On a national stage, against the then-ranked No. 2 team in the country, in his Katy Tigers debut, Ron Hoff made sure people would remember his name.
The senior transfer from South Carolina had his way against North Shore in the season-opener on Aug. 29, and in turn the Tigers were able to ride his physicality and toughness to a big win over the defending Class 6A, DI state champions. With his family from South Carolina watching on ESPNU, Hoff ran rampant, totaling 206 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
Katy won. Hoff looks like the next dominant Tigers tailback. And now it’s Katy that finds itself as the talk of the state once again.
“He’s in better shape now than what he was,” coach Gary Joseph said. “I think that’s a big thing. He finally understands the offense a little bit better. You can tell a kid the plays all you want, but until they go through it and they rep it and they see where the creases are going to be … it just takes time. It’s not a natural thing. For him, it’s about the reps and he wants to do well. He’s always wanted to do well.”
Hoff had an inauspicious spring for the Tigers. He fumbled twice during the spring game and struggled with conditioning. It all came fast and furious for him after arriving in Katy in March.
He took advantage of Katy’s strength and conditioning program in the summer, transforming his body and getting used to the standard that elite Texas high school football programs demand.
Not only did he find that the game is more fast-paced here than what he experienced at Dutch Fork High School, where he was arguably the best player for a program that won state championships each of the last three years, but the workouts took more of a toll.
“I was very tired and out of shape through spring ball,” Hoff said. “All summer, we ran 200s and 100s, just getting better as a team. I feel more in shape. I’m faster. I’m more durable. It’s fun when you can be on the field for longer periods of time.”
Not only did Hoff adjust physically, but he proved a quick study as well. It is a drastic transition going from a spread offense to Katy’s I-formation pro-style offense.
In a matter of four months, Hoff went from looking lost in a glorified practice against his own teammates to bursting off 40-yard runs and then sprinting back to huddle, demanding for the ball again, against a North Shore team that had defeated Katy twice last season. Hoff went from carrying the ball loose and irresponsibly to holding it high and tight, running it with two hands through holes, thanks to persistent work with running backs coach Kevin Garvin.
Hoff’s north-south power running is ideal for a Katy offense that wants to wear opponents down, move the chains and open opportunities for the passing game. In other words, it was picture perfect last week, when Hoff set the tone early, kept the opposing defense on the field (more than a dozen North Shore defensive players cramped) and allowed junior quarterback Bronson McClelland and senior receiver Jordan Patrick to make big third-down and fourth-down conversions because of the threat of his running ability.
“He was ready for it. That’s an amazing thing to see,” McClelland said. “I wasn’t surprised about the 206 yards or the yards per carry. The first time I remember Coach Joseph telling me he was coming, I watched film and thought, ‘This dude is going to be pretty good.’ He’s been working so hard. The dude is just tough.”
Joseph was not surprised, either. He said he was proud of Hoff. But Hoff did not do it alone.
The offensive line was fantastic. Brayden Gammel, Dakota White, Justin King, Dylan Howerton, Drew Murphy and reserves Carson Rogers and Jacob Severin, all seniors, dominated the line of scrimmage.
Hoff had all the daylight he wanted.
“It just opened up,” he said. “God is good. Just get downhill. A big one is going to break sooner or later. All offseason I worked for this, and as a team we did as well. That was the great part. I did well, but it was more about the O-line and the defense. We all complemented each other. You get on a team like this and you know they’ll have your back and I’m going to have theirs.”
Questions reigned about who Katy’s bellcow in the backfield would be this season following the graduation of program great Deondrick Glass. For one game, at least, Hoff answered defiantly.
“It’s awesome being able to be a part of a team like this and being able to execute and start a season by beating the No. 2 team in the nation,” Hoff said. “But we can’t be complacent. We have to put last week aside and keep striving.”