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Katy coach Gary Joseph addresses his player after the Tigers' annual Red-White spring game Tuesday at Rhodes Stadium.
Katy wrapped up its spring football season Tuesday evening with its annual Red-White game at Rhodes Stadium.
The game is not a typical spring football game. It is more of a community event than glorified scrimmage.
There are two “quarters” of 10-minute periods, followed by a brief “halftime” in which the drill and dance team is introduced and performs a routine. The second half consisted of two 15-minute periods.
Each varsity football player is introduced prior to the game. Cheerleaders are introduced. At halftime, there is an auction on behalf of the Katy athletic booster club. A football signed by the 2021 14-1 state semifinalist Tigers team went for $700.
“This game’s for the kids, so they can enjoy it, have fun, play in front of a crowd,” Katy coach Gary Joseph said. “Spring training is a grind, and it’s supposed to be, but to have them get together, mix it up a little bit, be competitive and have some fun is a big thing.”
Pictured is the crowd at Katy's Red-White spring football game Tuesday at Rhodes Stadium.Dennis Silva II | VYPE Media
More observations from Katy’s spring football season.
>> WANTED: BETTER
As Joseph reminded players afterward, there is a lot of work left to do.
“We’ve got to get better,” he said. “We’re not a finished product. We have to start developing some leadership. Games like (the spring game) can help with leadership. A game like this is about the little things, like center-quarterback exchanges. Everybody’s working on fundamentals, but you’ve got to be able to do the little things, too. That’s what games like this are for.”
Incoming senior linebacker Damian Neveaux said a focus of the team’s has been discipline. Lack of focus at critical junctures in the Class 6A-Division II state semifinal game against Austin Westlake last season cost the Tigers. Throughout the season as well, Katy had its share of moments where it uncharacteristically was inattentive and sloppy.
“We have a bunch of people on our team that’s ready to go to work,” Neveaux said. “We don’t have a lot of highly-ranked players, but they work hard. My concern would be discipline, but that’ll come during the summer. We’ve got to be more disciplined and ready to go.”
>> THE TRUTH
Part of last year’s discipline concerns was a sense of entitlement, Joseph said.
“They need to quit worrying about themselves and worry about being a football team and a football player,” Joseph said. “Sometimes they put too much pressure on themselves because they try too hard to impress somebody. If you do that, the game’s never going to be fun. The game will never slow down for you, because you’re always going to sit there and play in doubt. Gaining confidence is a big thing. The discipline of doing the little things right is a big thing.”
This spring, Joseph had his players focus on their “truth.” In its essence, it’s about remembering what the Katy football program is built upon.
Joseph said that means trust, respect, unselfishness, tradition and heart.
“We’ve made a big statement this year that it’s about the truth,” Joseph said. “It’s about the bottom line. They’re learning some things in what the truth actually means.”
Katy's 2022-2023 team captains, from left to right: senior Jacob Egg, senior Seth Davis, senior Damian Neveaux and senior JR Ceyanes.Dennis Silva II | VYPE Media
>> TIGERS NAME CAPTAINS
Katy named its four captains for the 2022-2023 season.
They are senior offensive lineman Jacob Egg, senior running back Seth Davis, senior receiver JR Ceyanes and Neveaux.
“It means a lot,” said Neveaux, the team’s leading tackler last season. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid.”
Players elected the captains. Joseph said it was probably the closest race the program’s had in captain voting since he’s been at Katy (he arrived at Katy in the early 1980s as defensive coordinator). There were four other players within four votes.
“They have to understand that it’s their football team now,” Joseph said. “It’s not last year’s team or last year’s leadership. A lot more will be expected from them. When bad things happen, they’ve got to step up.
“It’s not just the four captains that have got to be leaders. Those are the people that represent you, but we’ve got to have leadership at all positions and all phases of this thing.”
>> UP NEXT
Katy will start strength and conditioning in early June. That is the cornerstone of its offseason program. Players and coaches will tell you one of the critical reasons to their sustained success over the last few decades is the buy-in from players to the strength and conditioning camps.
The Tigers will participate in 7-on-7 this summer. They did not last year.
Katy opens the season Aug. 26 against Clear Springs at Challenger Stadium at 7 p.m. Its non-district schedule concludes hosting Atascocita on Sept. 2 at Legacy Stadium at 6 p.m. There are only two non-district games this year since District 19-6A, once again an all-Katy district, expands from seven to nine schools with the addition of Jordan and Paetow.
The Tigers open district play Sept. 10 against Tompkins at Legacy Stadium at 6 p.m.
Other key district dates:
>> Sept. 29, Rhodes Stadium, 7 p.m.: The Tigers get their first look at Jordan’s Warriors.
>> Oct. 6, Legacy Stadium, 6 p.m.: The Tigers are the away team versus Class 5A, Division I state defending state champ Paetow.
>> Oct. 21, Rhodes Stadium, 7 p.m.: The Tigers are the home team against Cinco Ranch, which made a surprising run to the third round of the postseason last year and figures to make another strong run in 2022 with a plethora of dynamic returning talent.
Seven Lakes junior Amy Abke.
Amy Abke is making these playoffs her own personal playground, opening eyes and dropping jaws while doing so.
The Seven Lakes junior ace and Sam Houston State commit has been unreal through two rounds and five games of the postseason, allowing one earned run on 16 hits while striking out 50 and walking 10 in 36 2/3 innings.
Largely because of Abke, Seven Lakes is in the regional quarterfinals for the first time since 2016. The Spartans (20-10) play George Ranch in a best-of-three series starting Thursday.
Abke has thrown every inning of the Spartans’ playoffs, going 4-1 against a No. 2 seed (Ridge Point) and district champion (Jersey Village).
.@7LSoftball, in the area playoffs for the first time in nine years, shuts out Jersey Village 6-0 in Game 2 to sweep the Falcons and advance to the regional quarters. The Spartans are 20-10. @SpartanCrazies_ @SLHSABC @KatyISDAthletic @TXPrepSoftball @TX6Asoftballpic.twitter.com/zsXDFuz8A6 — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
“She’s better than what I expected,” Spartans first-year head coach Holly Koopmann said. “She goes into games knowing she’s going to perform and be successful. And most of the time, she is. She is one of the mentally toughest kids I’ve ever coached.”
Abke has thrown 63 percent of her pitches for strikes this postseason. As if her prowess in the circle wasn’t enough, she’s contributed three hits and four RBIs at the plate.
“I feel like it’s all coming together,” Abke said. “I feel like we deserve to be in round three. We’ve worked really hard and we’re a team. Everyone is doing something to contribute even if they’re not on the field.”
Abke was stellar last season, lifting Seven Lakes to the playoffs with clutch performances in a round-robin play-in tournament.
Abke struck out 24, walked three and allowed two hits in shutout wins over Katy Taylor and Mayde Creek to return the Spartans to the playoffs for the first time since that 2016 year when they went to the regional semifinals.
This year, Abke has a 1.11 ERA. In 176 innings, she has allowed 28 earned runs on 94 hits, striking out 311 and walking 34. The signature win of her career so far came March 1 against perennial state power and district rival Katy. Abke handed the Tigers their first district loss since 2014 by striking out 11, allowing two hits and surrendering no runs or walks in a complete-game 2-0 win.
Abke’s durability and endurance are remarkable. Her toughness and resilience are unquestioned.
Though she is averaging 113 pitches per game during the playoffs, Abke seems to only get stronger late in games. That’s by design. She has worked tirelessly to find any and every way to be more efficient and smarter as a pitcher.
“She has learned that facing a team multiple times in a short period, you have to adjust,” said Abke’s father, Justin. “Her control and ability to move the ball across horizontal and vertical planes have drastically improved the last 12 months. Her ability to throw certain pitches at different spins and speeds has also allowed her to keep hitters off balance.”
During the offseason, Abke focused on spin, location and working more of her pitches off-speed. Those were all things she said she struggled with last year.
In training with a pitching coach, she learned different pitches. Not only how to throw them, but when and where, and why.
“Stuff like having the same pitch, but working it in and out,” Abke said. “It’s seemed to work for me. They’re pitches that not a lot of people throw, so I can catch people off guard.”
More than anything, however, Abke is most proud of her leadership. She embraces keeping her teammates hyped during games, keeping their spirits up.
Abke understands they look up to her. She relishes that responsibility. It’s debatable whether she affects the team more with her play on the field or her presence in the dugout and locker room.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever coached a kid like her,” Koopmann said. “She works harder than anybody. She is a great leader. Always ready to serve. I couldn’t ask for more from her.”