High School Football

One of a kind

Tigers celebrate Joseph’s 65th birthday with Region III final win over Clear Falls

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 1/2/21

It’s not often Katy High’s tradition-rich football program experiences a first of any sort these days. But Saturday provided a rare occasion, as the Tigers played on head coach Gary Joseph’s birthday, Jan. 2, for the first time.

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High School Football

One of a kind

Tigers celebrate Joseph’s 65th birthday with Region III final win over Clear Falls

Posted

It’s not often Katy High’s tradition-rich football program experiences a first of any sort these days. But Saturday provided a rare occasion, as the Tigers played on head coach Gary Joseph’s birthday, Jan. 2, for the first time.

Even better, No. 9-state ranked Katy won the Class 6A-Division II Region III championship in the process, easing to a ho-hum 51-14 win over Clear Falls at Legacy Stadium.

“We wanted to sing Coach happy birthday, but he wouldn’t accept it,” said senior safety Dalton Johnson, who had an interception. “He wanted a birthday win, so that’s what we gave to him.”

The Tigers (11-1) advanced to play Region IV champ Buda Hays (10-3) in the state semifinal next Saturday, Jan. 9, at 2 p.m. at McLane Stadium in Waco. Katy is in a state semi for the first time since 2017 and playing for its first state championship since 2015.

“It’s a great feeling,” senior running back Jalen Davis said. “Former players want to see us go to state; the community wants to see us go. I feel like we deserve to give it to them.”

While Clear Falls played admirably at times, the Knights (8-4), the third-place team out of District 24-6A, were simply outmatched against the Tigers. Clear Falls had not won a playoff game before its inspiring postseason run this year. Not only did the Knights lack the big-game playoff experience, they did not have the size or speed to match up against Katy.

The Tigers controlled the game early and often thanks to a potent run game anchored by the Davis brothers, senior Jalen and sophomore Seth. They combined for 290 yards and four touchdowns on 40 carries.

Twenty-four of those carries came in the first half as Katy methodically built a 23-0 lead at the break. Sophomore quarterback Caleb Koger, who completed eight of 16 passes for 194 yards and five touchdowns in the previous week’s regional semifinal win over Shadow Creek, only attempted five passes in the first two quarters, and none in the first.

Overall, Katy ran the ball 45 times to only eight pass attempts as the Davis brothers each ran for more than 100 yards for the second time in three playoff games.

“We’re a lot more confident,” Davis said of the running prowess of him and Seth. “We’re reading our blocks a lot better. The linemen have been giving great push; all of our success really goes to them. After they give that push, we know our reads from all our work in practice and it’s all come together really well.”

The Tigers outgained the Knights 336-303 in total yards, with 201 of Clear Falls’ yards coming after halftime. Of the Tigers’ 336 yards, 299 came on the ground. Of their seven touchdowns, six came via the run.

Joseph was content to rely on his run game, knowing the Knights would lay back on some defensive coverages.

Entering the game, Katy was considered a huge favorite. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football predicted the Tigers would win by 29 points. Almost no one was giving Clear Falls much of a shot; that is, except for the Tigers.

“We talk all the time about respecting everyone,” Joseph said. “You don’t fear people, but respect everyone. That’s what our program has been able to teach kids. You respect opponents, you respect women and you respect the work you put in. You have an appreciation for all those things, and it’s part of who we are and part of what the program is about. We respect them because we understood they were here for a reason.”

Playing for Joseph, and his principle-laden program, is something Tigers players take pride in, which is why they were thrilled to give him a win for his birthday.

Johnson said his bond with Joseph is one of the best he could ask for between a player and a coach. Davis said Joseph “means a lot” to the whole community, not just the team.

“If you know Coach, you know he’s a great man, a great leader and a great role model,” Davis said. “We’re glad to give him this birthday gift.”

It’s been a trying year for the Tigers, from COVID-19 protocols that have cost drastic amendments to practices to schedule delays to injuries. Because of COVID-19, the start of the 2020 season was delayed a month, which is why the Tigers are playing into January for the first time.

While players were excited to win for their coach, their coach was excited for his players.

“It’s great for me, but better for our kids,” said Joseph, who turned a youthful 65 years old. “They’ve been at this thing for a long time, and to finally get to the semifinals is a complement to them and what they’ve done to fight the COVID and other things we’ve had to fight through this year.”

Still, the unique circumstances of his special day were not lost upon Joseph.

“It’s different,” he said, smiling. “First time I’ve played on my birthday, first time I’ve played in January. We’ve just got to get ready for the next one. It’s about next week.”

In typical Joseph no-nonsense fashion, yes, the birthday win was nice. Fulfilling and joyful, even. But there is still a lot of work to be done.

Any celebration was minimal as the big picture told of a team two wins from a ninth state title.

“We’ve worked our butts off through all the challenges of this year, COVID and everything else,” Johnson said. “We just can’t take it for granted. It’s been way too long since we’ve been in the semis. I was a freshman at the time, and it was rough seeing the seniors lose. They were so close. Now our opportunity is here, and we’ve just got to grab it.”

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