Katy High junior running back Jalen Davis wasn’t the only reason why the Tigers rallied dramatically to win their Class 6A-Division I bi-district playoff game against Ridge Point on Friday, Nov. 15.
But he is a huge reason why the No. 2 state-ranked and No. 8 nationally-ranked Tigers are still playing.
After senior starting running back Ron Hoff and junior backup running back Sherman Smith left the game with injuries early in the first quarter, Davis picked up the slack in admirable fashion, compiling 30 carries for 219 yards and two touchdowns in helping lift Katy to a 35-28 win at Legacy Stadium.
“I had to do whatever I could to step up for my team. Next man up,” Davis said. “Play that role. I had a job coming in as far as supporting my team to help them get to the next round.”
The undefeated Tigers (11-0) play undefeated Cy-Fair (11-0) in the area round at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Tully Stadium.
Katy coach Gary Joseph said the statuses of Hoff (ankle) and Smith (ankle) were unknown. For Hoff, the leading rusher in Katy ISD this season with 1,451 yards and 16 touchdowns, Joseph said it will be based primarily on how he responds to treatment throughout this week.
“We’re going to have to ride him now for a while, I think,” Joseph said of Davis.
If that’s the case, Davis proved he’s up for the task.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder averaged 7.3 yards per carry against Ridge Point, and earned his longest run of the season with an 80-yard burst that tied the game at 14 with 1:17 left in the second quarter.
Davis and Smith have swapped back and forth as the No. 2 back all season. Entering the playoffs, Davis had 587 yards and nine touchdowns on 76 carries. Success as a ballcarrier was no stranger to the first-year varsity back.
It was Davis’ 11-yard touchdown run 62 seconds into the third quarter that tied the game at 21 to complete a Katy rally from a 14-0 early deficit.
“I’m just going to hit the hole hard and play with heart,” Davis said. “If it’s open and I’m there, I’m going to get it. If we’re down and my team needs me, I’m going to put them on my back.”
Joseph was pleased.
“He made some mistakes, but he ran hard and made some plays,” Joseph said. “We know he’s a good football player. He’s gotten to play for us all year long, and that’s why we can play him, in case we get caught in situations like that. It’s not many situations where you lose two running backs in two minutes in the first quarter, but he stepped up.”
The Tigers trailed 21-14 at halftime. In the first half, Ridge Point played a split alignment on defense, which is when a defensive tackle lines up outside the offensive guard to the split end side. The entire defensive line aligns that way.
That arrangement threw off Katy’s offensive line, and as a result the offense sputtered. The Tigers’ first five possessions: punt, interception, interception, punt, punt.
But the Tigers scored two quick touchdowns late in the second quarter. And Ridge Point left 10 points on the field in the first half in a missed 40-yard field goal and a fumble on the goal line right as running back Marcus Wright was about to score.
“Some of the plays they made, they were fortunate enough to make the play,” junior linebacker Shepherd Bowling said. “We weren’t there in time. They spread us out a bit, and we just had to rally and make tackles.”
The Tigers, as is their way, were dominant following the halftime break.
Katy held Ridge Point to seven points on 115 total yards in the second half. The Tigers had three takeaways in the final two quarters: a fumble recovery by senior defensive lineman Timothy Nugent, and interceptions by senior defensive back DQ Dawson and Bowling, the latter a significant one as it came deep in Katy territory with Ridge Point threatening to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
“We tackled better. We actually covered people,” Joseph said of the difference defensively in the second half. “What bothered me in the first half is we had a hard time getting pressure. We’ve got to do a better job of that, and not leaving our secondary guys out there on an island.”
With Davis moving the chains and finding the end zone in the running game, Ridge Point went to a man defense in the second half. That allowed openings for senior receiver Jordan Patrick, who scored two crucial touchdowns, an 18-yarder along the back right corner of the end zone to give Katy the lead for good at 28-21 and then a 56-yard haul with four minutes left in the game for a 35-21 advantage.
After throwing a pair of interceptions in the first half, junior quarterback Bronson McClelland was brilliant in the second half. He finished by completing 9 of 13 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns, showing off impressive accuracy and arm strength.
“A close game like this always helps,” Davis said. “We’re going to play better teams, and it gives us that adversity to keep fighting and play harder. We know what we’ve got. A game like this can really bring a team together.”