Tigers are Returning to the State Semifinals

After narrowly escaping Summer Creek, the Tigers are returning to the State Semifinals as underdogs against Austin Westlake.

After narrowly escaping a second half disaster and holding on for the win, the Katy Tigers are returning to the State Semifinals as an atypical underdog against an Austin Westlake team widely thought to be the best team in the state. Last week, I got on here saying what an intriguing film review the King game was due to the contrast of the first and second halves. The Summer Creek game said “hold my Capri Sun” (family programming here). What a wild couple of weeks.

The Katy offense took the game’s first possession, and quickly established dominance running to the left. Isaiah Smith broke the first big play of the game on what I believe was a fullback counter. This put Katy deep into Summer Creek territory, and the drive was capped off with a Davis touchdown for 7-0.

The Tigers stopped Summer Creek on their first possession around midfield, and put the ball back into the offense’s hands. On the ensuing series for Katy, Koger did a nice job of finding his TE 88 Michael Dante for the Tigers’ second explosive play of the game. Davis punched in the touchdown for 13-0. Katy looked dominant in the early stages and like they’d find plenty of opportunities for big plays.

Summer Creek responded on its second possession with a pass to #6 Nichols placing them around midfield before a big run around the left side set them up for a slant pass touchdown to make the score 13-7. This sequence concluded the first quarter.

On Katy’s third possession, Davis popped a counter for another big run through the left side. A touchdown pass from Koger to Anderson made it 20-7 Katy. The Tigers stopped Summer Creek on their next possession before Katy had its first punt of the game. The Katy defense stopped Summer Creek again.

Seth Davis struck for the third time in the first half on a 68 yard touchdown run. This run went through the middle initially before Davis bounced it left and outran everyone. The Tigers led 27-7, and explosive plays happened on every scoring drive.

Katy actually had another chance to drive before halftime, but stalled out just inside Summer Creek territory. The Bulldogs were to receive the opening third quarter kick. After the half, Summer Creek received and went for it on 4th down inside their own territory but were stopped by the Tigers. On the next play, Katy ran a counter to Glass and the ball popped out for a turnover on what was a first down run.

The next series on offense for Summer Creek is where we had the big controversy of the day. #25 Avant broke a big run through the middle of Katy’s defense. The Tigers missed a tackle in the backfield and another at the second level before Avant raced downfield, but he lost the football as he was falling forward. It was a clear fumble/blown call and Katy’s #7 Hall had scooped the ball for what would have been a score. The officials ruled the ball down, but then overturned after a discussion (and perhaps a peek at the video board) while Katy had called a time out. They gave Katy the ball back on its own 21 yard line.

On the first play, Katy ran a pitch around the left side and Davis fumbled the ball back to Summer Creek. Once again, a case of not fully securing the football as on the previous fumble. Summer Creek takes advantage of the gift with #22 Currie running through the Tiger defense to narrow the gap to 27-14.

This sequence of Katy not being awarded a scoop and score fumble recovery, but being awarded possession, and then giving it back immediately for Summer Creek to score changed the entire complexion of the game. Instead of it being 34-7, it’s a new ballgame at 27-14.

Turnovers change games.

“But wait, there’s more!” as the infomercials say. Following the score by Summer Creek, Katy takes the field once again pinned deep in its own territory and Koger is intercepted for a pick six. The play was a quick hitch or bubble out to Anderson, but 7 read the telegraph and easily jumped it. This was the third or fourth time Katy had attempted a quick pass to Anderson in the game.

Typically, this kind of play is packaged as a pair meaning the QB has a run or pass check option based on what he sees. It’s designed to avoid precisely what ended up happening. I don’t know if Katy still runs paired plays and/or if this was supposed to be one, but it was the wrong play choice given the way Summer Creek played it (corner up).

The score is 27-21 Katy at this point. This third quarter sequence for Katy is the worst I’ve seen the Tigers involved in since the 2005 game against Cy Falls at Rice when Katy trailed 28-10 and was on the verge of going down 35-10 after fumbling a kickoff.

After the pick six, Katy got a good return from Schneider, but an unsportsmanlike call backed the Tigers up deep inside its own territory yet again. Katy punted back to the Bulldogs. Katy’s defense came up with a big stop to preserve the six point advantage.

On Katy’s next possession, the Tiger team from the first half once again made a brief cameo appearance. Dallas Glass broke a long 51 yard touchdown on counter to give Katy breathing room at 34-21. On Summer Creek’s next possession, the Katy defense had the Bulldog’s nearly dead to rights on a 3rd down before the Summer Creek QB heaved an absolute prayer downfield which #6 Nichols made a great adjustment and catch on. Nichols finished the drive to narrow Katy’s lead to 34-28.

On the next kick return, the officials walked off yardage against Katy for something I didn’t notice and the Tigers once again started possession inside its own 20. This is how the fourth quarter started. Katy was eventually stopped on a 3rd and 1 to end this drive. Katy tried to run pitch around the left side, but Glass was hit for a loss.

Summer Creek had the ball at midfield to start after a short punt by Katy. They hit a bubble screen to #5 for a first down. Katy didn’t get anyone there to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage. However, the Tiger defense comes up with a game saving stop to limit the Bulldogs to a field goal. The score is 34-31. Katy offense immediately goes three and out, and the Tiger punter saves the day by flipping field position in a big way. Summer Creek has to start its last possession on its own 27 yard line as a result.

The Bulldogs pushed out near midfield, but the Katy defense didn’t let them get any further to eventually sack them on 4th down to preserve the win.

General Thoughts

The defense absolutely won this game for Katy down the stretch. Watching the game back really let me appreciate their effort. Aside from a couple of plays, the Tiger defense played a solid game overall and were put in some really difficult positions. Katy’s #7 Hall stood out to me for his physicality and sure tackles (and he should have had a defensive touchdown). This is a player who will be a really high level prospect in a couple of years.

It’s easy to look at not getting the fumble return as the reason the game turned on its head, and there’s no denying the impact it had, but the offense turnovers were all Katy. They were all very preventable and nearly ended the Tigers’ season early. Katy must be accountable for each and recognize where the wheels came off in the third quarter.

Any time a game snowballs against you like it did Katy in this one, you’re very fortunate to get out with a win. I have no idea why Katy has gone from such commanding positions to fighting for its playoff life after halftime in the last two games, and the coaches and players may not know why these things have happened either. It’s not very characteristic of Katy football.

Typically, if Katy gets into trouble, it falls into an early hole. If Katy’s leading at half by double digits, that’s going to be very secure 9 times out of 10. The opponents deserve credit of course for adjustments and fighting back, but obviously Katy has to be introspective and figure out how to get better. The third quarter sequence was absolutely shocking.

Never apologize for winning and take advantage of the opportunity you’ve earned to play another week. In my pre-game post, I talked about how one thing Coach has always emphasized is putting your best foot forward and you do that by focusing on fundamentals. It must be for an entire game and not just part.

Early Westlake Thoughts

The Chaps blasted Vandegrift 70-7 for an easy waltz into the state semis. Westlake has not faced any competition from Region 4 or all year for that matter outside of Lake Travis. Katy will be a major step up in quality for them on paper, and if the Tigers avoid consecutive one play turnovers.

Westlake is 14-0 and led by Cade Klubnik. Klubnik is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and a defending state champion like Koger. Klubnik will be a massive challenge for Katy to defend. Westlake will not blow you away physically, but they are just a finely tuned machine overall. They are not going to beat themselves. Klubnik reminds of Chase Daniel from Todd Dodge’s 2002-2004 Carroll teams as an athlete though Klubnik is more polished as a passer at this point.

If you are wondering how Katy should defend this Westlake offense, go back and watch the 2003 state championship game against Carroll to see how Katy got pressure to Daniel. Katy will need to generate pressure against Klubnik, so he can’t just sit back there and pick his spot every play.

In my opinion, this will be one of the most challenging semi-final games Katy has ever faced. It’s not an impossible task by any means, but it is one in which the margin for error will be extremely small. The Summer Creek game doesn’t exactly put a big wind in Katy’s sails, but each round is a reset. The mission will be putting in a complete four quarters of sound football.