Click here for a slideshow from the Katy/North Shore game Friday night.
The east stands were alive and doused in red, with chants of "Ka-ty! Ka-ty! Ka-ty!" before the team had even taken the field. The number of dancers and cheerleaders rivaled that of the football team. Once the players broke through the massive banner, the roar of the crowd reached a new level. The first kickoff of the first Friday night of the 2010 high school football season was minutes away.
On the opposite sideline, eight members of the North Shore ROTC led the team onto the field, each bearing a flag with a single letter, reading "M-U-S-T-A-N-G-S". Above the packed North Shore stands, the press box was also full -- talk among the media was a close game. On the field, the end line was littered with photographers and their telephoto lenses.
The game between Katy and North Shore was the headline high school event in the region on Friday evening. All that was missing was the military fly-over.
Friday represented the return of high school football to the sports landscape. With the NFL and college football also slated for kickoff in the coming weeks, it's a football fan's favorite time of year. Schools will roll out the new uniforms and shiny helmets, families and friends will pack up the RV and tailgating paraphernalia, and the media will milk unpaid athletes for all the marketing dollars and viewer ratings that they can (God Bless Capitalism!).
At the heart of the circus, there was a football game that happened as well.
It was only one game, but the Katy Tigers lived up to their top regional billing. The match-up with North Shore was really only a legitimate contest for the first 12 minutes or so, when Katy seemed to take its time finding its sea legs.
Beyond a fumble and turnover on the opening kickoff, and allowing North Shore to score first on a later possession, there weren't too many further instances on Katy's part of early season jitters. After spotting North Shore the early six-point lead (the extra point was missed), Katy rattled off 44 consecutive points en route to the thoroughly-dominating, confidence-lifting beat-down of the Mustangs, 44-6.
The Katy-North Shore game has become a sort of first-game tradition between the two programs. After a pair of low-scoring, defensive-driven affairs the last two seasons, it was refreshing to see some scoring -- even if it was one-sided.
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Though equally proficient on both sides of the ball, Katy started its statement performance on the ground, using a running back-by-committee approach. Four different players had at least three carries, led by Donovan Young, the burly senior with cantaloupe-sized calves. North Shore simply didn't have players with his size or athleticism. He would disappear into a pile-up and squirt out the other end for extra yards. Tacklers were bouncing off of him or being put back by his stiff-arms. He finished with 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Katy forced three turnovers. Senior defensive back Colt Atwood picked off one pass and sophomore defensive lineman Matt Dimon returned a fumble for a touchdown in the mid-way through the third quarter. Katy limited North Shore to just 186 yards for the game.
Coach Gary Joseph's Katy team was the third-ranked team in the state headed into the Friday game, but not yet appearing on any Top 25 national lists. The impressive performance led some to reconsider. Katy showed up at No. 20 on MaxPreps.com's national list.
Friday was but one taste of a high school sports funding discrepancy ... uh ... we mean, Friday was but one of many examples of enthralling high school football games to come. Welcome back, sports fans.