With its tradition, not to mention defense, Katy awaits Cavs in state finale
One of Texas’ most storied programs awaits Lake Travis in the school’s first trip to the 6A championship game. And the confident Cavaliers wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Especially playing in Houston, that’s where they’re from,” said senior Tanner Bush. “When I saw we were playing Katy, I definitely got excited. In order to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. We’re 15-0. They’re 15-0. Only one team’s going to come out undefeated.”
Katy’s pedigree includes seven state titles and six other title game appearances. Saturday marks the Tigers’ fourth straight title game appearance. The last three seasons have seen the Tigers battle Cedar Hill in the Longhorns back yard of Dallas. Cedar Hill won the last two . Now, the Tigers get to be the home team, wrapping up the championship weekend with the game most everyone wants to see.
“There will be no better way to win the state championship than playing against one of the best teams,” junior quarterback Charlie Brewer said Monday. “I think in the big game, the 8 p.m. game Saturday night, why not play the best? It will be fun.”
“We know we’re playing a very tough opponent,” said Cavaliers coach Hank Carter. “I have a lot of respect for them. We’ve watched them over the years and know. I’ve watched film on them now quite a bit. I know they are a very, very good team. Should be a great game.”
On paper and by reputations, the game figures to be the classic “dynamic offense meets suffocating defense” showdown. Lake Travis built its reputation on offense and the 2015 Cavaliers have plenty of it, averaging 50.1 points per game. Katy, meanwhile, allows just 3.06 points per game this season. The Tiger defense has 10 shutouts and has allowed just 55 points, 37 of which have come in the playoffs.
“Yeah, their defensive statistics are off the charts,” Carter said Monday. “They don’t give up points. They are really, really good.”
Lake Travis’ players are plenty familiar with Katy’s reputation, but they’re confident they won’t be shutout victim No. 11.
“I think our coaches are going to set up a plan where we’re going to be able to put some points on the board,” said senior offensive lineman Jeff Gibbs. “No matter who we play, our coaches prepare well enough to where no one is going to just be able to completely stop us.”
To say that Lake Travis depends on its offense and Katy’s all about defense would sell each team’s other units short. Lake Travis’ defense has been as good as any Carter’s staff has rolled out. The Cavaliers have four shutouts of their own and allow just 12 points per game, two points better than school record pace. As stingy has its defense has been, Katy scores plenty too, averaging 49 points per game with highs of 84, 77 and 66.
Carter said watching Katy is a lot like watching his own team play, if not by style then by attitude.
“They are used to being good,” he said. “When they go on the field they expect to win every single game, just like us. I think it will be a war, a heck of a game, the way you want to finish off the state championships.”
For the Cavaliers to win their first 6A title, they’ll have to withstand another physical team that wants to control the game. Katy wants to establish its rushing attack, led by Kyle Porter, and then stop the run with a suffocating defense that runs to the ball. The Tigers aren’t just big up front, Carter said. The linebackers and safeties are big, too, and eager to stop the run.
“They want to keep the ball in front of them,” Carter said. They aren’t overly aggressive in their scheme, but they are very aggressive in the way they use their safeties and involve them in the run game. They get 9 guys to the ball in a hurry.”
Carter said the Tigers haven’t seen an opponent who plays the way Lake Travis plays – perfectly happy to sit back and let Charlie Brewer throw the ball to a bevy of receivers including Cade Brewer, Cade Green, Mac Humble and Maleek Barkley, who’s excelled in the post-season with 15 touchdowns in the five games.
“They haven’t played anyone like us,” Carter said. “I’m not sure we’ve played a team just like them, but I know they haven’t played anyone like us [style-wise]. I don’t know who we’re like, but …”
On the flip side, the Cavaliers have seen several teams of late who play with a similar style – if not ability to execute and make plays – to Katy.
“I love the way our schedule has set up,” Carter said. “I feel like we’ve had some opponents who, offensively especially, look very similar to what Katy does.”
Westfield and Mansfield had similar plans to Katy’s – control the clock with a running game and big offensive line.
“They have a big offensive line, a good running back,” said defensive tackle Tevin Paul. “It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I think defensively we’re going to do as good a job as we can.”
That means getting the Tigers off schedule and forcing them to throw – Garrett Doiron completes 67 percent of his passes and has 26 touchdown tosses – when the defense expects it.
“We have to stop the running game and force them to throw it on third down,” said Bush.
While the Cavaliers are plenty excited to have a shot at their first title since 2011, they aren’t simply satisfied by making it back to the championship game.
“It’s what we’ve been working toward for the last 18-19 weeks,” Gibbs said. “To finally be here, it’s pretty awesome.”
But, “I feel like getting to the 6A championships is good and all, but we need to win to put ourselves as the top team in Texas,” Gibbs said. “I think we are. I think everyone in this room thinks we are. We just have to go prove it.”
Gibbs and his teammates get 48 minutes to do just that.