By George Slaughter
After a season of mostly blowout wins, perhaps it’s a good thing that the Katy Tigers had a hard-fought, gut-check type of game to start the playoffs. They got such a game Friday night, and pulled out a 35-28 win over Ridge Point at Legacy Stadium.
The Tigers improve to 11-0 with the win. Ridge Point ends its season at 8-3.
The Panthers took an early lead on a 52-yard pass from senior quarterback Will Pendergrass to junior running back B. Keith Jackson.
The Tigers struggled offensively in the first quarter, having to make blocking adjustments to protect junior quarterback Bronson McClelland, who threw two interceptions. The Katy defense held following the first interception, but the Panthers were able to convert the second interception into points.
That score, a 24-yard pass from Pendergrass to junior wide receiver John Paul Richardson, came with 10:28 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers calmed down from their uncharacteristic start by focusing on their running game, with junior running back Jalen Davis taking over for senior running back Ron Hoff, who injured his ankle on the first series of the game. Katy coach Gary Joseph said after the game that he did not know the extent of Hoff’s injury. He said Hoff would have to undergo further examination early next week. Also injured was junior running back Sherman Smith, who hurt his ankle on a kickoff return.
Davis filled in admirably, rushing for 219 yards on 30 carries.
“He stepped up and did well,” Joseph said. “I’m proud he was able to accomplish what he did.”
The Tigers got their first score with 1:55 remaining in the half, when junior quarterback Bronson McClelland connected on a 19-yard pass to senior wide receiver Stephen Stiles.
The Tigers felt they got their mojo back, but Richardson had a big kickoff return that put the Panthers at the Tiger 10. Ridge Point senior fullback Marcus Wright broke through the line and reached the goal line but fumbled out of the end zone. Officials ruled the play a touchback, and Katy took over at its 20.
The Tigers tied the game on the next play, an 80-yard run by Davis, the first of his two touchdowns. But Ridge Point regained the lead and momentum on the next possession, as Jackson scored on a 62-yard run with 21 seconds remaining.
Down 21-14 at halftime, the Tigers made their adjustments. Senior wide receiver Jordan Patrick said the Panthers were running a defensive formation against which the Tigers had not practiced that week. But at halftime, the team made the necessary adjustments.
Added junior linebacker Shepherd Browning: “We knew we were still in the game. We knew we had to keep fighting.”
Ridge Point took the opening kickoff but lost a fumble on its first play from scrimmage at their own 32. Three plays later, Katy tied the game on a Davis’s second touchdown, this one from 11 yards out.
Katy took the lead for good with 9:18 in the fourth quarter, when McClelland hit senior wide receiver Jordan Patrick on an 18-yard scoring pass.
“They started playing us in straight man coverage,” Joseph said. “They dared us to throw the ball at them. He (Patrick) has done this for three years. He’s really a fine competitor, and I’m proud of our quarterback for shaking off the interceptions in the first half, showing poise, and making good passes.”
On the ensuing possession, Ridge Point was able to drive the ball into Katy territory when junior linebacker Shepherd Bowling intercepted a Pendergrass pass at the Tiger 33.
Katy added to its lead with a 56-yard scoring pass from McClelland to Patrick with 4 minutes left.
Ridge Point, on the ensuing possession, drove to the Katy 1, where the defense made a dramatic goal-line stand, preventing a score. But on the fourth-and-goal play, officials called three penalties, two of which were offset, but the third was against Katy, which gave the Panthers a first-and-goal. The Panthers converted this time on a one-yard run by senior fullback Marcus Wright with 1:06 remaining.
Katy took the ensuing kickoff and ran out the clock to seal the win.
Patrick said that because Katy has been winning by large margins this year, a game like Friday’s helps bring the Tigers back to Earth, with no slacking.
“I’m kind of glad we had a game like this,” Patrick said. Browning agreed.
“A game like this just keeps everyone humble,” Browning said. “We know we’re not invincible. Still got a chip on our shoulder from last year.”
Joseph said it was good to win a tough game.
“We don’t, then we’re done, and we’re not having this conversation right now,” Joseph said. “I’m thankful the kids put up enough fight to get us to the next round. Our kids will have to come out and be ready.”
The Tigers return to action in the area round against Cy-Fair, the District 17-6A champion, at 7 p.m. Friday at Tully Stadium. Cy-Fair defeated Bellaire, 65-20, Friday night at Pridgeon Stadium.
Whitehouse 35, Paetow 10
Paetow, in only its second season as a varsity football program, was making its playoff debut. The loss ends Paetow’s season at 8-3.
Whitehouse, the District 9-5A champion, improves to 8-3. It will face Barbers Hill in the area round of the playoffs next week.