By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
AUSTIN – A man saw Lehman High School football coach Steve Davis under the stands of House Park at halftime Thursday night, occupying a most unfamiliar position.
The Lobos, utterly incapable of anything resembling an offense in their first two seasons, held a 35-12 halftime lead against Reagan. Until the closing moments of the second quarter, the Lobos led, 35-6.
Suddenly a football team that scored a total of 98 points in its first two years was winning laugher. Suddenly, a team that won only three of its first 20 games in two years found itself on the verge of a 2-0 start in its third.
“This is surreal,” the man said to Davis.
Said Davis, who naturally has developed a cautious sort of optimism at Lehman, “We have another half left.”
Davis didn’t lie, but he didn’t have that entirely right, either. Lehman had another half and two overtimes left before pulling through with a 49-48 win in a game that could have crushed the Lobos and, instead, will elevate them.
So, Lehman is, indeed, 2-0 for the first time in its history. Scoring 49 points in one game, the Lobos exceeded their output for all of 2007, when they scored a total of 47 points.
The night ended in a pedagogical windfall for Davis. The players can feel good about hanging in there and winning, while Davis can preach to them credibly about the importance of conditioning and the perils of playing with the lead.
“Losing this game would have killed us,” said Lehman linebacker Caleb Frank, who already looked half-dead after an exhausting performance in which he also took several snaps at fullback.
Davis’ concern at halftime issued from three factors, all of which came into play. First, neither team is especially deep, as Lehman has only 28 players and Reagan has 30. Thus, fatigue in the second half will generally be a concern for Lehman. Second, Reagan’s speed would become an even greater weapon working against tired Lehman defenders. Third, Lehman simply had no experience playing with the lead.
“It’s hard any time you have so many players going two ways,” Davis said. “But the players just have to suck it up and get into condition.”
Playing with fresh legs in the beginning, Lehman commenced to put a first-half whipping on the Raiders. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Lehman quarterback Chris Duran threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Trey Abeita for a 7-0 lead. Reagan fumbled the ball away two plays later and, three plays after that, R.J. Hardaway ran 15 yards for a touchdown to give Lehman a 14-0 lead.
For almost the entire first half, the Lehman defense stuffed a fumble-prone Reagan offense, but Reagan still went on the scoreboard when Trent Nash took a punt return 80 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-6.
However, the Lobos could not be stopped. Duran ran 45 yards for a touchdown to give them a 21-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. On the fourth play of the second quarter, Duran threw 49 yards to Kevin Ibanez for a touchdown to make it 28-6. Later, Frank scored a nine-yard touchdown by recovering his own fumble in the end zone to give Lehman a 35-6 lead.
The next Reagan possession foreshadowed the second half. The Raiders drove 88 yards in nine plays, needing only 1:59 before quarterback JaQuarias Daniels ran 12 yards for a touchdown with 51 seconds left before intermission. The scoreboard showed a 35-12 Lehman lead, offering the Lobos a measure of safety, but the game on the field was quickly turning the other way.
Reagan came out blazing in the second half. A quick drive off the kickoff ended when a 29-yard touchdown pass from Daniels to Nash made it 35-20. On Reagan’s next possession, Daniels threw 70 yards to Nash for another touchdown to make it 35-26.
Lehman responded with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Duran to John Martell, increasing Lehman’s lead back to 42-26. But Lehman wouldn’t score for the rest of regulation time. It fell to the Lehman defense to hold the lead.
Lehman’s Jacob Torres ended the next Reagan possession by intercepting Daniels at the Lobo 20. Lehman then drove to the Reagan 42 before punting early in the fourth quarter. And, from that point, Lehman’s tired defense was just a little speed and a little depth short of being able to stop Daniels, who repeatedly ran from the pocket for big gains after Lehman defenders barely missed him.
Daniels threw seven yards to Joe Carnline for a touchdown, then Daniels connected with Nash for the two-point conversion to bring Reagan within 42-34 with 7:16 remaining.
The tension mounted as Lehman’s Michael Aldridge, a true return threat, fashioned a 34-yard kickoff return to the Reagan 39, giving the Lobos a golden opportunity to put the game away. The Lobos turned to Hardaway, who fumbled the ball away on fourth-and-one at the Reagan 30.
Thus, Reagan inched downfield, starting with 4:47 left. The Raiders soon appeared to score on a 46-yard pass from Daniels to Jalyn Harris, but the referees caught too many receivers downfield and called it back. Reagan proceeded to convert three third downs and a fourth down. Finally, with ten seconds left in regulation time, Daniels ran 16 yards for a touchdown to make it 42-40. Daniels ran for the two-point conversion, tying the game, 42-42, and forcing overtime,
Neither team scored in the first overtime. But Lehman, taking the ball first in the second overtime, scored on Duran’s one-yard run, with the kick by Fernando Castro giving the Lobos a 49-42 lead.
Reagan took its turn, scoring with Daniels’ six-yard touchdown run on fourth down. But the Lehman defense stiffened on the conversion, stopping Daniels at the four and allowing the Lobos to escape with a 49-48 win.
“It was glorious, when we saw that we had him stopped,” Frank said. “We should have had them a lot earlier. It was our mistakes that let them back in the game.”
Indeed, the Lobos made their share of errors. Duran threw two interceptions, Hardaway’s late fumble gave Reagan its opportunity to tie and 12 Lehman penalties for 115 yards will certainly not go unnoticed by Davis.
But the newly found offensive firepower is hard to ignore. Hardaway turned in a workhorse performance, carrying 26 times for 131 yards, refusing to go down on any carry until he had been hit several times. Duran completed nine of 20 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown.
In view of their limited depth, however, the Lobos will have to stop killing themselves with offensive penalties so they can keep their defense reasonably fresh. And they must learn how to play with the lead.
“We told (the players) that (Reagan) wasn’t going to die,” Davis said. “Maybe they didn’t believe us.”
Next time, they will.Email | Print