Katy quarterback Bronson McClelland took the Tigers’ Week 3 win over IPN Mexico hard. He was disappointed with a stat line that read 2-for-8 passing for 86 yards, a touchdown and an interception, even though many of those incompletions were drops.

“I did take that personally,” McClelland said about that performance two weeks ago. “It wasn’t a good game. I took that hard. It was nobody else’s fault except for mine. I know it’s unacceptable.

“I’ve been preaching about getting that ninth ring for this program, and I can’t perform like that.”

McClelland bounced back quickly, however, masterfully leading the Tigers to a 49-7 win over Clear Springs in their Week 4 non-district finale on Sept. 21 at Legacy Stadium.

The junior captain completed 12 of 17 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown on four carries in helping the No. 10-nationally ranked Tigers to a 4-0 record heading into their open week.

“The level of focus was key,” McClelland said. “(Week 3) was not an ideal game, but we got the job done. It was a team win. We came out (against Clear Springs) and executed very well. That’s what led us to a win. We have to keep preparing.”

Against IPN Mexico, a significantly inferior opponent, the Tigers’ passing game was not up to par. Against Clear Springs, the defending District 24-6A champion, it excelled.

McClelland threw passes to four different receivers. There were no drops. Routes were ran harder. Play fakes were sold with better conviction.

“Against Mexico, it was more of us playing down to their level,” said senior receiver Steven Stiles, who caught four passes for 71 yards and a score. “We focused on getting back to our roots, running our routes perfect, getting in and out of our breaks and getting open.”

Coach Gary Joseph was reluctant to say the passing game improved. Against Mexico, Joseph said they didn’t throw a lot of short routes because they wanted to work on the downfield passing game. He noted missed passes that McClelland made good throws on.

“Our passing game has been solid all year long,” Joseph said.

But there was no doubt McClelland began the Clear Springs game with a purpose. He started the opening scoring drive completing 3 of 3 passes for 53 yards and completed nine of his first 10 throws.

“We talked about getting off to a fast start and it’s always nice when you can get the completion percentage up like that,” McClelland said. “It was really a confidence builder for the whole team.”

Joseph said he appreciated McClelland’s work in throwing the flat routes and how he moved the chains consistently.

“He played within himself,” Joseph said. “I talked to him at the start of the second half about the clock winding down and getting plays run. That’s being a quarterback. He handled that well. He’s understanding situations and he’s not trying to do too much.”

McClelland said he goes into every game thinking he’ll have a great game. It doesn’t take a certain pass or a certain look or a certain play against a certain defense for him to know it’s his night.

He said he knows before he even takes the field, and aside from the Week 3 outing against IPN Mexico, it’s often been the case. Confidence, and the leadership that can come as a result of that, has never been an issue for the first Katy quarterback to start his high school career on the varsity roster.

“You have to assume ownership and leadership in that role like he has,” Joseph said. “To be successful, there’s no doubt we’ll have to continue to have more great leadership from him.”

The primary difference for Katy’s offense this year from last season is the depth at receiver. The Tigers have four capable big-play pass-catchers in Jordan Patrick, Stiles, Matthew Stanley and Matthew Heichel. That’s not even including tight ends Fernando Garza III and Samuel Dunn, who are dominant goal-line threats.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who can catch, run, run after the catch,” said Patrick, arguably the top receiver in District 19-6A who caught four balls for 56 yards and a touchdown against Clear Springs in a return game from injury. “A lot of guys make plays. It’s very good.

“Like this (Clear Springs) game, No. 15, their fastest guy, followed me around wherever I went, which opened up other guys. Touchdown, touchdown. As long as we win, I don’t care.”

Joseph said the nicest thing is the confidence McClelland has throwing to any of the receivers. Gone are the days when the signal-caller would target Patrick on almost every passing play.

“That helps immensely,” Joseph said. “We’ve got great players there. Bronson having confidence in all of them has really changed. He’s not afraid to throw to any of them right now and that’s a real good thing.”