By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
KYLE – There are two ways to look at Lehman High School’s 3-1 start to the football season, and both are true.
Yes, the Lobos have lined up an easy schedule. Last Friday night, they hung a 28-0 shutout on Lanier, the first shutout in Lehman’s three-year football history. But Lanier has scored only six points in four games this season, all losses. Lehman’s other wins came against Reisel, a Class 1A school near Waco, and Reagan, which is in danger of being shut down by the state.
But Lehman spent its first two years of varsity football as the easy mark for other programs, and the Lobos can at least say they’ve developed the goods to not be everybody’s pushover. They might still be somebody’s pushover, but not just anybody’s.
Friday night, the Lobos go to Gonzalez to play a Class 3A state playoff quarterfinalist from a year ago. The Indians have declined this year to 1-3, but they’ve still got speed, which Lehman lacks, and they’ve got a bit of winning pedigree, which Lehman is trying to establish.
You can’t build a winning football program without winning, and you can’t blame Lehman coach Steve Davis for putting winnable games on the schedule after the Lobos totaled three wins in their first two years. Winning makes the players believe their hard work and discipline work in their favor and makes them continue on that path. It makes more people more interested in the program. When those effects start to build, the program will be strengthened to the point of being able to face down tougher opponents.
If, in fact, that’s Davis’ plan, it has worked before. In 1989, Bill Snyder took over a Kansas State program notorious as the worst in college football, an operation that had gone 27 straight games without a win. The program had four winning seasons since World War II and a historical record of 299-509-41, making it the only college football program with 500 losses. Snyder began greasing the skids with a laughably easy schedule and built on those victories to create a national contender before his retirement in 2005.
Likewise, winning is turning up good signs at Lehman. If the Lobos didn’t play a perfect game against Lanier, they still dominated. The Lobos especially played well on defense, giving up 65 total yards. When you have only 28 varsity players and three wins in the previous two years, dominating against anyone is progress.
With three wins already, the Lobos are guaranteed their best season. The key for Lehman is to keep building on it. So far, so good.
“You celebrate the wins that night, then get ready for the next one,” Davis said. “The players are a good group of young men. I haven’t had a lot of them getting (in-school suspension) or detention for doing knuckle-headed things in the classroom or cafeteria. You can tell there’s a different attitude in the school and bigger crowds attending the games.”
Along with a defense that played well against Lanier, the Lobos also have offensive weapons.
Senior running back R.J. Hardaway already has carried for 549 yards in four games, while catching passes for 107 yards, putting him at 656 yards of total offense. Quarterback Chris Duran has passed for 463 yards and rushed for 145, giving him 608 yards of total offense.
Challenges remain, of course. The Lobos made six turnovers against Lanier, including five lost fumbles. And the small roster size makes preparation very difficult.
“Anytime you have a lot of kids going both ways (offense and defense), it cuts your practice time,” Davis said. “You can’t work the offense or defense as much as you’d like because you have a lot of the same players on both sides.”
And as the season goes along, players are bound to increasingly feel the effects of playing on both sides of the ball. But as long as they’re winning, the rest of it is a lot easier.