With its 24-21 win over defending state champion North Shore, Katy is No. 12 in MaxPreps’ Top 25 national rankings after being previously unranked. The only other Texas team ranked above the Tigers is Duncanville (No. 6).
But with another tough task on the horizon in No. 8 state-ranked Atascocita looming this week, Katy’s focus isn’t on rankings or notoriety of any sort.
“Atascocita is a good team,” junior quarterback Bronson McClelland said. “One thing we’ve all been preaching is complacency. Yeah, we beat North Shore. That’s great. And now everybody is talking about we’re moving up to No. 2 in the state and going from unranked nationally to No. 12 in the country. You can’t let all that get in your head. Frankly, you can be No. 1 in the world and go lose a football game because you were too complacent.”
Following Monday morning’s marathon practice, McClelland and coach Gary Joseph spoke to the team about better focus.
“I understand that practice for North Shore is going to be slightly different than most other teams. I get that,” McClelland said. “But it can’t be that way. If we stop practicing hard, you can beat North Shore and then lose to Atascocita and that’s not good. Urgency, work ethic, no complacency. All of that stuff is crucial right now.”
Throughout the last three decades of Katy’s championship ways, halftime adjustments have been just as much of a signature for the Tigers as a dominant defense and power running game.
That was the case last week against North Shore, when the Tigers outscored the Mustangs 17-0 in the second half to rally from a 21-7 halftime deficit and win the game.
“Sometimes the adjustments are minute and subtle,” Joseph said. “Sometimes it’s something you can do different to give your kids confidence. The biggest thing last week was just reassuring the kids. I didn’t feel like they played that poorly on either side of the ball in the first half; we were just shooting ourselves in the foot.
“The biggest adjustment at halftime was just being able to score. Once you score, you’re back in the game. We scored that first possession (of the third quarter) and the kids got confidence. The year before, we were down at the half, they stopped us on fourth down and then they scored.”
Katy gave up 220 yards in the first half to North Shore. It only surrendered eight in the second half, establishing a tone in the third quarter by running 18 plays to North Shore’s three.
Joseph said the Tigers adjusted play-calling based on what coaches saw in North Shore’s formations in the first half. North Shore defensed Katy differently than usual, playing its safeties farther back instead of a tight six yards deep. North Shore figured Katy would have to beat it in the passing game to win.
But Katy finished with 225 yards on 45 carries, and by the fourth quarter North Shore had retreated to its typical defense of Katy with safeties playing closer to the box.
The play-calling can give confidence to the kids, Joseph said.
“They have confidence in our coaches,” Joseph said. “We talked about what we could do, what they were doing and what we could run, from a play-calling standpoint and checks. A lot of it was protections. It’s about what we’re calling against certain situations, especially defensively. We were able to control the ball and control the tempo and kept those great players off the field.”
KICKING GAME WOES
The kicking game is a point of concern for Katy.
Against North Shore, the Tigers missed a field goal and had a bad snap on another field goal attempt that was blocked. Junior Nemanja Lazic did make a key 19-yard field goal in the third quarter and all of his three extra-point tries.
“There’s a lot more to kicking (than the kicker),” Joseph said. “Our snapper (senior tight end Fernando Garza) was new, and we eventually put (senior Dylan) Wiltcher, our long snapper, there. We felt Fernando would give a little bit wider body up front, but if we can’t get the ball over the tee, we’ll struggle.”
Joseph said he has to find somebody else other than Garza, who typically plays most of the game, to snap on field-goal attempts.