High School Football

Spartans’ win earns playoff berth, places Katy in D2 playoff bracket

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 12/5/20

The entire state tuned in to Seven Lakes’ 30-22 win over Cinco Ranch in each team’s District 19-6A finale on Friday evening at Legacy Stadium.

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High School Football

Spartans’ win earns playoff berth, places Katy in D2 playoff bracket


The entire state tuned in to Seven Lakes’ 30-22 win over Cinco Ranch in each team’s District 19-6A finale on Friday evening at Legacy Stadium.

The win-or-go-home affair resulted in the Spartans (3-5) qualifying for the playoffs for the second time in three years and kept the Cougars (1-7) out of the postseason for the third straight season.

Seven Lakes will play Ridge Point (5-2) in a Class 6A Division I bi-district playoff game Friday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at Hall Stadium in Missouri City.

“It feels amazing,” said junior linebacker Scott Stanford, who had a 37-yard interception return that set up a touchdown in the second half. “At the beginning of the season, no one expected us to be in the playoffs. We weren’t supposed to win any game, except this one maybe. But we did it. Our team believed and our coaches believed. It was our grind and effort. Every rep, everyone went hard. Our backs were up against the wall and we didn’t want to go home.”

But on a state-wide scale, the significance of the Spartans win meant a great deal for Katy High.

Because of Seven Lakes’ win, the No. 9 state-ranked Tigers will be in the Division II bracket of the playoffs, which is generally considered the lighter road to state opposed to the big-school titans of Division I.

The Division II bracket consists of the smaller enrollment playoff schools from each district. It means Katy will avoid defending state champ North Shore, which has eliminated the Tigers from the playoffs each of the last two seasons, and three of the last four years. Duncanville, the state runner-up in DI the last two years, is also out of the way.

The last time Katy won state was in 2015, which was also the last time it was on the Division II side of the playoff bracket.

“If you looked around at the slate of games this weekend, we had one of the more meaningful games in the Greater Houston area because of what it meant for Katy,” Seven Lakes coach Jimmy Hamon said. “That’s what it’s like when your big brother’s a stud. It’s kind of neat, and I’m sure there were a lot of Tigers rooting for us. I hope I get a thank-you card from (Katy coach) Gary (Joseph).”

The Spartans jumped out to a fast start in securing their playoff berth. They led 14-0 after the first quarter on a six-yard scoring catch by junior Brayden Phillips and a 73-yard scoring run by senior Milton Jones.

Senior Nick David-West added a 35-yard touchdown run 28 seconds into the second quarter. By halftime, the Spartans led by three touchdowns and Jones had 107 yards on nine carries.

“We just read the way the defensive line read our tackles and our guards,” Jones said. “If they slanted in, we went for outside runs. If they slanted out, it was inside runs. We got a lot of life out of our run game.”

Senior quarterback Cristian Beltran’s 1-yard run a little more than two minutes into the third quarter gave Seven Lakes a 27-0 lead. That’s when Cinco Ranch fought back.

Not long after Beltran’s keeper, sophomore receiver Seth Salverino hauled in a 55-yard pass from sophomore Gavin Rutherford to put the Cougars on the board. Junior Keegan Sneedon’s 46-yard field goal made it 30-7, Spartans, with 4:04 left in the third.

But in a span of a little less than four minutes in the fourth quarter, the Cougars scored 15 points to cut their deficit to eight.

Rutherford scored on a 1-yard run to the outside, and senior Caleb Leapheart handled a 14-yard catch-and-run score from Rutherford, with sophomore receiver Noah Abboud scoring the two-point conversion.

“They saw a heck of a team that played so hard in that second half tonight,” Hamon said. “What I told our guys is that’s what it feels like to play against a team with their backs against the wall. Every round of the playoffs, that’s what it’s going to be like. There’s no tomorrow.”

Seven Lakes was able to hang on despite the late scare. The Spartans were outgained 327-315 in total yards, but they won the turnover battle 2-0 and forced Cinco Ranch into a one-dimensional offense.

“We knew we’d be able to stop the run,” Stanford said. “We knew they’d pass it, so we worked all week on getting drops, manning up, different coverages, sending the blitz. Just making No. 12 (Rutherford) uncomfortable. We did a good job in the first half, but the second half it was only OK.”

It has been a long season for Seven Lakes, even during a campaign unlike any other for all Texas high school football teams. There was a 20-day period where the Spartans had to suspend athletics due to a COVID-19 outbreak. There was rescheduling of multiple contests, including the one against Cinco Ranch.

“It was so different than any other time I’ve been in this situation, just because of the ups and downs and rescheduling and waiting,” Hamon said. “We were supposed to play this game two weeks ago. We were ready on the 19th and then it got rescheduled. That took some anticipation and energy out of the guys. I think it hurt us late in the second quarter offensively, as far as being too amped up and needing to calm down a bit.”

But the players pulled through. They never quit, never wavered. Attitudes and energy never waned. The result is the playoffs.

“The mindset was to get the job done,” said Jones, who finished with 118 yards on 14 carries. “We stayed focused. We put everything together and we were fired up. There was a time when we had no idea if we’d have a season. But we just worried about playing and practicing and kept striving. We knew what we wanted, and we wanted the playoffs.”

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