Winning a state championship in any sport takes a certain amount of luck, or divine intervention at the least.
Katy Paetow got a little bit of just that in its 27-24 overtime win against College Station.
Forty-eight minutes of play decided nothing, with the score tied at 21. Paetow won the toss and elected defense first in overtime before forcing College Station to settle for a field goal. The Panthers’ season looked like it was going to boil down to a field goal attempt on a fourth-and-two, but the Cougars jumped off-sides to give Paetow new life.
That was hardly the most controversial moment of the game.
Paetow had another fourth-and-two from inside the five. Senior quarterback CJ Dumas powered up the middle on a QB sneak that was too close to call. A measurement gave the Panthers a first down, but referees decided to head to the replay monitor to confirm. Those replays were shown on the AT&T Stadium big screen and Dumas looked like he may have been short; the College Station crowd certainly thought so.
“I was kind of lost, because they had measured it,” Dumas said. “I was confused, I was like ‘can they do that?’ I saw them mark that I was down (before the line to gain on the video board) and my heart kind of dropped for a second. But then I knew I got it, I know I got it, so I just kind of calmed down. And then they confirmed what I was feeling.”
The referees stuck with the call on the field. One play later, Jacob Brown found himself in the end zone and Paetow found itself a state championship.
College Station had a dream start to the game when quarterback Jett Huff tossed a screen pass to Traylen Suel, who took it 80 yards for a touchdown. The Paetow defense stiffened for much of the rest of the game, with the turning point coming just before half. College Station scored on two of its first three drives and were looking to do so again just before halftime before defensive MVP Kentrell Webb, who gave credit to his coaching staff, intercepted Huff at the goal line and returned it 26 yards out of the danger zone.
“Coach said somebody needed to step up and make a play,” Webb said. “I was at the right place at the right time. It’s all about coaching; watching film I knew what was coming so I made the play.”
While the defense took care of business, the Paetow offense kept that unit well rested. Paetow dominated time-of-possession, nearly 32 minutes to just more than 16 minutes for College Station, who had a stout run defense. The Panthers’ rushing attack had been the calling card all season, but College Station held Paetow to just 3.6 yards-per-carry; a final tally of 55 team rushes for 212 yards. Paetow running back Brown was the offensive MVP of the game and agreed that College Station employs one of the best defenses in the state.
“They most definitely have an amazing defense,” Brown said. “Probably the best defense I’ve ran against all year. But with (our) offensive line and the training we had to just keep grinding, it eventually worked.”
With College Station stifling the rushing attack, Paetow leaned on Dumas to move the ball between the 20s. Dumas threw for 165 yards on an efficient 16-of-23, no touchdowns and no interceptions. Dumas helped guide Paetow between to the red zone where the Panthers’ physical backs were able to finish it off.
“I knew if that we played our game, that those opportunities would come,” Dumas said. “We’re a multiple offense, so if one facet of our offense isn’t working, the other one can come pick it up. So our run game started off a little slow and the passing game picked it up and we capitalized in the red zone. Our game plan was to just… pound them every play whether it’s through the air with our physical receivers or on the ground.”
Gene Kendall tacked on a short touchdown run, as did Bryan Del Cid and Dumas. Offensive MVP Brown, Paetow's workhorse for much of the season, tallied 33 carries for 120 yards with the most important being the final two-yard touchdown run to win it. Brown can now put his name next to legendary running backs to come out of Katy ISD as a state champion, something that isn’t lost on him.
“It’s a dream come true,” Brown said. “I remember watching (former Katy running back) Rodney Anderson in this exact stadium when I was supposed to go to Katy as a kid. If would have told me I would be here, I wouldn’t believe you.”
It is often said that football is a game of inches and that was never more true than Friday night. It may have been luck or divine intervention mixed in with hard work, but College Station running back Marquise Collins knows it’s all part of the game.
“I just control the controllable,” Collins said. “I put my faith in God. Our defense; we can’t stop every run. We can only control what we can control. I feel like (Dumas) may have been down but that don’t even matter. They won the game, hard fought game and I respect it.”
For Dumas, he caps his high school career in a way few are able to. But the results of last season aren’t lost on him. As if this game needed more storylines, Paetow’s 2020 season came to an end one year ago today when the Panthers had to forfeit their second round playoff game due to COVID-19. The seniors on that team didn’t get a chance to play for a state title like Dumas did tonight, and he thinks Paetow honored those seniors well.
“Last year to the date is the day we had to forfeit our season so it just kind of crazy how the world works,” Dumas said. “Coming back a year later and capitalizing on the great season we had, so it just feels great that all the hard work we put in pays off.
“Being so close with (those seniors) it just feels great to be able to finish what they started. I wouldn’t be where I am without a lot of the leadership that I had last year with Damon (Bankston), Randall Kelley… Harrison Sager, the quarterback my freshman year kind of took me under his wing and brought me up. So I just want to thank all of them for everything they put into me and the rest of the team; this is them.”