Katy coach Gary Joseph said senior starting running back Ron Hoff and junior backup running back Sherman Smith are game-time decisions as to whether they will play in Friday’s area playoff game against Cy-Fair at Tully Stadium.
“Game-time decisions, probably on both of them,” Joseph said Tuesday morning. “If you told me I had to pinpoint right now, I’d say doubtful. (Junior) Jalen Davis will have to carry the load. We’ve got a sophomore running back that played on JV this year who we’d moved to fullback, and he’ll go back (to running back) to give us some insurance.”
That sophomore is Isaiah Smith, a 5-foot-11, 195-pounder who has yet to take a varsity snap this year. Joseph said Smith is a lot in the same mold as Hoff.
“He’s not a breaker. He’s a four-yard-per-carry kid,” Joseph said. “He’s 195 pounds, downhill. The similarities are there, but he’s just not as strong right now.”
Davis stepped in admirably when Hoff and Smith went down with ankle injuries early in the first quarter of last week’s bi-district playoff win against Ridge Point.
Davis had 30 carries for 219 yards and two touchdowns. The 30 carries were his most ever, Davis said after the game. Davis’ previous season-high for carries was 13 against Seven Lakes on Oct. 18; prior to last week’s game, he had carried the ball 10 or more times in only four games.
The 219 yards were a season-high for Davis by 95 yards.
“More than anything else, it’s kids having confidence in him,” Joseph said. “We don’t talk about who we don’t have. It’s always about the person we do have. His improvement, not just as a runner, but as a pass-protector has been a really good thing, and he has to continue going that way. He’s gotten better.”
UNDEFEATED BOBCATS AWAIT
For the first time since 2010, Katy and Cy-Fair meet in the playoffs.
Both teams are undefeated at 11-0. Both claim elite offenses and defenses in the Greater Houston area.
The Tigers average 45.6 points and allow 9.4 points per game. The Bobcats average 43.4 points and surrender 6.3 points per game.
“They’re very well-coached. They don’t beat themselves,” Joseph said of Ed Pustejovsky’s team. “Defensively, they don’t make any mistakes and they’re very physical. Offensively, they’ve always had good running backs, but what’s impressed me the most is the offensive line of scrimmage. It’s very consistent, and they do a really good job of blocking and getting on people.”
Joseph said Katy and Cy-Fair share the same mentality as far as running the football, playing great defense and controlling the clock.
Cy-Fair may have the best player on the field come Friday in junior running back L.J. Johnson.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder is a four-star recruit with 18 offers, including Alabama, Baylor, Michigan, LSU, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas and Texas A&M.
Joseph said Johnson is a “two-step faster version of Ron Hoff.” Johnson has 1,834 yards and 36 touchdowns this season, averaging 9.7 yards per carry and 166.7 rushing yards per game.
“He’s got great burst and he can run inside or outside,” Joseph said. “Their best running play is the power play, and he does a good job of finding holes and hitting the creases. He runs through people.”
Defensively, the Bobcats have moved to a 4-2-5 defense from a 4-3 and it has paid off. Cy-Fair has 31 takeaways (16 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries) to go with 25 sacks.
Joseph said the Bobcats’ defense does a good job lining up and forcing offenses to beat them. He said Katy has “looked at different things to improve ourselves” and hinted subtle changes may be coming to the offensive line.
“They’re undefeated for a reason,” Joseph said of Cy-Fair. “It’s time to figure out what our kids are capable of doing.”
Katy only converted 1 of 8 third downs last week against Ridge Point.
“You can’t do that against good people,” Joseph said. “All year long, we punted 13 times (in 10 regular season games). We punted five (against Ridge Point). It tells you about us not being able to convert in situations. It was enough to win the game, but against good teams you have to be able to control the clock and control the tempo of the games.”
Joseph said third-down conversions are predicated upon the first two downs.
Pass-protection is key, whether it’s for the run game or being able to throw the football on first down to keep defenses off-balance and from loading the box.
Because of the big-play capability of junior quarterback Bronson McClelland and senior receivers Jordan Patrick and Steven Stiles, Katy can thrive on third down if it does well the first two.
“What are you doing to get to third down? It’s how you do on first and second down,” Joseph said. “The run-and-shoot people and the people who run a spread offense, it (third down) doesn’t matter. For us, it does. We like to get second-and-medium situations. If you have third down-and-short or third-and-medium, your playbook is open. You have to be effective enough to run the football on first down to give yourself a chance, and if you throw you have to be able to convert 65 percent of your passes to put yourself in second-and-manageable.”