CYPRESS — That’s better.
Katy’s offense got right quickly Saturday night against Cy-Woods following an inauspicious outing the previous week against Clear Springs. The No. 3 state-ranked Tigers thrashed the Wildcats 66-21 at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium, but this one was over by halftime.
And while the defense played to its typically high standards, it was the offense, which was a point of concern against Clear Springs, that served as the ignition.
Katy had 422 total yards and scored on all eight first-half possessions in building a 56-0 lead at the break. The Tigers had 17 first downs and averaged 11.1 yards per play.
After punting nine times against Clear Springs, Katy's first-team offense did not punt at all against Cy-Woods.
Sophomore quarterback Caleb Koger got the starting nod and was terrific in captaining the Tigers on a nine-play, 81-yard opening scoring drive that resulted in a Jalen Davis four-yard run. Koger, who was responsible for all three of Katy’s completions against Clear Springs on Sept. 26, went 3-for-3 for 69 yards on the drive.
In all, both Koger and junior quarterback Bryce Nirider, who started the Clear Springs game, were impressively effective. Koger completed 6 of 8 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Nirider completed 4 of 5 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a touchdown.
It was a night-and-day difference for the two signal-callers, who combined for 3-for-11 passing for 26 yards against Clear Springs.
“They were way more poised,” said Davis, who rushed for 51 yards and two touchdowns and has five touchdowns total this season. “They have it in them. I’ve always believed in them. I’m proud of the way they played. Those two guys practice hard all week and they deserve everything they get.”
Coach Gary Joseph said he will continue to play both quarterbacks as district play starts next week against Seven Lakes. He added that he’ll play both until at least midway through the district season.
“I don’t know much longer we’ll split time, but we’ve got to have both of them,” Joseph said. “It’s not like we have a senior that can come in and play and finish up. Both of them are still young and maturing. We kept talking to them about being a quarterback, being a leader. They’ve got to step into the huddle with confidence. They can’t just be there.”
Joseph said the return of 6-foot-6, 260-pound senior tackle Jacob Norman to the starting lineup added stability to the offense. It also helps that the Tigers have a pair of playmaking dynamos in the Davis brothers.
Jalen Davis had 113 rushing yards against Clear Springs, but it was his little brother Seth, a sophomore, who did most of the damage against Cy-Woods. Seth tallied 119 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
So far, the Davis brothers have combined for eight touchdowns this season.
“He’s just now getting the light shined on him, but this is what I expected,” Jalen said of Seth. “I’m glad he’s getting that recognition. He deserves it. He’s been in all the workouts with me, does the same training. People slept on him because of his size, but he’s right and I’m happy for him.”
As for himself, Jalen has worked tirelessly to make his claim as the Tigers’ next great back. It’s paying off, particularly in a leadership-by-example role.
“Day in and day out, I have to come in with that confidence and show the team my work ethic and tempo in practice,” Davis said. “It has to be up there. If they don’t see it from me, as a returner in an offense where there’s not many experienced guys … then where do they see it? I just try and keep that positive energy and make sure the tempo is right.”
While the quarterbacks found their groove, perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise in how soon they were able to do so. The fact they have to go up against this Katy defense every day in practice expedites growth and maturity.
The Tigers’ defense held Cy-Woods to 84 total yards and just one first down in the first half, forcing two turnovers and limiting the Wildcats to 4.4 yards per play, before the starters took the rest of the night off.
One can only imagine how well quarterbacks have to play, let alone two youngsters in Koger and Nirider, to thrive against Katy’s defense, even during practice.
“We do some live periods where we go (starters versus starters) and we’ll get after them,” said senior linebacker Shepherd Bowling, who had six total tackles and two tackles for a loss. “They might not feel like they’re doing their best because they’re going up against our defense, but we still encourage them and let them know they’ll be alright. We know they’ll do their jobs.”
That, they did. Koger and Nirider admirably ran a machine-like offense, establishing the run and showing off improved timing and confidence in receivers like junior Nic Anderson, who caught five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
It was much needed for the Tigers, whom Bowling said “left a lot on the table” against Clear Springs. Against Cy-Woods, they made sure to wipe it clean.
“We were more in sync,” Davis said. “Our practice habits showed. We didn’t like how we played that first game and we weren’t satisfied. We’re still not satisfied, but I think it was a great second game for us.”