Katy, TX–The 2010 UIL Class 5A Division I high school football playoffs begin this weekend as the Bellaire Cardinals will take their shot at the nationally ranked perennial powerhouse Katy Tigers.
Katy (10-0, 7-0), ranked as high as 4th in some national polls and top ranked in many Texas polls after leapfrogging Euless Trinity, is coming off a demolition of district rival Cinco Ranch 56-3 in what was a hotly anticipated game, storming to a 42-3 halftime lead over the previously unbeaten and state ranked Cougars on the way to their second straight 23-5A district title.
“It’s not about Cinco Ranch anymore, it’s about advancing in the playoffs,” said Tigers head coach Gary Joseph. “Our kids know they’re gonna have to come out and play their best.”
The UIL high school football playoffs are split into two divisions based on enrollment size with two district representatives per division, meaning that Division I takes the largest two teams while Division II takes the smaller two. This year Katy finds itself in Division I, the perceived harder division of the two, for the first time since 1998. The perception is for good reason though as perennial powers or upstart talent factories fill out the Region III (Houston area) Division I bracket, including Galena Park North Shore, Cinco Ranch, Pearland, Fort Bend Hightower, Houston Lamar, Beaumont West Brook and League City Clear Springs.
Which division the Tigers play in doesn’t concern Joseph however because to him it’s been no easier or harder in one division or another from his experience.
“It wasn’t any tougher in 1997 when we won it than when we won in 2000,” he said. “And it wasn’t any harder then than it was in 2003 when we won it. Southlake Carroll was a Division II school for all but one of their [5A] state championships but one so obviously it doesn’t make any difference what division you play in. It’s just what schools are in it that year and I think our kids are looking forward to playing in [Division I] this year.”
Meanwhile, Bellaire (6-4, 6-1) has rebounded well from an 0-3 start that included blowout losses to Brazoswood, Alief Hastings and Oak Ridge. Since changing their offense and moving Denzel Johnson from starting safety to starting quarterback, the Cardinals only loss since starting District 20-5A play after the Oak Ridge loss was a 13-7 nail-biter to eventual district champion Lamar, whose only loss this season was on the road against perennial 4A powerhouse Brenham.
The Bellaire defense will be tasked with slowing down the dynamic duo of Donovan Young (168.0 yards per game) and Adam Taylor (109 yard per game). Luckily, the Cardinals feature an aggressive defense, including a stout defensive line, that only gives up around 200 yards a game and barely 50 yards a game.
Some would argue that their stats are skewed by playing in a weak district but even Joseph admitted that their defense can “match up with anybody.” Bellaire head coach Terry Herrmann also thought his defense would be key in helping the Cardinals pull the upset.
“The big thing we have to do is limit the big plays,” Herrmann said. “If we can make them nickel and dime us down the field I feel we can put ourselves in position to have them commit penalties that will slow down their attack.”
He also felt that their number one goal was to win first down on defense and then put the other team in a third and long so that converting would be that much harder.
“That’s when we feel people may make mistakes, get out of their comfort zone and maybe throw an interception or something such as that,” he said.
Herrmann doesn’t feel trying to trick Katy with surprise elements will be a recipe for success because of their year-in, year-out discipline and attention to detail. That’s why he feels the Cardinals best plan is go right at them with a solid gameplan.
“We don’t wanna try to do a bunch of trick stuff, we wanna run the ball right at them–that’s the smartest play– and also make some plays in the passing game here and there,” he said.
“They run pretty much the same defense we run so it’s nothing our guys haven’t already seen it’s just that’s those guys have been doing it since seventh grade and they do such a wonderful job of it so I don’t think we’re gonna change much of what we do.”
The Cardinals will take their shot at sending shockwaves throughout the state on Saturday at 1 P.M. at Rhodes Stadium in Katy.