High School Football

Round 4 for Katy-Cedar Hill in state final

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 1/15/21

ARLINGTON — It’s been five years since Katy and Cedar Hill met in the state championship game. The Tigers and Longhorns clashed for the crown for three consecutive seasons from 2012-2014. Katy won in 2012 (35-24), and Cedar Hill won in 2013 (34-24) and 2014 (23-20).

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High School Football

Round 4 for Katy-Cedar Hill in state final

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ARLINGTON — It’s been five years since Katy and Cedar Hill met in the state championship game. The Tigers and Longhorns clashed for the crown for three consecutive seasons from 2012-2014. Katy won in 2012 (35-24), and Cedar Hill won in 2013 (34-24) and 2014 (23-20).

Some things have changed as the No. 9 state-ranked Tigers (13-1) and No. 8 Longhorns (12-1) meet for a fourth time Saturday in the Class 6A-Division II state final at 1 p.m. at AT&T Stadium, mainly that the Longhorns are in their fourth season under head coach Carlos Lynn, who succeeded longtime coach Joey McGuire. But one important detail remains: the two programs are still amongst the best in their respective regions.

This is Cedar Hill’s fifth state championship game appearance. The Longhorns have three titles. This is Katy’s record 15th state title game appearance. The Tigers have eight championships.

“They’re as talented as they were back then,” Katy coach Gary Joseph said. “The biggest thing for us is you can’t let talent beat you. You make them execute. They’re basically the same. It’s going to be a game where we can’t get put back on our heels.

“We’ll have to make plays, and secondary-wise we’ll have to step up. We’re capable of it.”

Katy has outscored its playoff opponents by an average of 42.8 points per game, running over and through everyone. Cedar Hill has outscored its foes by an average of 20.4 points. The Longhorns’ only loss this season was a 14-point setback to No. 2 Duncanville in November.

“They’re pretty stacked, they have good talent,” Katy senior running back Jalen Davis said. “They have a lot of athletes. Respect to them. They did all they could to get here, too. I respect that team.”

The heartbeat of the Longhorns is senior quarterback Kaidon Salter, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound four-star recruit and Tennessee signee. Salter has completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,571 yards and 31 touchdowns to five interceptions, while rushing for 1,075 yards, on 6.2 yards per carry, and 14 touchdowns.

“They rely on the quarterback to make a lot of plays, and we feel if we shut him down, it’s over,” said Katy senior defensive end Cal Varner III, who has eight sacks and 20 tackles for a loss this season. “We want to take away his scrambling ability. We want to keep him boxed in to where he can’t get to the outside and can’t run. We want to make sure he’s in the pocket the whole game.”

The Tigers have faced elite dual-threat quarterbacks this season, such as Shadow Creek’s Kyron Drones and Tompkins’ Jalen Milroe, but none that will look to run as much as Salter.

The Longhorns scheme heavily for the quarterback run, whether it’s sweeps, power plays or draws. Cedar Hill also has big-play ability with Salter’s arm and downfield threats like 6-foot, 165-pound senior receiver Javien Clemmer (617 receiving yards, nine touchdowns), 6-3, 170-pound senior receiver Jayden Moore (498, 5), 5-10, 165-pound senior receiver Brian Rainey (477, 5) and 5-10, 170-pound senior receiver Anthony Thomas (439, 5).

Joseph said Cedar Hill’s offensive line is underrated and does a good job in pass-protection. Many teams have dropped eight players back in coverage against the Longhorns this season in order to keep plays in front of them.

Joseph said his defense will have to play with consistent leverage.

“He’s commander of their offense,” Joseph said of Salter. “He’s a very, very confident kid. His best passes are the ones they throw down the field, 40-50 yards. He’s been throwing the ball exceptionally well. We’re going to have to contest throws and put some pressure on him.”

Joseph said the Longhorns’ defensive front four is a strength. The Longhorns have 40 sacks this season, led by senior 6-3, 240-pound defensive end Charles Esters (nine sacks), junior 6-5, 280-pound defensive tackle Syncere Massey (seven sacks), and 6-4, 260-pound junior end Harvey Dyson (five sacks). Cedar Hill will need it against a dominant Katy offensive line that has only allowed five sacks and a dynamic, versatile Katy backfield in Davis (1,409 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns) and his younger sophomore brother Seth (1,625 yards, 17 touchdowns).

Joseph assumes Cedar Hill, generally a Cover 2 zone defensive team, will play man against Katy and force the Tigers’ outside receivers to consistently make plays.

“We’ll have to move the football and control the tempo of the game, not let them get on a roll,” Joseph said. “And if they do, we’re going to have to have enough composure to make sure we don’t focus on the negative and get ready for the next play. They’ll make plays, they’re too talented not to. They’re where they’re at for a reason, but so are we.”

Overall, Joseph said Cedar Hill is mostly the same schematically and philosophically under Lynn as it was in the past under McGuire, aside from better talent on the defensive line. Cedar Hill has been battle-tested more than Katy this postseason, dismissing two state-ranked teams over the last three weeks, but the Tigers’ execution has been almost flawless in their last two playoff wins over Clear Falls (51-14) and Buda Hays (63-7).

“We’ve been stressing the little things and going at it full-speed,” Davis said. “If we play hard and physical, I don’t think we can be stopped. We’re going to have to stay poised and focused. Do our job. Our coaches have set us up for a good situation to succeed.”

Joseph said his team is playing with great confidence, likening it to a group of hungry wolves who pounce whenever a bone is thrown their way. Varner said this week’s practices have been “focused, but hyped.”

“We know we’re so close to winning another championship, and we know what we have to do to get there and win,” Varner said. “This is for this community that has had our backs and picked us up. This is for our coaches that have built us into men and built us for this.”

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