By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
"It's sad, but I've had successful, middle-aged executives, attorneys, whose strongest memory is a feeling of failure or badness about themselves because they weren't stars on the football team," he says. "These are heads of corporations, but you get them talking about bad experiences in high school football, and they'll start crying."
At the Battle at Rhodes, Ray's father stood at the top of the stadium, surrounded by his own father and wife and daughter, wearing a red #10 jersey, looking down to bleachers full of people in similar colors.
"I think it is bred in the old town of Katy, a very loyal football group; we love high school football," he said. "It makes it nicer when we're winning."
The Tigers ran on the field through a paper sign painted like a Texas flag, followed by the kickoff.
Tapong opened the game for Katy with a sack of the Cypress Bay quarterback, and Katy scored the first touchdown of the game on a long run.
The Lightning had the ball deep on Katy's side of the field, when its running back sprinted into an open field to the end zone. Holl tried tackling the player, but couldn't stop him from scoring.
Then a Katy fullback had a long run, dragging a Cypress Bay player into the end zone for a touchdown. Ray zipped a deep pass to a wide-open receiver for another score. Tapong and the other defenders crushed Cypress Bay runners all game — a team that had rushed for 700 yards in its previous two games — and held them to 82 yards.
As Tripp, the Lightning center, put it: "It was an amazing experience up until about 2:30 p.m. Then it was hell on Earth. I couldn't wait to get out of that God-forsaken state and get back home to Florida."
The Katy sideline buzzed with excitement most of the game, as the coaches tried to keep the players from surging onto the field. Holl paced from the edge of the sideline to the bench when he wasn't playing, pumping his fist or slapping teammates on their shoulder pads.
Late in the fourth quarter, Holl intercepted a pass and broke tackles by what seemed like every player on the Cypress Bay team before diving with the football to the corner of the end zone. The ESPN broadcasters called it their favorite play of the game, even though the referees called Holl out of bounds at the one-yard line.
Katy won 31-6, dominating every part of the game.
After Katy's school song, the fans and parents left through the stadium gates, some of them headed to a traditional after-game dinner at Cazadores, a Mexican food restaurant across the freeway.
Parker Ray sprinted off the field with his helmet off, smiling, and stopping only to shake hands with some adults standing on the empty sidelines.
Elvin Tapong left the field slowly, next to another player, and the two boys talked all the way to the locker room.
Holl was one of the last players to exit, and he hadn't bothered to wipe off the dirt and grass that stuck to the eye-black smeared on his face.
The team went into the locker room, then loaded on school buses for the ride back to Katy High School, and Holl never took off his pads or uniform.
Melton was headed to California next to cover a college game between Utah State and San Jose State, and the crew had wrapped up its cables and wires at Rhodes almost before the children in Katy T-shirts had stopped rolling down the stadium's grassy hills.
Afterward: Six days later, the Tigers opened district play against the undefeated Morton Ranch Mavericks, considered a contender for the district title. The Tigers won 44-14, and the game was never close after halftime.
Michael J. Mooney of the Broward-Palm Beach New Timescontributed to the reporting of this article.