would have dropped it, I knew everyone was going to make fun of me, so I had to take that back.”
For Cedar Hill, it was a frustrating afternoon as it struggled to get any traction in the game.
“Unfortunate that we didn’t hold up our end today but that’s why you play the game. Kids played hard,” Cedar Hill head coach Carlos Lynn said. “We let some opportunities go, and when you do that in the state championship game, the other team across from you is good enough to take capitalize on those things. That’s just what happened. But my hat goes off to the Katy Tigers and Coach Joseph for a job well done.”
Still, it was a memorable 2020 season for Cedar Hill as it finished 12-2 and earned its fifth state title berth in school history.
“I’m so thankful that we were able to get to the state championship. It was a lot of grind in the weight room and on the field,” Cedar Hill defensive end Charles Esters III said. “There was a lot of adversity with COVID, but we were able to fight through it and I’m just grateful that we were able to make it to the state championship game.”
Katy, meanwhile, responded with eight straight victories after losing its first district contest in 75 games in a 24-19 defeat to Tompkins back on November 5th. The Tigers finished 13-1 on the season and won each of their playoff games by at least 25 points en route to their first state title since 2015.
“I told them after the district loss that the last time it happened, we turned around and won a state championship because of the resolve and the drive that these kids have and they refused to lose,” Joseph said. “I’m extremely proud of them and what they’ve done.”