High School Football

Grateful to play, No. 3 Katy routs Cinco Ranch to go to 4-0

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 10/24/20

Like the rest of the Texas high school football world, Katy will take what it can get at this point.

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High School Football

Grateful to play, No. 3 Katy routs Cinco Ranch to go to 4-0

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Like the rest of the Texas high school football world, Katy will take what it can get at this point.

What it got Saturday was an opportunity to play a game, something the No. 3 state-ranked Tigers do not take for granted because of the ongoing global pandemic caused by COVID-19. The Tigers saw good and they saw bad, certainly more of the former than latter, in taking down Cinco Ranch 41-0 at Legacy Stadium and improving to 4-0, 2-0 in District 19-6A.

After last week’s game against Tompkins was postponed due to a COVID-19 case reported in the Tigers’ program, followed by this week’s scheduled game against Mayde Creek postponed due to a case in the Rams’ program, scheduling was shuffled last weekend. Katy ended up playing Cinco Ranch this week, one that was supposed to be open for the Cougars.

Katy won its 75th consecutive district game in large part due to five takeaways (interceptions by Arian Parish, Hamilton McMartin, Hunter Washington and Jayden Rodriguez), including two defensive scores, but had its share of shoddy play.

The Tigers committed 11 penalties for 85 yards and the run game produced a subpar outing with 125 yards on 33 carries, or 3.8 yards per carry.

“It goes back to focusing on the little things,” Katy coach Gary Joseph said. “Someone said it’s because of a short week of preparation. They had the same as we did. They weren’t given any more than what we were given. It’s a matter of our kids executing at a higher level.”

Those things are fixable. What the Tigers have seen lately, however, is impressive play from its receiving corps, anchored by senior Taylor Saulsberry and junior Nic Anderson, and consistent physicality from an offensive line led by seniors Vasileios Katsigiannis, Omar Aigbedion, and CJ Marsh.

Saulsberry, in particular, has found his stride. He scored two touchdowns of 46 and 57 yards, respectively, against Cinco Ranch, and has four touchdowns on four catches in his last two games.

“We’ve worked hard as receivers with the quarterbacks to run routes and build a connection,” Saulsberry said. “We’re just more comfortable. Our timing is a lot better and we’re on the same page now. The quarterbacks now know where we want the ball to be, when it needs to get there.”

More than anything on the field, Joseph has been most pleased with Saulsberry off it.

“He’s grown up quite a bit,” Joseph said. “If you would’ve told me this time last year that the kids would’ve elected him a captain, I would’ve said no way. But I think that says a lot about his maturity and his leadership. Kids have a lot of respect for him because of the way he works.”

Receiving was thought to be a weakness of Katy’s this season due to no returning varsity experience. Instead, it has quickly emerged as a strength, thanks to the size and athleticism of the 6-foot-4 Saulsberry and 6-2 Anderson, and quality, productive depth with receivers Fuller Shurtz and Antonio Silva, and tight ends Emilio Silva and Fernando Garza.

Their chemistry and practice work with sophomore Caleb Koger, who started at quarterback for the third consecutive game, are showing.

“Probably,” Joseph said about if he’s surprised by the standout play of his receivers, “but I had great expectations for them. They’ll only continue getting better. We have six that can play, and that’s a good deal, and we need those big plays.”

A considerable, if not obvious, part of their success has been the O-line. The Tigers’ offensive front is not the tallest, but they are strong and powerful, clearing lanes for running backs Jalen Davis and Seth Davis and allowing Koger and Bryce Nirider time to read through progressions and find openings.

“We take pride in being physical, and I feel we’re doing that,” Aigbedion said. “We’re more physical than other teams. Each week we’re getting better and being more and more physical.”

Katsigiannis said the pass protection has improved.

“The biggest improvement is getting our center (Katsigiannis) back, who’s one of our leaders, and Omar has done a good job and CJ has done a good job, and they’ve helped the guards grow up,” Joseph said. “We’ll have to gain more consistency about what we’re doing.”

Considering the pandemic and uncertainty of scheduling week to week, Joseph said he feels fortunate to be where the Tigers are record-wise.

“Just having the opportunity to play is a big thing,” Joseph said. “I tell our kids that no matter what’s been thrown at them, they still have an opportunity to play football. That’s what we’re here to do.”

Katy plays Dickinson next week—the odd non-district contest in the middle of the district season thanks to COVID-19 cases within Dickinson’s district—and, because of the way things have been, Joseph expects to approach it differently than he typically might, especially with another open week following.

“We need to come out of the Dickinson game a better football team,” Joseph said. “We’re going to make sure we find a way to do that.”

The Tigers’ hope is they get that opportunity.

“We go into each week thinking we’re going to play, but we also never know when the season is going to be over,” Aigbedion said. “We’re thankful we got to play today.”

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