High School Football

Tigers rallying around seniors

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 1/13/21

Katy High is playing for its seniors this postseason, and that motivation has driven the Tigers back to the state championship game.

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High School Football

Tigers rallying around seniors

Posted

Katy High is playing for its seniors this postseason, and that motivation has driven the Tigers back to the state championship game.

Up until this season, those seniors rued the fact they had not been back to state. It weighed on their minds that they had not at least given themselves a shot to compete for a ninth state championship at Katy, where state football titles are as synonymous with the school as barbecue is to Texas.

The last time Katy was in the state final was 2015. The Tigers came close to getting to state in 2017, but they fell 28-14 to Lake Travis in the semifinals in San Antonio. These seniors were freshmen then; some were called up to the varsity roster for the playoff run. They departed Alamo Stadium that bitterly cold and windy Dec. 16 evening with one lasting thought: they did not want to be the class that did not compete for a state title.

They accomplished that, demonstratively so, with a 63-7 demolition of Buda Hays in the Class 6A-Division II semifinal Saturday, Jan. 9, at McLane Stadium in Waco.

“It’s a great compliment to the kids that we’ve gotten here,” coach Gary Joseph said. “These kids felt they had failed because this freshmen class hadn’t gotten back (to state). To get back, it means the world to us, as far as our program, but it means the world to them that they have been able to succeed. They’ve persevered, showed some resilience and they keep getting better.”

Forty-four seniors dot Katy’s roster. Fourteen of them are starters. Three are captains: receiver Taylor Saulsberry, safety Dalton Johnson and linebacker Shepherd Bowling.

By Katy’s elite standards, where “When excellence becomes tradition, greatness has no limits” is the program mantra, five years between state championship appearances is considered forever. Johnson, Bowling, senior safety Hunter Washington, and senior running back Jalen Davis were some of the call-ups for the 2017 playoff run when Katy fell a win short of state.

“There is a tradition of excellence here, and if you don’t win a state championship, you’re not satisfied,” Bowling said. “From freshman (season) until now, we’ve gone out early, and to get over that hump and get back to state is a great feeling.”

Junior linebacker Ty Kana, the only captain who is not a senior, said the team is playing for the seniors.

“Most of them were freshmen (in the 2017 state semis),” Kana said. “This is huge for them, getting back to the semis and winning it this time. Those are my brothers. We’re playing for my brothers.”

Junior safety Bobby Taylor said the team “owes it” to the seniors to finish the job.

“I’m playing each and every down for my seniors, like Dalton, Shepherd, Taylor,” Taylor said. “They haven’t been here in four years. Now we’re here. We have to capitalize on it.”

As much as their teammates are playing for them, the seniors are playing for everyone else. That’s the selfless nature, the admirable leadership, of a group that has pulled Katy through some dark times during a season that has been plagued by off-field drama, battles with COVID-19 and season-ending injuries.

“It’s a great feeling to still be playing,” Davis said. “I feel like we owe it to the community, the coaches, Coach Joseph, and the players playing next to me. We’ve been through a lot and we honestly deserve to be here.

“We made it this far, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring it back to the city. I’m a senior, and I know all of us seniors want this really bad. We’re going to sell out and give it our all.”

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