Katy Independent School District recently hired the second head coach in the young history of the Cinco Ranch High football program in Christopher Dudley.

“It was a dream come true,” Dudley told Texas Scorecard. “I have always wanted to be a head coach.”

Dudley, who hails from Erie, Pennsylvania, succeeds his former superior and the Cougars’ inaugural coach, Don Clayton. A familiar face on the sidelines of KISD’s stadiums, Dudley served as an assistant under Clayton for 15 years and is almost a year removed from overseeing the defense for Katy Taylor High under fellow Clayton disciple Jeff Simmons.

Simply put, Dudley’s new role is a full circle moment of sorts.

“To be able to come back home and become the head coach here is very humbling, and I’m very honored to do so,” he said.

A Duquesne University graduate, Dudley came to Texas in 2003 upon his brother Randy Woodring’s advice to pursue a coaching career in the Lone Star State. According to Dudley, it was “a little bit of a shock in a lot of different ways” to make the 1,620-mile move, but “I’m really happy that I made the move.”

He additionally credited former Taylor head coach and KISD assistant athletic director Bubba Fife for getting him his first-ever coaching job at a junior high school and then a volunteer coaching position at Cinco Ranch.

As one of the longtime members of the Cougars football staff, Dudley helped the 20-year-old school on the outskirts of Katy reel off an impressive string of appearances in the Class 5A State Playoffs.

“Coach Clayton has done a tremendous job building the athletic program from scratch here,” said Dudley. “He is someone whose legacy speaks for itself. In my growth as a coach, he’s helped tremendously putting me in positions to succeed.”

Clayton left some big shoes to fill with his retirement, but his protégé is eager to write his own story.

“I’m not trying to be Don Clayton,” stated Dudley. “I’ve got to be the best Chris Dudley I could be.”

The changing of the guard does not usher in a rebuild since Clayton “left the program in such a good shape,” he said.

Next year’s squad seeks to regroup from a 3-7 campaign, as well as prepare for the gauntlet that will be laid down by a very tough District 19-6A.

Dudley said that the Cougars offense will feature an experienced leader in the trenches in Carlos Abascal. One of Abascal’s main responsibilities is to protect first-year quarterback Clayton Keeling, who was called up from the sub-varsity.

“He’s showed some good progress throughout the offseason,” Dudley said of the soon-to-be junior signal-caller.

Defensively, Cinco Ranch has “a large hole to fill” with star linebacker David Gbenda heading to the University of Texas. But the secondary shows upside thanks to cornerback Carson King and safety Brady Matthews as does the defensive line with several returning lettermen, explained Dudley.

“Our goals here at Cinco Ranch have been the same for a long time in terms of where we expect to be,” the coach said. “We’re a program that expects to get in to the playoffs. We’re a program that expects to win a district championship. We expect to be playing football in December … ultimately, we are a program that expects to be able to win state championships. Those goals have not changed and they won’t change for next year’s team, either.”

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