By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – The Lehman Lobos came to Thursday night lined up for a great moment in their football history. How unfortunate that the Lobos weren’t even remotely ready for that moment.
With nothing less at stake than a 3-0 start in their third year, along with their first three-game winning streak and their first three-win season, the Lobos played too much like the group that routinely fell in lopsided losses the last two years.
San Antonio Edison, an outfit the Lobos beat in 2006 and almost beat last year, laid an all-too-familiar 55-21 beating on the Lobos, who ruined their own homecoming with a lackluster performance, especially on defense. The Edison offense registered touchdown plays of 71, 47, 35, 51 and 59 yards, and on none of those plays did a Lehman defender even enter the picture frame once the ball carrier reached two yards past the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, the Lobos counted one shining moment, an opening touchdown drive of 72 yards in 12 plays, seven of those being carries by star running back R.J. Hardaway, who went the final 13 yards for the score to give Lehman a 7-0 lead.
The euphoria ended on the next play from scrimmage, when Edison quarterback Tim Contreras ran 71 yards through the middle, almost untouched, for a touchdown to tie the game, 7-7. After the game, Davis said he could almost sense at that moment that the route was on.
“That first drive, we controlled it and went right down the field to score,” Davis said. “Then they scored on their first play and we just quit.”
The Lobos failed on many levels from that point. They stopped giving the ball to Hardaway, who didn’t touch it once in their next three possessions, when they were still in the game. Thus, the Lobos laid off their one true, tested weapon to fire weapons they don’t have, thereby shooting themselves in the foot.
Well, there’s a self-contradictory metaphor that sizes up the Lehman offense. The next time Hardaway touched the ball, Lehman trailed, 20-7. For the remainder of the half after Hardaway carried them to a touchdown, the Lobos ran 23 plays, only twice giving the ball to Hardaway. Instead, they decided to ride the throwing arm of Chris Duran, who completed three of 10 passes for 20 yards and two interceptions.
Edison’s Ruben Contreras returned one of those interceptions 44 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bears a 27-7 lead with 5:27 left in the second quarter. Three minutes later, Tim Contreras ran 35 yards for a touchdown, giving Edison a 34-7 halftime lead.
Nothing about Lehman’s performance bothered Davis more than the fact that he could have predicted it based on how the team practiced Monday through Wednesday. An outsider could guess at a number of reasons why the Lobos might have lost focus this week.
Perhaps last week’s 49-48 double overtime win against Reagan took too much out of them mentally and physically after they took a 35-6 lead and ended up hanging on. Maybe all the commotion about Hurricane Ike’s arrival drained some of the focus, since it at least forced the game to be moved from Friday to Thursday. Maybe homecoming week was a distraction, as is often the case.
If one had to pick a pair of images to summarize Thursday’s game, one might go with Duran crowned homecoming king at halftime, then Duran benched during the second half. Is there a connection?
The point, Davis indicated, is that there shouldn’t be a connection. The football team’s role in homecoming is not to humor the social scene, but to line up for a representative football game.
“We’ve got to focus on the task,” Davis said. “You can’t let outside things distract you. That’s life. It’s not just turning it on on game day. It’s Monday until kickoff. If you can’t do that, you’re not setting yourself up to win.”
Davis said he’ll be making changes this week to the depth chart and the roster. Players could be coming up from the junior varsity, and the team could be going back to open competition for positions.
“Nobody has a starting position at this point,” Davis said. “I want guys who want to play every day.”
Edison ran 39 plays for 492 yards, a whopping 12.6 yards per offensive snap, while making no turnovers. Tim Contreras ran eight times for 185 yards. Sammy Contreras ran 11 times for 147 yards, caught one pass for 51 yards and completed two of five passes for 44 yards.
Lehman totaled 288 yards, losing two fumbles and throwing three interceptions. Hardaway ran 15 times for 91 yards, followed by Ryan Wagner with six rushes for 50 yards.
All of which shows there was nothing fluky about the final score. The Lobos just weren’t ready for a team they played evenly against the last two years.
“We were beaten athletically,” Davis said. “Our linebackers got sealed off and we didn’t get ourselves ready to play the way we worked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Fortunately for the 2-1 Lobos, there’s another game next Friday, when they play Lanier at House Park.