Lining up opposite Cedar Hill in Saturday's Class 5A Division II state championship game will be one of Texas' football darlings.
With six state championships and 11 state championship game appearances, Katy (15-0) ranks with Southlake Carroll (eight titles, nine appearances) and Euless Trinity (three titles, five appearances) among the state's best programs.
It's a status Cedar Hill (11-4) hopes to achieve with a victory in Saturday's game at 4 p.m. at Cowboys Stadium. It would be the school's second state title.
"We're honored to be playing them," Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire said. "We want to be a Katy -- teams that have won multiple state championships -- so this gives us the chance to do that."
The first of nine UIL championship games over three days begins today at Cowboys Stadium. Tripleheaders follow today's three games on Friday and Saturday.
Cedar Hill's first and only title came in the Division II championship in 2006, a 51-17 blowout against Houston Cypress Falls, a game recent enough for many of this year's Cedar Hill players to remember.
"So many of our guys followed that '06 team when they were in elementary school or middle school and have a number of coaches who coached in that game, so those coaches have the experience of coaching in a big game like that," McGuire said.
This year, those coaches have the challenge of drawing up a winning game plan against the No. 2 team in the nation, according to Rivals.com rankings.
Both teams are run-oriented. Katy is led by Adam Taylor, a bruising runner and a Nebraska recruit. Cedar Hill has Texas A&M recruit Laquvionte Gonzalez, who has the chance to finish the season with more than 1,500 yards.
Typically teams that make the run to the state final have the luck of health on their side throughout the season. That wasn't the case for Cedar Hill. Five players sustained torn knee ligament injuries this season, including standout running back, Jared Rayford. McGuire said it was the first ACL injuries he had had on his team since 2009.
The difference was Cedar Hill's ability to rise to the challenge because of a mentality instilled in the program.
"We call each other a family first, and when you're a family first instead of a team first -- and our motto is Protect the Family -- someone always has to step up and step into that position," McGuire said, "and we've had guys do it every single week."