Thursday evening’s scrimmage at Klein Collins was Katy’s last real chance to see what it has before its much-hyped season-opening showdown at North Shore on August 29 on ESPNU.
The Tigers showed significant positives on both sides of the ball. But most importantly for coach Gary Joseph, his players are starting to show some of the swagger and confidence that he said is needed when going up against powerhouses like the Mustangs.
“We got better,” Joseph said. “Kids are getting more used to the speed and tempo of the game, and we’ve got some young kids that really stepped up. We’re going to have to continue having that. The consistency and confidence are better, and it better be with what they’re fixing to face next week.”
Katy coaches and players left the scrimmage raving about the play of the linebackers. Sophomore Ty Kana, junior Emilio Silva, junior Shepherd Bowling and junior move-in Aidan McKinney all stood out.
Senior captain Jaylen Phillips is the headliner of the bunch. But Kana has emerged as the second-best consistent playmaker of the group, while Silva and McKinney have impressed. Bowling, in his first game of full contact since suffering a season-ending injury during the first quarter of last season’s opener, also had strong moments.
“We’re more comfortable out there,” Phillips said of his unit. “We’re playing with more energy.”
The linebacking looks stable, and the strength of Katy’s defense will be the secondary, where most of its experience on that side of the ball returns. Newcomer sophomore Bobby Taylor, a highly-recruited transfer out of Houston Heights, made a fast first impression with an athletic sideline interception early. Senior Bryan Massey also delivered a few crushing hits and almost picked off another Klein Collins pass.
The defensive line does not have the credentials of the rest of the defense. The front lacks the typical size of Katy’s trenches of the past, but with junior Cohen Dearman, senior Timothy Nugent, senior Jayden Holcomb and junior Kaleb Parsons, they play with smarts and quickness.
Joseph said the idea is to build enough quality depth to keep the front fresh so that effort never wavers.
“They’re doing a great job of making things easier for Kana and me,” Phillips said. “If they don’t double our D-linemen, they’re going to make the tackle.”
Offensively, the Tigers’ running backs all did some good things.
Senior Ron Hoff saw most of the time with the starters and did not disappoint. The transfer from South Carolina looked a lot surer of himself and confident than his initial appearance during the spring game.
“Ron, he’s waking up to the Texas high school football Class 6A level. It’s a different beast,” junior quarterback Bronson McClelland said. “You see him now and he’s running smooth over people. It’s really nice to see.”
Juniors Sherman Smith and Jalen Davis also saw time with the starters. Davis continues to impress with his speed, breaking off a long 50-yard-plus run for a score. He continues to do well to earn more reps.
“All of them got a shot,” Joseph said of his running backs. “I’m proud of Ron. He ran hard and ran downhill. That’s what we have to have. He might not be the home-run threat, but he’s going to be able to get us four yards at a pop. That’s what we’re about. If we can move the chains, we’ll be fine. Eventually, we’ll pop a long one.”
The offensive line was dominant in pass-protection. Seniors Dakota White, Brayden Gammel, Justin King, Drew Murphy, among many others, were strong protecting McClelland on drop-backs.
Now comes the true test, as defending state champion North Shore awaits.
“We played fast and played physical,” Phillips said. “That was good. We have a big test next week in (North Shore running back) Zach Evans and (North Shore quarterback) Dematrius Davis and that whole offense. We’re getting ready for that. We’ve had a good week and we’ll have another good week and get ready for Thursday.”