By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – It began as a bid to fill out the Hays football schedule, then it became a test of the Hays program, then it became a possible Class 4A playoff preview in Region III.
Now, no one knows exactly what it is.
All anyone knows for sure is that Rosenberg Lamar, the defending state champion in Class 4A Division I, is visiting Bob Shelton Friday night to play the Hays Rebels. To allow Lamar time to return home at a decent hour, the kickoff is set for 7 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than the usual game time at Bob Shelton Stadium.
Lamar’s title defense has been uncomfortable, to say the least. When they arrive in Buda, the Mustangs will play their first football game in three weeks after canceling two games due to Hurricane Ike. The Mustangs lost star running back Jacquizz Rodgers and 17 other key seniors from last year’s state championship team and lost their only two games played this year.
Meanwhile, the Rebels rebounded nicely last Friday with a 40-9 win against McCallum. A week earlier, the Rebels suffered their own hurricane casualty, a 56-14 loss to Bowie moved up a day on eight hours of notice on Sept. 11. The loss was the worst in Hays history. The previous lows came in two early 40-0 losses, one to Luling in 1969 and one to Elgin in 1970.
Against McCallum, Hays faced its first Class 4A opponent. Its previous three games (against Bastrop, Anderson and Bowie) and its two pre-season scrimmages (Westlake and Cedar Park) all came against Class 5A competition.
The Rebels scored the first five times they had the ball against McCallum to take a 33-3 halftime lead. Quarterback Trey Berry threw touchdowns with his first three passes, including strikes of 30 and 55 yards to Brandon Lawrence and 25 yards to Torrance Smith.
“We’re just trying to get better every week,” Shelton said. “I feel good about where we are.”
Berry rushed for 155 yards in 13 carries and passed for 102 yards. For the year, Berry has 805 yards of total offense, including 438 on the ground and 367 through the air. Smith carried for 101 yards against McCallum, bringing his season total to 290 rushing yards.
The Hays defense held McCallum to 116 rushing yards in 32 attempts. The Knights moved through the air against the Hays second-string defense late in the game, but still completed only 13 of 28 attempts.
“I think the way the (Bowie game) went had a lot to do with how we played tonight,” Berry said after the McCallum game. “That wasn’t us last week.”
Lamar lost its opener, 26-21 to Texas City, after leading for much of the game. A week later, the Mustangs lost a seesaw, 35-28 game to Fort Bend Elkins. However, the hurricane blew away games against Pasadena Memorial and Montgomery.
The Rebels will be under the gun to stop Lamar quarterback D.J. Smallwood, a key performer in last year’s state championship run. However, Smallwood hasn’t yet set the world on fire this year, completing only seven of 25 passes in two games. The leading rusher for Lamar is Jordan Towers, who has 343 yards.
The contest still shapes up as a likely playoff preview, though Hays and Lamar each have lost two games. Hays and Lamar both belong to six-team districts, meaning both are likely to make the playoffs. Hays and Lamar also are guaranteed to go to the playoffs in Division I, if they qualify. Most of the powers in Region III, including Brenham, LaMarque, Crosby and Dayton, almost certainly would go in Division II.
“This is a game people have been talking about for a good while,” Shelton said. “It could happen that we meet in the playoffs and we understand it’s a possibility. But we aren’t in the playoffs, yet.”
That drive begins in two weeks, when the Rebels begin their District 17-4A schedule. Until then, the Lamar game is a peek into the future.