The Katy Tigers, Through the Len

| February 1, 2015

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Photographer Captures A Phenomenal Battle For The State Title

Text by Melanie Saxton Photography by Diana Porter of Design Online

For the third consecutive year in a row, the Katy Tigers and the Cedar Hill Longhorns faced off in an epic battle for the state championship. Scores of Katyites showed up on December 20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of the Dallas Cowboys, to support their Katy Tigers High School team.

But for those of you who missed this exciting event, an award-winning sports photographer was on hand in Arlington. Diana Porter captured the excitement, the expectation, and the legend through phenomenal images in what can be described as an adrenaline-filled homage to the sport… and a community that loves the Tigers.

Texas is undeniably famous for its focus on high school and college football, something Porter knows firsthand. She has covered sports for ESPN and Vype magazines, the Houston Chronicle, and pro teams. In January 2012, she became the first woman to ever shoot the cover of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine featuring Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III taken in Waco on the campus of Baylor University.

Porter arrived in Arlington two days early to shoot six state level games that weekend, which included Katy’s Class 6A Division II state championship. For the past three years in a row, crowds have witnessed the epic clash of Katy vs. Cedar Hill. This three-year rematch was epic – and only the third such novelty to occur in the history of University Inter­scholastic football since its inception in 1920.

Attempting Title No. 8

“The chase for 8 continues!” was the rallying cry of Tigers fans. Leading up to the game, the community held a festive send-off and pep rally at Katy High. The football team arrived on a Katy fire ladder truck as the Katy flag corps lined the street. The team mascot arrived by helicopter! Varsity cheerleaders tossed footballs into the crowd and balloons soared as the marching band played the fight song.

Katy Mayor Fabol Hughes praised Katy High School’s football record during a speech in front of hundreds rooting on the team, including members of the Katy High School Athletic Booster Club, an organization that has raised millions of dollars over the years to support all the school’s athletic programs.

As a sports mom herself, Porter has followed the players who make up the Katy Tigers since they were in Katy Youth Football. She notes that the Tigers don’t have fans… they have an army that follows the team in perfect unison. “Katy’s parents get involved in the pregame activities more than any team I have ever seen,” notes Porter. “They create their own rituals that get passed down to new parents as they come into the mix.”

This unconditional support fills stadiums and is great for photographers, because within that sea of red is always a unique shot. But a stadium that size can be overwhelming, and Porter looks for opportunities. “Katy football crowds are what big telephoto lenses are made for,” she adds.

A Nail-Biter of a Game

During the valiant effort by the Tigers, Porter zeroed in on the intensity of the plays, the emotion from the stands, and the roar of the crowd. All season the Tigers had geared up for this milestone game, including players Garrison Roberts, Rodney Henderson, Kris Perez, Garrett Doiron, Jesse Brown, Cory Bethley, Jacob Crytzer, JR Blades, Garrett Dolan, Sy Slater, Sam Wells, Travis Whillock, Jovanni Stewart, Cole Shannon, Tony Mullins and other notable team members.

The Longhorns ultimately won 23-20 in a nail-biter, which was especially disappointing after a 34-24 loss to Cedar Hill last year. The Tigers had hoped for a state victory like the one they claimed while playing the Longhorns in 2012 during their 7th state title (35-24).

Win, lose or draw, loyal Katyites love nothing more than revisiting these special moments through photography. Porter captures both high and lows, noting that winning and losing is part of the game. After all, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is filled with “agony shots” as well as “jubilation shots.” She focuses on the emotion of the game while running the sidelines carrying 50-60 pounds of equipment, including three pro cameras, a large telephoto, one mid range zoom lens, and a wide angle. Throw in the GoPro, as well, and it can get a bit unwieldy working at full speed for three hours. But the result is an extraordinary portfolio growing year-by-year and adding to the glory of the sport – and the Katy Tigers.

Explaining the “Magic”

Just getting to the playoffs is a unified undertaking by coaches, players, parents, fans, cheerleaders, the band, the drill team and the flag corps. But climbing all the way to the championship game is nothing short of “magic” – Tiger magic. At best, most football programs earn only a few state level championship runs per decade. Compare this to the Tigers, a team that has achieved 13 championship appearances, ultimately winning the state title in 1959, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2012.

Gary Joseph, perhaps one of the most recognizable names in high school football coaching, has been with Katy ISD for 32 seasons and has served as Head Coach and Athletic Director at Katy High since 2004. Many feel he is one of the main reasons that Katy remains on everyone’s radar, although he believes that distinction goes to the players.

Porter, with her view of the field, believes the continuity of the coaching staff adds to the rich tradition of achievement. She shoots football teams all over the state and has developed a sense as to what makes a championship team. “I think what makes Katy so good is consistency. All the subvarsity teams are coached the exact same way as varsity, so when they get to varsity, there is little to no learning curve,” she notes. “This also gives Katy an incredible depth chart, so if anyone is injured or cannot play, they can reach back two or more levels and find someone already indoctrinated with playing style, the play book, and coaching style.” She believes other teams wear out early against Katy because they just don’t have that consistency or depth.

A quote by Mike Johnson, Head Coach from 1982-2004, encapsulates the bragging rights: “When excellence becomes tradition, greatness has no limits.” With a new year in front of the team, they have another chance to bring home an eighth championship in 2015. As always, Porter will be there to shoot the game. The fans will arrive to cheer on their beloved Tigers. The band, cheerleaders, drill team and flag corps will rally the crowds. And the players will do their utmost to live up to the tradition, once again.

Quarterback Garrett Doiron makes a timely pass.

Quarterback Garrett Doiron makes a timely pass.

Running Back Rodney Anderson picks up a first down.

Running Back Rodney Anderson picks up a first down.

LinebackerTyler Whillock (44) and Linebacker Mac Norris (36) go after the Cedar Hill Quarterback.

LinebackerTyler Whillock (44) and Linebacker Mac Norris (36) go after the Cedar Hill Quarterback.

Defensive Back Collin Wilder makes a great tackle.

Defensive Back Collin Wilder makes a great tackle.

Defensive Back Joshua Blair breaks up a pass play.

Defensive Back Joshua Blair breaks up a pass play.

Defensive Lineman Jesse Brown consoles Running Back Rodney Anderson.

Defensive Lineman Jesse Brown consoles Running Back Rodney Anderson.

The Katy Tigers, Through the Lens


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