The Cooldown: Week 15

It’s been a year in Houston. No new blood at the top and less state title contenders than each of the past four seasons at least – dating back to when I started covering Houston area high school sports in fall 2018. Heading to the state semifinals, only North Shore and Katy remain.

The good news is, Texas high school football wouldn’t be very enjoyable if the only cool thing about it was playing for a state title. There was no shortage of good stories in the Houston area this season – from Cinco Ranch to Fulshear to Tomball and everything and everyone in between. A big shoutout to all the great teams, stories and people that made 2022 a special season.

Every season is special, really. We’re not far removed from a time where we thought we might not play football for an entire season. Personally, there’s nothing better to me than txhsfb. Houston might not have the same firepower at state it usually does, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an incredibly fun season regardless.

But there’s a time and place to remember those great stories. Now it’s time to recap regional final action and look ahead to the state semifinals and state championships.

North Shore ropes Atascocita in the rematch

North Shore had to adjust to a season-altering injury midway through the regular season.

Sophomore quarterback Kaleb Bailey – who led the Mustangs to a state championship as a freshman – is out for the season. North Shore had to move its best receiver, the versatile David Amador – to quarterback. It doesn’t matter how good of an athlete you are, playing quarterback at the 6A level in Texas isn’t easy. Amador has passed with flying colors so far.

North Shore barely got by Atascocita in its district matchup back on October 27 with a 16-13 win. Amador tossed the go-ahead touchdown pass, a 63-yarder to Terrence Guillory – with just more than six minutes left in that one. Amador and the Mustangs would need no such heroics this time around, winning 38-7.

Amador completed 11-of-17 passes for 126 yards, a touchdown and an INT to go with 159 yards and another score on the ground. Not too shabby for a guy who doesn’t actually play quarterback! Amador has passed “break glass in case of emergency” status and now looks like he could captain the Mustangs to another state title, though he’ll have a massive test next week. More on that in a second.

Also deserving of mention: The North Shore defense held Atascocita to just seven points. We have long known North Shore has one of the best – if not the best – defense in the state. They shut down a dynamic Atascocita backfield featuring Zion Brown and Tory Blaylock. The Mustangs advance to face Austin Westlake with a state title game berth on the line. Westlake is also in the conversation for best defense in the state, and Saturday’s matchup could be the ultimate decider of that debate.

North Shore and Westlake met in the 2020 state semifinal game as well, with Westlake ending Demetrius Davis' and Shadrach Banks’ high school careers with a narrow 24-21 win. Neither team is as good on offense but each still have outstanding defenses.

With the game at Rice being much closer to the Eastside of Houston than it is to Austin, North Shore may have a little bit of a home field advantage. This is one of the most intriguing games of the season. If North Shore wins, it could set up a 6A-I state title game rematch – round four, actually! – with Duncanville. However, it would be the first game between the two in the 6 p.m. Saturday time slot since that legendary Demetrius Davis Hail Mary in 2018.

Katy survives a tough C.E. King squad

Not many people outside the C.E. King program probably thought the Panthers would be very competitive against Katy. It is Katy after all, only one of the top high school programs in the nation, and this year is no different.

Even Matt Stepp – perhaps the foremost source for all things txhsfb – likened C.E. King’s chances to less than that of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team of beating The Netherlands in the round of 16 at the World Cup last weekend. The Netherlands won convincingly, 3-1. Katy won not as convincingly.

After going down 14-0 on two Seth Davis touchdown runs, C.E. King took the fight right to Katy. The Panthers led the game heading into the fourth quarter, but it quickly evaporated in the 56-34 loss. Rae’g Dailey had an explosive night, tallying 14 catches for 172 yards and two scores, and a punt returned for a touchdown. Dailey tallied 265 all purpose yards. Elias Dejean was equally impressive, with nine catches for 186 yards. All that means, of course, quarterback Denim Johnson had a great night. His final line: 33-of-53 passing for 472 yards, two scores and an INT. Keith Willis, outstanding for much of the season, finished his high school career with a touchdown pass on a halfback pass, and 31 total yards against a stout Katy run defense.

Katy posted a typical Katy line on offense. Caleb Koger was 7-of-14 passing for 78 yards while Seth Davis did what he normally does. The Mississippi State commit reeled off 241 yards and six touchdowns on just 21 carries as the Tigers ran for 321 yards on 44 carries as a team.

Katy advances to play Austin Vandegrift in the state semifinals. Vandegrift spent much of the season ranked between 10-20 in the AP state-wide poll, while Katy spent the entire season in the top five.

Marshall falls to PNG; Columbus loses to Franklin

With losses from Marshall and Columbus, Houston is officially eliminated below class 6A.

Despite a 35-14 win against Port Neches-Groves in district play back on September 24, Marshall couldn’t win the playoff rematch, falling 29-21. Regardless, it isn’t easy to win 12 games and make a regional final apperance in this state. Maybe we take it for granted with Marshall because we’re used to seeing the Buffs make it this far, but it simply isn’t easy.

Despite the loss, Marshall out-gained PNG 372-306. The Buffs simply didn’t get as much from the passing game as they needed. Jordon Davis finished an efficient 11-of-16 for 170 yards and two touchdowns, with another 79 yards on the ground. Despite that, this Marshall team is full of incredible seniors including Davis and Ja’koby Banks. It didn’t end how they wanted it to, but they’re set up well to succeed at the next level.

Meanwhile, Columbus simply ran into a great team with championship pedigree. Franklin punched in a game-winning touchdown run late in the fourth quarter for a narrow 24-21 victory. Another great season ends just short of a state title for the Cards.

Player of the Week

Well, this is a tough one. My player-of-the-week honors will go to a player from either Katy or North Shore for the next two weeks (assuming at least one of them wins in the state semis) because they’re the only two teams left playing. Seth Davis has already won a POTW award and I try not to double dip.

For that reason, I’m going with Denim Johnson and Rae’G Dailey. The dynamic duo accounted for most of C.E. King’s offense as the Panthers put a serious shock into Katy. I saw this same C.E. King squad get blown out in a tough road game at Allen in week two. Allen is a great team, but even they lost in round one. C.E. King secured a playoff spot in one of the toughest districts in Texas, and bounced back from that brutal regular season schedule to win three playoff games and put Katy – a top three team in the state all season – on serious upset alert for more than three quarters.

The improvement as the season went on at C.E. King was impressive, and Johnson and Dailey closed their high school careers on a high note despite the loss. They might not be advancing, but those two are more than deserving of POTW honors.

Playoff Schedule

It’s been well documented in this blog so far that we’re down to just two games, so here’s a little info blurb on each game and what comes next.

  • North Shore: Faces Austin Westlake at Houston’s Rice Stadium on Saturday at 3 p.m. Should the Mustangs win, they will face the winner of Duncanville and Prosper (4 p.m. at Dallas’ Ford Stadium at SMU) in the 6A-I state championship on Saturday, December 17 at 7 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Mustangs were last state champions in 2021 and they’ll look to defend their 6A-I crown.
  • Katy: Faces Austin Vandegrift at San Antonio’s Alamodome on Saturday at 1 p.m. Should the Tigers win, they will face the winner of Denton Guyer and DeSoto (2 p.m. at Frisco’s Ford Center) in the 6A-II state championship game on Saturday, December 17 at 3 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Tigers were last state champions in 2020.