1959 Katy Tigers

Community inspired underdogs to win first championship

Decades before Katy High School established itself as a football powerhouse, the Tigers won an unlikely championship in a way that contemporary fans would recognize—with a close-knit squad, bruising running game, dedicated coaching staff and fanatical backing from the community.

"That 1959 team was outstanding," head coach Gordon Brown said. "It was foremost a community effort. If anyone ever deserved to win, it was the community of Katy."

Brown, who now resides in Huntsville, said that when he began coaching Katy in 1955 the team's facilities were minimal, and the school lacked basic weight equipment or a decent field. The community went to work on the team's behalf, clearing a playing field with rice plows and providing the resources for a competitive squad.

In 1958, Brown's squad had narrowly missed out on the playoffs after a final-game loss to East Bernard. The next season, the Tigers went undefeated and put together one three-game stretch where they demolished their opponents by a 157-6 margin. Four playoff victories set up the final clash against the west Texas oil patch town of Sundown on Dec. 19, 1959.

The championship was held in Brownwood—equidistant to Katy and Sundown. The favored Roughnecks featured an explosive rushing offense and had averaged 44 points per game before facing the Tigers.

"As we were getting off the bus at the hotel before the final game, some of the Sundown players threw ice on our players," Brown said. "[Quarterback and team leader Dwayne] Fussell said 'Wait 'til we get them on the field, and we'll throw ice on them.'"

Running an offensive formation called a "wing-T"—with half-backs Charlie Shafer and Bill Jordan and star fullback Farriel Culpepper behind Fussell—Katy's backfield relentlessly ran the ball at the Sundown defense, Shafer said. An 82-yard kickoff return by Shafer put the Tigers ahead to stay at 16-6. The defense, led by all-state end Stanley McDonald and linebacker Charlie Peck, stopped the vaunted Sundown running game in its tracks, Brown said.

After the final whistle, the Katy squad, students and family who had made the trek to Brownwood thronged the field in celebration of their first championship.

"The community has always been behind us," said Shafer, now the Katy tax assessor. "Basically, the whole city of Katy was in Brownwood for that game, and we were very well received when we returned home."

Brown coached Katy for nine years before moving on to Deer Park High School and later worked at the collegiate level as the offensive coordinator for Stephen F. Austin State University. Thirty-eight years passed before the Tigers' next title in 1997. Later championships in 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2008 secured Katy's standing as one of the nation's elite high school football programs.

Source: "Historic Katy: An Illustrated History" by Carol Adams.