I don’t know if it’s because this is the last game I’ll be writing about, because I had a 1600 mile drive to think about it or because I had seen so many of Cedar Hill’s games, but the 5A-DII game is a hard one to write about. 1st off, I don’t think either team could say they played their best football. Understandable considering what was on the line and the crowd of over 42,000 at Cowboy Stadium. Anyone would have had an excuse for coming out a little tight.
That Cedar Hill could have been a little flat and still have led Katy in the 4th quarter, the first time anyone has been up on the Tigers all year, says something about the Longhorns. Not to take anything away from Katy, I’d been hearing about them all year and they didn’t disappoint. Katy running back Adam Taylor is an amazing football player, probably the best I’ve seen all year. The Oklahoma commit rushed for all 5 Katy touchdowns and 275 yards. The defensive front for Katy was outstanding as well. With all due respect to Allen, I think Katy proved they are the best team in the state.
Cedar Hill played well, but not great; the same can be said of Katy. The game turned out to be a battle between Tiger power and Longhorn speed and Saturday afternoon, power won. Speed could have won with great execution, but the Longhorns squandered too many chances, something you can’t do against a team as good as Katy.
The squandered chances began early, a touchdown pass dropped in the endzone, cost Cedar Hill 4 points, a field goal gave the ‘Horns a 3-0 lead. Katy quickly responded with a score and led 7-3.
Cedar Hill gambled with 5 minutes to go in the half, trying for a first down on 4th and 2 from their own 30. A broken play gave the ball to Katy on the 29. The Tigers took advantage of the Longhorn mistake on a Taylor run a few plays later, giving the Tigers a 14-3 lead.
After narrowing the deficit to 14-10 late in the second quarter on a touchdown catch by Brandon Harris, the Longhorns had a great opportunity to take the lead going into the half when Katy failed to cover the kickoff. Despite great field position the Longhorns came away with nothing.
Katy extended their lead to 21-10 on a third TD run with 5:28 in the third, but Cedar Hill showing great poise, played their best football of the night during the next few minutes. The Longhorns narrowed the score with a touchdown run by quarterback Damion Hobbs on 4th and 7 from the 24. A Katy three and out gave the ball back to the Longhorns. A screen to Laquvionte Gonzalez set up a second touchdown catch by Harris and suddenly the Longhorns had a 28-24 lead after a successful 2 point conversion.
A final 4th down was the turning point of the game. Cedar Hill had the momentum, when the Tigers were faced with a 4th and 2 from their 45 yard line and 6:46 to go. If the Longhorns make the stop, the game would be in their control. But the Tigers pitched the ball to Taylor who got the 1st and much more, running 55 yards to retake the lead for the Tigers. After a Longhorn interception, the Tigers put the game away on a 5th touchdown run by Taylor, this time from 45 yards out.
The game was marked by gutsy play by both teams. Dealing with attrition is usually a factor in surviving 16 games and playing for a title. Katy’s quarterback played with a broken tibia suffered in the semifinal against Steele and the Tigers had two offensive linemen out with ACL injuries from that game as well. The Longhorns made their entire run after starting running back Jared Rayford was hurt in week two during the Allen game. Larry Hill played that position through the quarterfinal with Midway, hurting his knee on the last play of that game. The third running back Bobby Jackson was huge against Westlake, but couldn’t find a many holes against the Tiger front.
The game came down to two things.
1) Katy’s defensive front taking away the inside run and not giving the ‘Horn QB time to set up. Cedar Hill usually has had a very balanced attack; they made some big plays but lack of a running game kept the Longhorns from being able to sustain drives as they had done throughout the playoffs.
2) Katy’s running game eventually wore Cedar Hill’s defense down. The ‘Horns did a great job stalling drives and forcing punts, but Taylor couldn’t be stopped forever, and his two huge TD runs late in the game were too much to overcome.
Katy proved that they were the better team, but Cedar Hill earned respect as well. Other Metroplex teams; Allen, De Soto, Coppell, Southlake Carroll and Mesquite all put up great records. Cedar Hill’s 1-3 start (with losses to Allen, De Soto and a Florida state champion) made many forget about the Longhorns. Despite the loss, Cedar Hill showed themselves to be an elite program.
While this is the last game, I’ll be writing about, it is not the end of the blog. I’m home now and will get down to writing the book full time. Later this week I’ll blog about my impressions from championship weekend at Cowboy Stadium and about my overall thoughts of the 5 months I spent in Texas.
I want to thank Cedar Hill for allowing me access to their entire playoff run. Including the last week of the regular season, I had the privilege to be on their sideline for seven straight weeks. It was a great run and despite the finish, I think its something Longhorn players and coaches will be proud of in the years to come.
I hope everyone in Texas had a Merry Christmas. I enjoyed my time there but it’s great to be home.