HOUSTON - Once Braden Hay reached the end of the handshake line, the senior safety turned back in the direction of the Katy Taylor fans inside NRG Stadium.
The senior safety broke into a jog, holding his white helmet by the facemask in his left hand, while with his right he held up four fingers signifying the number round that the Mustangs were bound for.
A 35-14 victory over Humble on Saturday night secured for the first time in program history Katy Taylor's place amongst the final eight Class 6A Division II football teams in Texas left playing heading into December next week.
Other than the titans of Class 6A football in Greater Houston, Katy Taylor and Fort Bend Elkins can hang with just about anyone. That's what makes their evenly-matched 1st-round (bi-district) playoff game against each other on Saturday so intriguing, and you can listen to what transpires inside Hall Stadium at vypefortbend.com starting at 12:45PM.
The Mustangs (5-5) and Knights (8-2) are in the UIL's 6A Division II playoff bracket, based on overall student enrollment. In District 19-6A, Katy and Katy Tompkins also qualified for the playoffs, and they have more students than Taylor; and the same is true for 20-6A's Fort Bend Travis and Ridge Point, whose enrollment numbers exceed Elkins.
Therefore, Taylor and Elkins should be more than happy in 6A's Division II. In Taylor's five wins, they outscored their opponents by an average of nearly 27 points (45.2 to 18.4). Their five losses were to a quartet of teams state-ranked by MaxPreps (Atascocita, #26; Dickinson, #23; Katy, #1; and Tompkins, #20) and a district rival, Mayde Creek – which went 8-2, losing only to Katy and Tompkins.
The Knights had an easier schedule. Their only losses were to Travis (ranked #28) and a Ridge Point team that is 27-1 in district games vs. Fort Bend ISD foes over the last four seasons. In all other games, Elkins dominated, outscoring the opposition 46.9-12.4.
Elkins is looking for its first playoff win since the Knights beat Madison 28-20 in the 2016 bi-district round. In the last 10 seasons, they are 3-8 in playoff games including two wins in 2013 when Jonathan Giles was their quarterback.
Taylor has broken even (7-7) in playoff games over the last 13 seasons, including three straight 1st-round wins over Fort Bend opponents: Kempner (2016), Bush ('17) and Dulles ('18).