High School Football

MIS2I0N COMPLETE!

Katy dominates Cedar Hill to win ninth state championship

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 1/16/21

ARLINGTON — Through the COVID-19 issues that affected everything from how they held team meetings to how much they tackled during practices, through two significant season-ending injuries, and through game postponements and cancellations, the Katy Tigers pushed and pushed and pushed.

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High School Football

MIS2I0N COMPLETE!

Katy dominates Cedar Hill to win ninth state championship

Posted

ARLINGTON — Through the COVID-19 issues that affected everything from how they held team meetings to how much they tackled during practices, through two significant season-ending injuries, and through game postponements and cancellations, the Katy Tigers pushed and pushed and pushed.

“Perseverance,” coach Gary Joseph said.

“MIS2I0N MINDSET,” players termed it. Only a state title would justify the four-month madness they had just endured.

So the No. 9 state-ranked Tigers went out and justified their 2020 season in the Class 6A Division II state final on Saturday afternoon at AT&T Stadium, manhandling No. 8 Cedar Hill in a start-to-finish laugher courtesy of a 51-14 win, capturing the program’s ninth state title and giving Joseph his fifth as head coach.

“It’s very special,” Joseph said. “It’s one of those years you’ll always remember because of what we went through to get to this point. I’m extremely proud. It is a very special time.”

Boasting a record 15 state championship game appearances, Katy’s nine titles rank second to only Aledo, a 5A, Division II program that has 10 titles.

“It’s a credit to these kids and what they went through, fighting the coronavirus and the pandemic, and being there not knowing each and every day when they’ll get to play or who they’ll get to play,” Joseph said. “It’s a great lesson in perseverance and resilience.”

To beat an athletic and physically gifted Cedar Hill (12-2) team, which won Region II, Katy (14-1) had to keep dual-threat senior quarterback and Tennessee signee Kaidon Salter in the pocket. The Tigers’ secondary had to play the best it has all season against a group of dynamic, fast Longhorns receivers.

Katy, offensively, had to run the ball and control the tempo to keep possession away from Cedar Hill.

Check. Check. Check.

Salter only ran for 46 yards, almost half of his season average, and two late third quarter touchdowns after Katy had a 34-0 lead. The season-long 60-percent passer completed just 12 of 24 throws for 112 yards and two interceptions.

“There were some plays where he got to the outside, but … we just knew he’d get frustrated after a while,” senior defensive end Cal Varner III said. “After stuff started to go downhill, it fell back on him and he wasn’t leading his team anymore. He kind of let them go.”

Katy ran the ball 47 times for 313 yards and three touchdowns and dominated time of possession, 29:06 to 18:54.

“It’s not earth science what they’re doing offensively,” Cedar Hill coach Carlos Lynn said. “It’s a grind mentality, and they do it well. It’s hard to simulate. I don’t know if our kids have ever seen (an offense) under center. It’s tough. They executed well. They brought their ‘A’ game. They played at a high level and they were the benefits of that.”

Katy’s defense scored as many points as Cedar Hill’s offense. Junior defensive back Hamilton McMartin had a 55-yard fumble recovery for a score. Varner added a dramatic pick-6 in the fourth quarter.

Senior defensive back Dalton Johnson and McMartin each had 3 1/2 tackles to lead Katy. Johnson also forced a fumble. Senior linebacker Shepherd Bowling had a gorgeous diving interception of Salter in the first half. Katy scored 21 points off turnovers.

“They’re so disciplined,” Lynn said of Katy’s defense. “They’re not going to beat themselves. They play a style of football where everybody knows how to fit and where they’re going to be. We did a poor job of trying to take advantage of some of those things. They tackle well, they were opportunistic. Those things can be a disaster for an offense.”

The Tigers outgained the Longhorns in total yards, 390-246. Sophomore running back Seth Davis was named Offensive Player of the Game after rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Varner was named Defensive Player of the Game, with two tackles for a loss, a sack and the interception he returned 15 yards for a touchdown with 10:17 left in the fourth quarter that drew the attention of a future NFL Hall of Famer.

“Hell of a play @CalVarnerIII,” Texans star J.J. Watt tweeted. “Texas high school football built different.”

It was Varner’s first career interception.

“I saw the running back going out for a swing pass,” he said. “I played it to the tackle and just came off at the right time. He threw it right at me. I knew if I dropped it, I’d have everybody making fun of me, so I had to take that back.

“I think it took all their momentum away, all their hope. Once I got that pick, their quarterback just sat there on the ground and I saw they were defeated.”

This year’s Tigers were identitical to the 2008 title team. That season was the last time Katy lost a district game and did not win the district title until this season, when streaks of 75 consecutive district wins and 11 consecutive district championships were snapped. But, like that 2008 team, this Katy team rallied to win a state championship, using a selfless, team-oriented mentality to keep going. It was truly a team, in every sense of the word. The Tigers were the headliners, not individuals.

Katy outscored its five playoff opponents 274-66, eliminating two state-ranked teams (Shadow Creek and Cedar Hill) along the way.

“It was tough,” Varner said. “We had players go down, like (junior defensive end) Malick (Sylla) and (senior tight end) Fernando (Garza). We had coaches get corona, players get corona. We had practices pushed back, games pushed back. But we persevered.

“Everybody was on board, everybody was ready to go and kept pushing. That’s what made this team special.”

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