While Katy High has struggled with significant injuries to running backs Ron Hoff and Sherman Smith during the playoffs, junior quarterback Bronson McClelland has helped make up for their absences.
McClelland has completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 361 yards and five touchdowns to four interceptions in the playoffs.
“Undoubtedly, if we wouldn’t have been able to throw the football the last two weeks, we wouldn’t have been able to win the game,” coach Gary Joseph said. “Bronson’s getting better. He’s made strides in maturity, as much as anything. It’s what he needed to do, and he’s learned a lot about humility. That’s very important.”
McClelland has played five games since returning from a two-game suspension due to disciplinary reasons. In his first game back against Cinco Ranch on Oct. 25, he did not play well, but the Tigers were without two of their top three receivers.
Since then, however, McClelland has been impressive. Against Mayde Creek the next week, he completed 10 of 17 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns to no interceptions. In the regular season finale against Taylor, he completed 10 of 20 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns to one interception.
With the Tigers averaging 3.1 yards per carry in their area playoff win against Cy-Fair last week, McClelland completed 13 of 24 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns to two interceptions.
At one point late in the first half, receiver Steven Stiles ran an out route. Before he could even complete his break, Stiles turned and McClelland’s pass was right at him.
“That’s timing,” Joseph said. “That was as good of a pass as he’s thrown all year long. He’s not holding the ball long because he understands what he’s seeing. That was a big-time throw. He’s made some big throws, but that one impressed a lot. That, to me, is where he’s getting confidence, as far as trusting his teammates and reads.”
McClelland, Joseph said, can be even better.
“I’ve been proud of his resilience. He’s a good competitor. He really is,” Joseph said. “Truthfully, he’s a victim of trying to do too much, and it’s gone back almost all year. He makes really good passes, but he needs to understand he’s got 10 other teammates out there and he doesn’t have to do it all. Just do his job and take care of business. There can be things he misses or doesn’t see because he’s trying to do too much, and if he plays within himself he’ll be fine.”
HOFF’S STATUS UNKNOWN
As of the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 26, Hoff, the Tigers’ starting running back, had yet to practice since suffering a high ankle sprain on the second play from scrimmage of the Ridge Point game on Nov. 15.
Joseph said he is still uncertain whether Hoff will play this week against North Shore on Friday.
“He didn’t practice today, and I told them, ‘Look, if he’s going to play, he’s going to have to practice,’” Joseph said. “He can’t go two weeks and have no rhythm and timing. I hope for his sake as much as ours that he can go, because I know how much he wants to.
“We’re preparing to go without him.”
Smith, the Tigers’ junior backup who also injured his ankle in the same game not long after Hoff’s setback, is expected to play Friday, however.
Smith has 409 yards and five touchdowns on 55 carries this season.
“He’s fine,” Joseph said. “He’ll be ready.”
Junior running back Jalen Davis has done well in Hoff’s stead. In the two playoff games, Davis has rushed for 311 yards and a touchdown on 59 carries.
Joseph said he was pleased with how Davis took care of the football against Cy-Fair. Davis averaged 3.2 yards per carry, but Joseph said he “moved the chains in instances and forced people to play the run, which opens up play-action.”
“We’ll have to run the football to open our play-action pass,” Joseph said. “It helps our offensive line, too.”
O-LINE CHANGES PRODUCE MIXED RESULTS
Prior to last week’s game against Cy-Fair, Joseph reconfigured his offensive line.
He inserted juniors Omar Aigbedion and Vasileios Katsigiannis as starters. He moved around senior starters Brayden Gammel (from center to right guard) and Dakota White (from left guard to right tackle). Only senior Dylan Howerton played the same spot he had the previous week against Ridge Point at left tackle.
“Yes and no,” Joseph said about whether the changes worked. “It wasn’t the kids. For some of them, it was their first time to move. Cy-Fair had something to do with what we’re doing. We’ll continue working two groups of them, getting seven of them ready, and make sure we have depth.”
Joseph said the starting offensive line might change again this week for North Shore. Gammel will likely be moved back to center. Senior Carson Rogers may be moved back in as a starter after struggling with his footwork against Ridge Point.
“North Shore presents a while different type of animal,” Joseph said. “Their defensive front is solid and strong and does a real good job with technique. They’re much more athletic; Cy-Fair’s defensive ends were stronger, bigger kids.”
CAN’T BEAT KATY
Katy, North Shore, Tompkins and Atascocita are the four teams left in the Division I bracket of Class 6A Region III.
Katy plays North Shore on Friday, and Tompkins plays Atascocita on Saturday. The winners of those two games play each other next week in the regional finals.
Katy is undefeated at 12-0. North Shore, Atascocita and Tompkins are each 11-1. Their one loss has come to Katy.
Katy beat North Shore 24-21 on Aug. 29, dominated Atascocita 56-14 on Sept. 16 and survived Tompkins 35-30 on Oct. 3.
“You play 12 games and you’ve been this successful, that ought to be enough for confidence,” Joseph said about whether the Tigers can take anything from having beaten each of the other teams remaining from the region. “But it’s a fine line between confidence and conceit. Our boys can tell how good people are. They were on edge last week. The intensity was way up.
“You know you can play with anybody in the region, I guess. But you beat a team once, it’s hard to beat that same team twice in a year, especially a team that’s as talented as you are.”
The Tigers will have to beat two teams twice in one season to make it to the state semifinals. First up is North Shore, which beat Katy twice last season en route to winning a state championship.
“They did it to us last year,” Joseph said of North Shore. “We’ve done it to them before. It’s not easy at all, but if we’re to get out of the region, we’ll have to do it again.”