Katy survives Summer Creek to take regional title, sets up showdown with Westlake

Katy survives Summer Creek to take regional title, sets up showdown with Westlake (Copyright (c) 2021 VYPE - All rights reserved)

HOUSTON—Like its regional semifinal against C.E. King last week, Katy was challenged in its Class 6A-Division II regional final against Summer Creek on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers’ authority was threatened.

But like they have each time adversity has introduced itself this season, the Tigers overcame and conquered, eluding the resilient Bulldogs, 34-31, at Rice Stadium to move on to a highly anticipated state semifinal against Austin Westlake next week.

Katy (14-0) and Westlake (14-0) play Saturday, Dec. 11, at 2 p.m. at McLane Stadium in Waco. But the Tigers had to sweat their way there, never fully exhaling until junior defensive lineman Broderick Johnson and senior defensive end Malick Sylla combined to sack quarterback Jahrik Jones on 4th-and-15 from the Summer Creek 44-yard line with 43 seconds left.

“I’m proud of the way we responded as a team,” senior linebacker Ty Kana said. “Never once that game did we have our heads down. That last drive, we were all more mad than anything. That last drive, it was anger from us, and it was chaos the last few plays.

“We know how to respond to adversity. That’s what we practice all the time, and it starts in the offseason. When things get hard, go to work. Successful things happen when you work.”

Like the game against King, Katy built a considerable first-half lead before watching it quickly dwindle in the second half.

Katy led Summer Creek 27-7 at halftime. But defense sparked a furious Summer Creek rally. Summer Creek had takeaways on back-to-back-to-back Katy possessions in Tigers territory early in the third quarter and scored 14 points off two of those.

“Our game-plan coming in was just to play even-keel,” Summer Creek coach Kenny Harrison said. “Not to get too high or get too low. Our guys bought into that. So, when we got down 27-7, I told our guys, hey, let’s just play hard for 48 minutes and let’s try and get to the fourth quarter with an opportunity to win the game. They did that.”

Katy junior running backs Dallas Glass and Seth Davis, who had an exceptional first half with 218 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries but played well beyond his standard in the second half, had fumbles recovered by the Bulldogs. Then Summer Creek junior defensive back Darein Hargrove picked off Caleb Koger deep in Katy territory and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown to cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 27-21 with 7:35 left in the third quarter.

“The frustrating thing is we made them look a lot better than they probably are,” Katy coach Gary Joseph said. “Credit to Coach Harrison and turning that program around. They got us on our heels a bit. We got away from not beating ourselves. But I’m proud of our kids, hanging in there. We had to fight and scratch, and that’s sometimes what you have to do when you have three turnovers and all three of them are in your territory.”

After Hargrove’s pick-6, Glass scored on a 51-yard run to briefly stymie the Bulldogs’ momentum. But that was the only touchdown Katy had in the second half.

After totaling 351 yards in the first half, the Tigers had 110 in the second. Summer Creek, meanwhile, gained 230 yards in the second half, 132 on the ground. The 31 points are the most Katy has surrendered all season.

“There are a lot of things we are going to have to emphasize,” Joseph said. “Our run defense has to be better. That’s the thing that frustrates me. In the first half, we were decent. In the second half, we’re a better run defensive football team than that. Their staff did a better job scheming us, but we’ve got to be more physical and we’ve got to make plays. This is the time of year where you’ve got to make plays.”

After Glass’s touchdown, Summer Creek scored twice more on a Cory Nichols 12-yard keeper and an Alfonso Gonzalez 36-yard field goal to make it 34-31 Katy with 6:08 left.

Katy punted on its next series before coming up with a winning defensive stop for the second straight game when Johnson and Sylla teamed up to sack Jones. Johnson was on the initial takedown. Sylla finished it.

Johnson bull-rushed the tackle before using a push-pull to get off him and bring down Jones.

“With how much film we watched on Summer Creek, I automatically knew it was a pass off the tackle’s stance,” Johnson said. “I just used what my coaches taught me with my pass rush moves to get to the QB.”

The Tigers’ bid for back-to-back state championships remains alive. Waiting is Westlake, which beat Vandegrift 70-7 in its Region IV final on Saturday.

Katy and Westlake are both undefeated, and Joseph and Westlake coach Todd Dodge are regarded as two of the best coaches in Texas high school football. Katy is ranked No. 2 in the state. Westlake is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation.

“They know they didn’t play their best, but they know they played well enough to play in the semifinals,” Joseph said of his players. “We’ll worry about correcting things later. Right now, they need to enjoy the win. When you don’t enjoy winning, then what are you playing for? We’ll get things corrected. We have to. We’re playing the No. 2 team in the nation. It’s like going from the frying pan into the fire.”

As expected, it’s a circumstance the Tigers invite.

“I’m looking forward to competition,” Kana said. “It’ll be No. 1 versus No. 2 in Texas. I’m looking forward to it.”