San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 23rd, 2008
Lobos look for improvement as coach sees corner coming

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

KYLE – A new day could be coming to the Lehman High School football program, and it can’t come soon enough.

Two years into launching the Lobos, Head Coach Steve Davis has seen more hard times than some coaches see in a career. Come to think of it, some coaches might call it a career after Davis’ last two years.

On the field, Davis has fought small numbers and inexperience as the Lobos lost 17 of their first 20 games, including a 1-9 record last year. The top running back, R.J. Hardaway, missed half of last season with a knee injury. The Lobos have yet to win a game in their district.

Off the field, Davis fought for two years before the Hays CISD trustees tightened up the high school transfer policy to cut down on football players from the Lehman attendance zone ending up at Hays. Then, the program suffered a terrible blow when two leading players from those first two years, linebacker Jesse Primeau and quarterback Chad Miles, were charged in a sexual assault from last fall. Two other Lehman players who would still be eligible aren’t with the team, as they faced charges in the same case.

Against this backdrop, Davis tries to build a winner. It could take a while, or it could start to happen right now.

“Things are starting to look up,” Davis said. “It’s starting to turn. You can feel it.”

Between the district’s tightened transfer policies and the opening of an ROTC at Lehman this year, the freshman class at Lehman is up to 52 players. Not that it matters right now, but it does, and it stands to really matter in future seasons.

As Cibolo Steele Head Coach Mike Jinks put it, giving one reason why his second-year varsity in the Schertz Cibolo Universal City ISD could advance deep into the playoffs last year, “They made the kids go where they’re supposed to go.”

Furthermore, the Lobos are in a district alignment that puts the playoffs in reach. Along with Hays, Lehman is in District 17-4A with Del Valle, Lockhart, Manor and Elgin. As the top four teams advance to the playoffs, Lehman could make the tournament with as few as two victories.

“I tell them to work hard and that could be in reach,” Davis said. “That’s one of the things we want to strive for is respect in the district.”

In the interest of building a program, Davis also has cooked up a pre-district schedule with possibilities for victory. When the state shut down Johnston High School in Austin, Davis replaced the Rams with Riesel, a Class 1A school with a new coach coming off a 3-7 season. The Lobos will go there for their opener on Aug. 29.

The Lobos also play pre-district games against Reagan (2-8 in 2007), Lanier (1-9), San Antonio Edison (7-3) and Gonzales (10-3 quarterfinalist in Class 3A).

Lehman will open the District 17-4A schedule against Manor (8-3) and Elgin (6-4) before taking on, in order, Del Valle (5-5), Lockhart (1-9) and Hays (6-4).

The Lobos might hang their hat on a strong running game this year, because they’ve got the offensive line and the running back to do it. Anchoring the offensive line are Roger Martinez, Orlando Banda, Shane McCammon and Matthew Moreno, with Martinez, McCammon and Moreno all in excess of 250 pounds. Hardaway is back after rushing for 446 yards last year in an abbreviated campaign.

Quarterback remains a question for Lehman. Davis has moved wide receiver Chris Duran behind center to lead the competition. John Martell remains as the top wide receiver.

Defensively, the Lobos come back with linebacker Caleb Frank, who made 98 tackles last year. Other leading performers returning to the defense are deep backs Martell and Jacob Torres, along with lineman Matthew Villegas.

The tree in the road involves depth. The Lehman roster numbers only 28 players this year, including seven seniors. That means Davis will be using a lot of young players both ways.

The good news is that they’ll gain experience as the season progresses. The bad news is that they could also wear down as the season progresses, though the same might be predicted of teams from smaller District 17-4A schools like Elgin, Manor and Lockhart.

But the possibility of improvement presents itself. Davis said the community turned out well for the Lobo Kickoff. Playoffs are within reach, as is a break-even season, or even a winning record. The players on hand are more experienced.

“The kids have a little more confidence,” Davis said. “We have to work through the year and get better each week.”

More to the point, the Lobos are trying to get better each year. This year is another opportunity to get better.

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