Abilene never trails, posts 28-17 victory in state title game
SAN ANTONIO -- All good things end. Abilene High School football fans can attest to that.
Forty-three years after their last Texas high school championship, the Eagles denied Katy its third straight title Saturday night at the Alamodome with a 28-17 victory.
There were no controversial calls or photo finishes like in the first game of the day - Euless Trinity's 41-38 overtime stunner against Austin Westlake - Abilene (15-0) was better than Katy (14-2), plain and simple.
They were better largely because of dazzling junior quarterback Ronnell Sims, who scorched the Tigers for 231 yards rushing and three touchdowns, the first of which put the Eagles in front just 29 seconds into the game.
Sims' second score came from 11 yards out with 4:39 left in the first quarter, putting the Eagles ahead 14-0 and giving the appearance that the two-time defending state champions were on their way to getting blown out of the building.
"They definitely came out and took it to us," said Katy senior tight end and tackle Zachary Swanson. "They were a really fast team."
After the horrendous start, Katy put all of its cards on the table. Its defense held Abilene scoreless for the entirety of the second and third quarters, while the offense used a fake punt, play-action passing and a fourth-down prayer to claw its way within 14-10 at the 5:47 mark of the third quarter.
Things started to get really red and rowdy when Tiger senior linebacker Ryan Rose tripped up Abilene running back Herschel Sims on a third-and-seven, forcing an Abilene punt.
Sam Holl returned the short kick to the Eagle 38, but Katy only got to the Abilene 22-yard line before turning it over on down when a Brooks Haack pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Abilene took over at its own 22 and marched 78 yards in 11 plays, the back-breaker a 14-yard pass from one Sims to the other on third-and-11 at the Tiger 31.
Ronnell Sims took it in from nine yards out for his third touchdown of the game to push the Eagles ahead 21-10 with 10:45 to play in the game.
The Tigers took over at their own 24, but had to punt when Ryan Jones' third-down grab was ruled a bobble.
A 56-yard punt by Deyvi Hurtado, part of a magnificent night by the senior specialist pinned the Eagles at their own 17, but three plays later Herschel Sims had run the width of the field en route to a 60-yard touchdown that made it 28-10 with 7:46 left.
Credit Katy's pluck despite the dire situation. Much as they had in their 2005 title loss to Southlake Carroll, the Tigers found the motivation for a seven-play, 80-yard drive that found pay dirt when tight end Jake Dill made a phenomenal one-handed catch in the end zone.
The score pulled Katy within 28-17 with 1:56 to play, but the Tigers' onside kick attempt failed and Abilene ran out the clock to take its seventh state title, tying Plano for the most in Texas history.
Hoping to control the clock and keep Abilene's offense off the field, Katy went as far as to move Swanson to tackle, changing his number from 88 to 73 for the game.
"I like hitting people so it was a pretty easy change for me," Swanson said. "I basically just watched Shep Klinke on film all week, because he's the best tackle I've ever seen."
The rushing attack never materialized for Katy. Senior Will Jeffery was held down for a second straight week, gaining just 21 yards on nine carries.
The most frustrating carry for Jeffery came with Katy trailing 14-7 late in the first half. The Tigers moved from their own 31 to the Eagle 27, but when Katy tried a delayed handoff, Jeffery was thrown for an eight-yard line and Katy forced to burn its final time-out with 12 seconds to play.
On second-and-long from the 35, the Tigers tried a double-pass, with Ryan Jones taking a long lateral from Haack and looking downfield hoping to hit Greg Morris.
Morris was covered and Jones was tackled, with the first half clock running out before Katy could try another play.
Donovonn Young led Katy with 42 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He scored at the 5:57-mark of the second quarter at the end of a 12-play, 88-yard drive that consumed more than five minutes and featured a fake punt that saw Cory Matney gallop 18 yards to the Eagle 37.
Haack, in his second career start, finished 20-of-33 for 194 yards and a touchdown.