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November 3, 2010

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Judging by the results through the first decade of games between the Katy (Texas) High and Katy (Texas) Cinco Ranch, it would be hard to call the series a rivalry.

Katy, after all, holds a 9-1 edge and has outscored Cinco Ranch, 370-106.

It has been more like an older brother beating up his sibling time and again.

Well, guess what? It appears the little guy is all grown up.

"It has been a major learning curve for our team," Cinco Ranch head coach Don Clayton said. "We were in our infancy until just a few years back. Things are changing quickly."

Cinco Ranch, which opened in 1999, now feels it is on par with Katy.

It's not just that both teams are ranked - Katy is No. 12 while Cinco Ranch is No. 61 in this week's RivalsHigh Top 100. But they are clearly competitive.

Cinco Ranch beat Katy for the first time in 2008, winning 27-21. Last year it lost, 21-20. Those matchups helped catapult the game into one that both teams circle. This year, it gets some national attention as the RivalsHigh Game of the Week.

"We look at last year's game as a win," Clayton said. "We won in every aspect of the game except on the scoreboard. And even that is tough to swallow because we missed a very makeable field goal with five seconds left.

"It took us all of 30 seconds to put that game behind us last year."

This year, the game has more than just the District 19 title on the line.

It has national implications.

Katy, the traditional Houston powerhouse, has proven its merits on the road bettering Houston (Texas) North Shore as well as Beaumont (Texas) West Brook. Now only Cinco Ranch is standing in its way for an undefeated regular season. And Cinco Ranch would love nothing more than to end Katy's perfect run.

"We have a lot of our kids back from last year," Clayton said. "A lot of kids who think we gave that game away and want to win it."

Cinco Ranch had been ranked as high as No. 24 and No. 3 in Texas at one point in this season.

Disappointing performances against Katy (Texas) Seven Lake and Houston (Texas) Memorial caused the slide in rankings. Clayton, however, thinks his team is just starting to get in gear.

"We went out and put 52 on Katy Taylor in the first half a few weeks back," he said. "That was the first complete half of football we have played all season."

Clayton realizes the hard work it takes to get to where Katy is. Before coming to Cinco Ranch, he spent 11 years helping to build the Tigers into a national power.

That experience has helped along the way.

"Helping Katy get to where they are helps me and helps the kids buy in to what we are doing," he said. "They know it takes hard work. There isn't a shortcut. You have to earn it."

Continuing the trend of playing competitive games with Katy and advancing in the state playoffs will only aid those efforts.

"We just broke into this group of teams," Clayton said. "We just started becoming relevant to a lot of them. We can't think we are in a spot to dictate how things will go. We still have to work to get to a spot where people respect us like they do them."

A win on Saturday afternoon will go a long way toward that, but it is only one stop on the road map.

"Winning a district title is one of our goals," Clayton said. "And this is the last district game so we have a chance to do it. But this isn't a season maker. It will not define our season."

Both Katy and Cinco Ranch will get to play next week when the Texas playoffs start. Both have already qualified and are guaranteed that honor.

However, the two are likely not going to run into one another once the games begin.

Katy is projected to be in the Division II bracket. Cinco Ranch is likely headed to Division I.

Both teams made deep runs in the playoffs last year - Katy to the Division II finals; Cinco Ranch to the Division I semifinals - and have expectations of doing it again this year.

"This is like a playoff game for both of us," Clayton said. "We both get to see two very good teams. We both may get weaknesses exposed. But neither has to go home for the season. It is a great challenge - playing for a title but knowing there is another title to play for."

Meeting those expectations is the validation for all the little brothers.

And a lesson as well .

"We now have a winning mindset," Clayton said. "We expect to win, and not just hope to compete."

National GOTW
No. 12 Katy vs No. 61 Cinco Ranch
RB K.C. Nlemchi (6-0/205, Sr.)
OL Tyler Knowles (6-5/290, Sr.)
RB Jamel James (5-11/198, Soph.)
RB Donovonn Young (5-11/215, Sr.)
LB Grant Clifton (5-11/210, Sr.)
DE Nick Narcisse (6-4/214, Sr.)

When: Saturday 11/6, 11 a.m.
Last Meeting: 11/7/09, Katy won, 21-20
Rankings: Katy (9-0), No. 2 in Texas
Cinco Ranch (9-0), No. 8 in Texas

KATY WINS IF: It controls the pace of the game. The Tigers have made their name owning the ball and running it right at the defense. Led by running back Donovonn Young, the Tigers have done just that this season. It was anticipated that Katy would be a little down this year, but coach Gary Joseph continues to just reload and keep firing.

CINCO RANCH WINS IF: Its running backs can stay fresh. The Cougars have had the luxury of being able to keep K.C. Nlemchi fresh with Jamel James this year. That has led to good balance. The few times James has been knicked up, Nlemchi has been able to step his game up. If both can remain effective, then the Cougars could show the Tigers what it is like to be on the receiving end of a physical contest.

PREDICTION: If this game was played in week three and not the last week of the regular season, it would be easier to predict the upset. The later in the year it is though, the better Katy tends to be. And while these teams are near mirror images of each other, Katy is still the big dog. It should be a very close contest early but look for the defense of the Tigers to slow Cinco Ranch down late and close the door.
- Katy 31, Cinco Ranch 20.

Game of the Week Predictions: 7-4 (10-5 in '09)

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