In one of the biggest matchups of the season in Texas high school football, the Katy Tigers did what they do best: put on a show. At Freedom Field in Alvin, Texas on Saturday afternoon, head coach Gary Joseph led Katy to a 49-24 win over the reigning 5A Division I State Champions Shadow Creek in the Region 3 Finals of the 6A Division II Playoffs. There was rarely a time in the game where the Tigers seemed to miss a beat.
Coming into the game, fans were looking forward to a matchup that featured heavy talent at the quarterback position: Baylor signee Kyron Drones of Shadow Creek and Katy's sophomore playmaker, Caleb Koger. Drones would succeed Saturday afternoon in proving his ability to keep plays alive, but the young talent Koger won the day as he threw five touchdown passes and tacked on 193 yards in the air. Just when Shadow Creek seemed to take the first bit of momentum in the game by kicking a 41 yard field goal after blocking Katy's first punt attempt, Koger came out onto the field and delivered a 50 yard dime to his junior receiver Nicholas Anderson less than two minutes later. Katy's next score would look nearly identical to their first, as Koger completed another deep bomb, this time to Fuller Shurtz. Koger's four touchdown passes in the first half were each thrown to a different receiver.
The Tigers' defensive unit complemented Koger's performance by holding Shadow Creek to zero offensive touchdowns in the first half. To add on to their second quarter surge, Katy's Bobby Taylor picked up a Shadow Creek fumble and ran it in 15 yards to the end zone, giving Katy a 28-10 lead. They would head into the locker room at halftime leading 35-10.
Despite a bumpy first half that consisted of penalties, personal fouls, and being scored on numerous times, Shadow Creek played a respectable second half, as they tied with Katy 14-14. Kyron Drones ran a 40 yard keeper down to Katy's 24 yard line in the third quarter that would set up a 16 yard touchdown pass to University of Houston signee CJ Guidry two plays later. The future Big XII quarterback later completed a short touchdown pass to Lawrence Armstrong and connected to Greg Hancock on a successful two point conversion with 1:22 left in the game. Both sides of the stadium applauded Drones and the rest of Sharks' effort and pride after scoring on this drive.
The Tigers advance to the State Quarterfinals where they will play Clear Falls from District 24 on January 2. Currently, their future is bright, as they have dominated their path with a sophomore-filled backfield. With Tompkins' loss of Jalen Milroe at quarterback next season, Katy will be back on track to reclaiming the District 19 trophy.
As for Shadow Creek, they're in good hands. Advancing to the third round of the UIL Playoffs is a very admirable accomplishment, not to mention that they did it in their first year of 6A classification. Moreover, the Sharks lost in this round to a historically good high school football team. As time progresses, the Sharks will only grow more comfortable with who they play and likely become another 6A force. More individually, the 2019 State Champion Kyron Drones looks to have a good opportunity at having playing time next season for Baylor, given that Charlie Brewer has transferred to Utah. Drones' college career will be one that many people will be excited to watch.
With all talent being accounted for, it is likely that Katy and Shadow Creek will meet in the Regional Finals in the seasons to come, just as Katy did with North Shore for four years in a row (2016-2019). Surely, Katy and Shadow Creek will be a fun matchup to always keep an eye on, but as for now, the Tigers have won the first chapter and they don't plan on stopping.
After an abnormal start to the 2020 high school football season, 5A and 6A schools are finally entering the playoffs.
District 23-6A finished up with two teams having dropped out of competition due to COVID breakouts, leaving only six teams standing, and after an overtime upset, the district outcomes were solidified.
Dawson defeated the reigning 5A D1 state champions, the Shadow Creek Sharks, right before the Thanksgiving Break in a thrilling back and forth game that was decided in overtime. The victory can be widely attributed to the rushing of Jaden Stewart (28 carries for 157 yards) and Torrence Burgess Jr. (14 carries for 57 yards, 2 TDs), the overtime-winning kick from Carter Brown, and their success on the defensive side of the ball. The upset victory over Shadow Creek capped Dawson's regular season with an undefeated record (9-0, 7-0).
Dawson's overall success rides not only on the shoulders of their running backs, but also the leadership of quarterback Colin Johnson (3 TDs, 709 yds, 101.3 yd/gm). The main takeaway from the Eagles' undefeated season thus far? They dominate the rushing game. Jaden Stewart (117 carries for 731 yds, 12 rush TDs, 1 rec TD) leads the team in touchdowns and yardage, and he makes quite the unstoppable pair with Torrence Burgess Jr. (83 carries for 522 yds, 11 rush TDs, 1 rec TD, 1 KOR TD). Together, the running backs led Dawson to their undefeated season. Leading the team defensively is Jordan Stewart (41, solo tackles, 53 total tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT), Cameron Whitfield (32 solo tackles, 44 total tackles, 5 sacks), and Blake Smith (28 solo tackles, 38 total tackles, 3 INTs). This team, with their chemistry and drive, was destined to make a deep run into the 6A DI playoffs and extend their undefeated season. However, with continued success, the Eagles found themselves up against back-to-back state champion, North Shore. The Eagles fell in the second round to North Shore 38-7.
The Shadow Creek Sharks finished second in 23-6A after 33-0 and 20-6 wins over Strake Jesuit and Pearland respectively. Quarterback Kyron Drones (13 pass TDs, 1069 pass yds, 2 rush TDs) continues his strong leadership. Other big contributors commanding the offense for the Sharks successful district play are running back Kelvon Brown (84 carries for 574 yards, 4 TDs), wide receiver CJ Guidry (17 catches for 339 yds, 8 TDs, 207 kick return yds and 1 returned TD), and Greg Hancok (24 catches for 545 yds, 5 TDs). On the defensive side of the ball, Terrence Cooks III (33 solo tackles, 55 total tackles, 2 sacks) and Byron Roberson (52 solo tackles, 78 total tackles, 1 sack) combine to apply immense pressure on the quarterback and prevent the opposing offense from moving downfield. The team has an incredible amount of potential, and the Sharks are thirsty for a return to the State Championship in Arlington. While the Sharks struggled a bit throughout the season, they were expected to go far in the 6A DII playoffs. However, the Sharks fell to Katy in the third round with a 49-24 loss.
Coming in third was Pearland after a couple of close losses to Dawson and Shadow Creek. Pearland is led by quarterback Jake Sock, who has thrown 678 yards for 10 touchdowns this season. Darius Hale (97 carries for 586 yds, 5 TDs) and Dominic Serna (90 carries for 614 yds, 6 TDs) lead the Oilers rushing game, and together account for a third of the Oilers touchdowns this season. Other key offensive players for Pearland include receiver Isaac Sanchez (15 receptions for 299 yds, 2 TDs) and receiver William Foster (10 receptions for 217 yds, 4 TDs). The defensive side of the ball is led by Kelekolio Linton (34 solo tackles, 62 total tackles, 5 INTs) and Kvon Sherman (34 solo tackles, 48 total tackles, 2 sacks), who defend passes well and prevent the ball from moving quickly downfield. While the Oilers might have been considered an underdog going into the playoffs, their defensive success that held both Shadow Creek and Dawson to twenty points or less would play an important role in the overall success of the team. The Oilers were knocked out by a 21-6 loss to Atascocita in the second round.
Last but not least, Strake Jesuit pulled out a win over Alief Elsik to clinch fourth place in the district. Led by senior quarterback Connor O'Hara (91 completions for 1118 yds, 11 pass TD), the Strake offense scored a total of thirty touchdowns for the season to solidify their appearance in the playoffs. The Crusaders have key players rushing the ball that account for more than a third of Strake's touchdowns: Joel Crawford (140 carries for 790 yds, 9 TDs) and Maurice May (110 carries for 735 yds, 5 TDs). O'Hara often finds his key receivers Will Taylor (20 receptions for 363 yds, 4 TDs) and Robert Smith (23 receptions for 328 yds, 4 TDs) to get the offense moving downfield. The Crusaders' playoff run was cut short after a 21-16 loss to Clear Falls in the first round.
Congratulations to all four teams on their well-played district matchups and their own respective showings in the playoffs. In the crazy times we are currently living in, it has been great to see some fantastic Texas high school football.