The Katy (TX) varsity football team has a home non-conference game vs. Clear Springs (League City, TX) today @ 6pm ET at Legacy Stadium.
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Katy High will face Clear Springs in its first game since winning the Class 6A, Div. II state championship over Cedar Hill in January. This matchup was the opening game of the season for last years teams as well and Katy won 28-13. Clear Springs went undefeated in district play last season but lost to Pearland in the bi-district round of the playoffs. The Chargers boast an explosive offense, returning seven starters, including 6-foot-5 Noah Thomas, who caught 40 passes for 833 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Gary Joseph points toward a bookcase behind his desk in the head football coach’s office at Katy High School. It contains boxes of cards and letters that, he hopes, tell another part of the story of a man who has spent four decades doing something he absolutely loves.
“When it starts to feel like a job, I’ll know it’s time to go,” he said.
This week, the 65-year-old coach will begin his eighteenth season in charge at Katy with hopes of adding to a resume that includes a 227–22 record and five state championships. His Tigers picked up their most recent state title last season, and Joseph’s teams have finished as the runner-up four other times.
In the world of Texas high school football, Katy, a city about thirty miles west of Houston, occupies rarefied air. Katy High School’s nine state championships overall are the second-most in University Interscholastic League football history, trailing only Aledo, which won its tenth last season. (Katy competes in Conference 6A, the level for the state’s largest high schools, while Aledo plays in 5A, Division II.) Joseph has had a hand in eight of those Katy championships, three as an assistant coach and five since taking over the program in 2004.
His players speak of the pressure of fulfilling expectations, something Joseph understands. Before winning that ninth title, a 51–14 victory over Cedar Hill, Joseph’s pregame message to his team was about just that. “We talked about intimidation and big games,” he said. “We talked about not being intimidated by the moment—to seize the moment and enjoy it. I don’t want them to go out there and play so uptight that they couldn’t enjoy it.”
Joseph maintains a singular focus on his job. He doesn’t golf, doesn’t fish, doesn’t bother with hobbies. Even during the summer, he’s in his office most days. And he cherishes those boxes of notes from former players. Those messages are almost never about winning or losing. Instead, they’re about matters perhaps only other coaches or educators can fully understand.
The notes remind him that he’s not just winning, he’s winning a certain way. His players thank him for his consistency and fairness and for focusing on basic values that have served them well in life. One of those is values unselfishness, which is practically an obsession for Joseph. He says Katy’s remarkable success begins right there—with something easy to describe but difficult to achieve.
Last season’s championship, which the team managed to win amid a pandemic that constantly threatened to derail the season, was especially satisfying. When the title game ended, Joseph huddled with his players and told them they’d accomplished something they’re likely to remember for the rest of their lives. “They gave up their social life for six months because of COVID,” he said. “They committed themselves to something that would be difficult enough under the best of circumstances. But when you have to gather your entire team and take the team to be tested for the virus seven times, you’ve got a completely different challenge.”
In the weeks that followed, Joseph hung championship medals arounds the necks of players, band members, and others who contributed to the season. He wanted them all to know their roles hadn’t been overlooked. “Those medals, those rings don’t say anything about whether you were a starter or a backup,” he said. “They said that you contributed. So many people—teachers, our administration, our athletics director—so many had a hand in us winning.
Joseph is the living, breathing embodiment of someone completely immersed in coaching. After losses, he and his staff—many of whom have worked for Joseph for nearly two decades—climb the stairs to the football offices and go right back to work, trying to figure out what needs to be fixed. The coach did allow himself a short vacation this summer, when he and his wife, Sheila, attended the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio. He was touched by the emotion the inductees expressed, and by how almost no words were powerful enough to express their feelings in that moment.