Cinco Ranch’s big second half thwarts Paetow, sets up showdown with Katy

Cinco Ranchs big second half thwarts Paetow, sets up showdown with Katy (Copyright (c) 2022 VYPE - All rights reserved)

KATY—A lot has gone Cinco Ranch’s way this season.

The prolific offense has looked spectacular every game. The defense has held its own when it matters most, coming up with clutch, timely stops as needed.

But Friday, the Cougars showed they can win when things aren’t going as desired.

In a game that featured three lead changes and a relentless Paetow team desperate for any positive news after a tumultuous week, Cinco Ranch pulled out a 35-24 win at Rhodes Stadium to go to 6-2 overall, 5-1 in District 19-6A.

Paetow lost its third straight game and fell to 3-4, 2-3.

“We know every game is going to be different,” said Cinco Ranch senior quarterback Gavin Rutherford, who only competed nine of 30 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns to two interceptions but had a career-night rushing with 191 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. “Not every game is going to be a blowout and not every game we’re going to be clicking. But these types of games help us grow. We didn’t do our best, had some busts and missed passes, but it’s a good win. One more point than them is what matters.”

The win sets up a huge showdown next week against Katy for the Cougars, reviving a once-intense rivalry. Cinco Ranch finds itself back where it was in the 2000s and mid-2010s when it was challenging the Tigers consistently for district championships.

A win next Friday can tie Cinco Ranch with Katy in the district standings with one game left. The Cougars’ last district title was 2008. From 2004-2017, Cinco Ranch was runner-up to Katy in the district 11 times.

“It’s a big game and we’re not shying away from that,” Cinco Ranch coach Chris Dudley said. “Our kids are embracing that. They’re a team that’s really good, like they always are. But we expect to go out there and compete. Just for Katy ISD and the area, it’s great to have Katy, who’s been there consistently, and now us back to where we’re in those games.”

To get there, Paetow—now under interim head coach David Hicks Sr., who took over this week when former head coach Lonnie Teagle resigned amidst allegations of inappropriate behavior with a student—gave Cinco Ranch all it could handle.

The Panthers’ talented and highly-recruited secondary was a problem all evening, with sophomore Deyjhon Pettaway, senior Christian Paz, senior Christian Hurd and senior Cortez Hunter swarming the perimeter, while junior Loghan Thomas, senior David Hicks Jr. and others up front got pressure on Rutherford early and often.

At halftime, the Panthers limited a Cinco Ranch offense that entered averaging 49.7 points per game to seven points, with Rutherford completing just five of 20 passes.

“They’re a really solid defense,” Rutherford said. “They’re good in coverage. You see the stars out there. We just have to do better.”

In the second half, however, the Cougars turned Katy ISD’s career leader in passing yards, completions and touchdowns loose in a different way—with his legs.

Rutherford had seven carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns in the final two quarters, adding a 15-yard touchdown throw on a screen pass to senior Noah Abboud for good measure for his second passing touchdown.

“Gavin was able to find some looks and extend plays with his legs,” Dudley said. “It’s a strength for him. He’s not too proud to just stay back there and chuck it all the time. If he sees an opening, he’s going to scramble. He’s not afraid to lower his shoulder against everybody. It’s the competitor in him.”

After Hurd began the third quarter with a dazzling 91-yard interception return for a score, Cinco Ranch scored on its next three drives, the first two on Rutherford runs.

Whenever the offense got stale, the Cougars’ defense amped up, forcing two turnovers and two turnover-on-downs in the second half.

Junior defensive back Taytum Johnson’s interception of Brock Nichols with 3:23 left in the fourth quarter and senior Eric Eckstrom’s recovery of a muffed punt on the next drive were big-time.

“Paetow’s coaching staff was talking crazy the whole game,” Johnson said. “They tried to throw it a couple times. He threw it and it was just floating in the air. I knew I could come down with it.”

Johnson, whose instincts and athleticism Dudley praised after the game, has an interception in each of the last three games.

“I’m reading my keys better, taking better read steps,” Johnson said. “Just doing what my coaches told me to do. Just read the quarterback’s eyes. They take me to the play every time.”

Now the Cougars can focus on Katy, a matchup they were clearly excited about after the Paetow win.

“Everybody wants to beat Katy,” Rutherford said. “Cinco was the last one to do it before Tompkins two years ago. It’s our turn to do it again. We have to execute. We’re going to have to play good, but so do they.

“It’s going to be a dog fight next week.”