Katy versus North Shore. Mano a mano.
The two Texas high school football titans have met five times in the last four years, including this season’s opener when the Tigers beat the defending state champion Mustangs in a nationally-broadcast 24-21 win at Galena Park.
The rivals have met in the playoffs each of the last three years. Katy lost to North Shore, 20-17, in the regional semifinals in 2016. The Tigers beat the Mustangs, 31-3, in the regional final in 2017. And last season, North Shore beat Katy, 49-38, in the regional semifinals en route to an undefeated state championship campaign.
Another postseason chapter will be written Friday, Nov. 29, when Katy (12-0) and North Shore (11-1) tango once again in the Class 6A-Division I regional semifinals at 4 p.m. at NRG Stadium.
Since 2016, Katy has lost five times. Three of those defeats have come to North Shore.
“It sucked, because last year the only two losses we had were to North Shore,” senior receiver Jordan Patrick said. “And now that we beat them in the opening game this year, they’ll have a chip on their shoulders and we always have a chip on our shoulders. It’s time for us to turn up.”
North Shore has not lost since the season-opener, outscoring opponents by an average of 35.3 points per game. Still, the Mustangs have dealt with internal issues involving star senior running back Zach Evans, ranked No. 1 in the country, and health issues with Texas A&M commit and junior receiver Shadrach Banks, who did not play against Katy in the opener and has not played in either of North Shore’s playoff games.
For its part, Katy has dealt with significant injuries. Two senior starters on the offensive line suffered season-ending injuries last month ago, and coach Gary Joseph even tinkered with the positional depth chart for last week’s area playoff game against Cy-Fair. Senior running back Ron Hoff, who had an impressive debut as a Tiger in the season opener with 206 yards and a touchdown, and junior backup Sherman Smith suffered ankle sprains early in the first quarter of Katy’s bi-district playoff win against Ridge Point two weeks ago.
Hoff’s status is uncertain for Friday’s game. Smith is expected to be ready to play.
“Nothing,” Joseph said about what he can take away from the season-opening win against North Shore. “It wasn’t going to define who we are and it wasn’t going to define who they are. I know a lot of polls still have them ranked No. 1 in the state. We’re going to play one of the best teams.”
Evans’ 354-yard, two-touchdown outing last week against Pearland Dawson suggests he is playing at the level he is capable of. He is averaging 14.9 yards per carry, and 16 of his 88 carries have gone for touchdowns. Quarterback Dematrius Davis, who recently verbally committed to Virginia Tech, has been the Mustangs’ consistent rock offensively, completing 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,043 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for 665 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Katy, meanwhile, is ailing offensively, but the defense is playing lights out after holding a previously-undefeated Cy-Fair team to 135 total yards while forcing four second-half turnovers in. 27-14 win.
The Tigers have 29 total takeaways this season, including eight so far in the playoffs.
Katy will have to continue that relentless defensive play. It was an incredible defensive performance in the second half, which Katy entered trailing 21-7, that allowed the Tigers to rally to beat North Shore in dramatic fashion in the season opener.
“This is exactly what we needed,” senior cornerback Bryan Massey said of the defense after the Cy-Fair win. “This showed what we can do. At this point, we need to be at full throttle.”
The availability of Hoff, who compiled 1,451 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season, is a concern. The bruising back was unable to play at all against Cy-Fair, Joseph said. It will depend on how Hoff responds to more treatment and rest this week.
What Katy will have to do, to win for the second time in as many games against an elite team like North Shore, is put forth a complete, well-rounded effort, something Joseph said has eluded his team so far.
“We’ve played well all year long, we’ve won some big games, but we really haven’t played a complete game, and I still don’t think we have, as far as offense, defense and kicking game,” Joseph said. “I still think we can play better, and I hope we go and do it. Otherwise, we’ll be eliminated.”