KATY TIGERS MAKE CASE FOR ‘BEST IN TEXAS HISTORY’

Once upon a time, the Katy Tigers captured their first football state championship and then stumbled into a slump that lasted close to 35 years.

The doldrums included consecutive losses to the new kid on the block as the Katy Taylor Mustangs began playing varsity football at the same time the Tigers’ new coach Mike Johnston arrived on the scene. Johnston suffered several losing seasons as he laid the groundwork for Katy’s current run of seven state championships.

In 1994, Katy reached its second state final in school history. But the Tigers lost. Still they kept learning and growing each season while chasing the ultimate goal of a second state championship for the friendly Houston suburb.

Pure talent did not win Katy’s first state titles. It was done by a Johnston area of expertise: Depth and a lack of weakness in any area of the game.

Try this stat on for size: Since the 1994 season, no Katy High School 4-year student has graduated without his red-and-white Tiger football team holding up a state championship trophy in December.

Can you imagine that every Katy student has had the chance to witness a state championship season for the past two decades?

With a state championship in 1997, Katy stepped on the national scene by qualifying for the 5A state title game four consecutive seasons — and winning again in 2000 with a perfect 16-0 record.

Since the 1997 title, Katy has claimed six championships and will play Saturday in Arlington for a Texas record-tying 8th state crown. The Tigers have also reached the state finals 12 times in the past 17 seasons, starting in 1997. Only two times have they missed the title game for more than one season.

For the record, the Katy Tigers currently have won state championships in 1959, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2012. Those seven could become eight when the mighty Tigers (14-1) meet defending state champion Cedar Hill (13-2) on Saturday at 4 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the new 6A-Division II championship.

Funny thing: Cedar Hill and Katy will meet for the third consecutive year for the coveted trophy. Katy won round one in 2012, 35-24; Cedar Hill rallied for round two in 2013, 34-24.

Winner gets more than bragging rights because a three-peat for both teams is extremely rare. History, however, sheds some light on which team will win Saturday.

The Katy Tigers, under the guidance of 11-year head coach Gary Joseph, have lost to only one opponent more than once. That opponent is The Woodlands, which downed the Tigers for the third time this fall.

When Katy meets Cedar Hill this weekend, it will be the third meeting between two talented, deep teams with top-notch coaching and a will to win.

Still Joseph’s Tigers will not allow another blemish on the coach’s Texas-best career winning record. Joseph was defensive coordinator for two decades under Katy predecessor Johnston, who won state in 1997, 2000 and most notably 2003.

Taking over in 2004, Joseph has compiled a Texas-best winning percentage of 92.12 percent in just 11 seasons. He currently stands at 152-13, averaging 13.82 victory and only 1.18 losses each fall.

Simply put, the achievements of Johnston (200-75) could have made Joseph’s job easier for several seasons. However, Joseph has a quiet intensity about him. He always adjusts, finds ways to improve his players, teams, coaching staffs and himself.

He is a leader by training and an analyst naturally. No surprise why he was the defensive mastermind of the Tigers for years under Johnston’s term.

He remains fit and healthy — appearing able to run a marathon at a moment’s notice.

Texas has hundreds, if not thousands, of very good coaches. Dozens are active legends, still chasing the coveted 300-win mark. none, however, can touch Joseph’s winning percentage, or the speed in which he has climbed to 150+ career victories.

Bottomline: Katy wins on Saturday to tie the all-time victory for Texas state championships. The score? Stick with tradition when common foes meet for a common goal: Katy 35, Cedar Hill 24.

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Katy vs. Manvel: Is Anyone Surprised?

The Division II-6A, Region III favorites Katy and Manvel reached their postseason rematch after posting a combined record of 25-1. They play tonight for the Region III crown in the state football quarterfinals.

Is anyone surprised, based on recent gridiron brilliance?

Katy has averaged about one loss annually since Gary Joseph took over as head coach in 2004. His winning percentage is one of the best in the nation and well over 90 percent.

Don’t be deceived by Joseph’s slim appearance. He is intense and perhaps the best head coach in Texas today. However Gary Joseph will not make that claim. He credits his assistant coaches and the hard work of his athletes for taking the Katy Tigers to even greater heights than 3-time state champion and Katy coaching legend Mike Johnston achieved.

While the Katy Tigers are the Region III team to bet annually, Manvel resembles Katy’s younger days when the “eye of the tiger” became an annual journey into December with 15+ game seasons.

Both have the athletes, coaching and tradition to win big games. I always root for quality teams to meet because their mettle and resources are pushed in those situations. In this area, Pearland, North Shore, Hightower, The Woodlands are classic rivals capable of pushing the limits.

Only The Woodlands, however, has defeated Katy more than one time since Joseph came on board. No other team has scorched the Tigers twice.

Katy won this game with authority for the 2013 Region III Championship. So which team will prevail now?

Bottom Line: Picking against Katy is counter-productive unless injuries take away several key players. This weekend, I expect Katy to win by 10 points or more as Manvel begins to narrow the distance between itself and one of Texas’ most winning football teams since 1990.