ARLINGTON – There’s a new Big Cat in Texas high school football.
The Katy Paetow Panthers rode a stout defense and a persistent running game to the school’s first state championship in its four-year history of varsity football, knocking off College Station 27-24 for the Class 5A Division I crown. College Station scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass in the first play of regulation. The Cougars only scored seven more points until the fourth quarter.
"We weren't going to let one big play derail what we were doing," Paetow head coach B.J. Gotte said after the game. "They hit us (for a big play), so I looked at our guys and said, 'okay, let's go back and score.' I'm proud of the way they kept their composure."
Paetow required overtime to knock off College Station. The Cougars kicked a field goal on its first possession of the extra period. The Panthers were going to do the same to send the contest into a second overtime, but an offside penalty on College Station converted a first down for Paetow. A few plays later, Jacob Brown, the game's Offensive Player of the Game, scored the game-winning touchdown. He led the Panthers with 112 yards rushing on 33 carries.
The Panthers won the game in a manner familiar to Katy, Texas. The only difference to the Katy Tigers was the uniform colors and classification. Paetow won a state championship thanks to a physical, aggressive defense and an I-Formation based offense. In true Katy fashion, Paetow scored two of its three touchdowns on fullback dives. Three different running backs accounted for those first three scores.
"Going to a new school is not always popular, especially with the caliber of football programs around us in Katy," Gotte said. "I told the kids from the beginning that our standard was excellence, and excellence starts with how you work for every single day. For us to be able to call these guys champions now is great."
The run to a state title was a redemption story for the Panthers. Paetow’s 2020 season was cut short on Dec. 17 of 2020 in the state playoffs due to a forfeit caused by COVID-19. A year later to the day, Paetow became a first-time state champion. The win over College Station makes the Panthers 35-14 in their four-year history that started back in 2018.
"We had to earn the right to play in big games, and we did that by winning important games along the way," Gotte said. "You don't have to change what you do to play championship football, because if you do, that means you haven't been doing your best since the jump. These guys prepared for this moment since they came together in eighth grade when Paetow opened."
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