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

October 25th, 2008
Lehman grid struggles continue, the same as always

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

BUDA – Around the Lehman High School football team anymore, one hears a constant refrain.

“Well,” just about everyone says, “the freshmen team is good.”

In the fifth year of its football program, and the third year with a varsity team, Lehman is starting to show signs of developing a pipeline with a freshman team that’s 8-0. That team is light at the end of the tunnel for the Lobos.

Right now, though, the Lobos are deep in the darkest middle of that tunnel after absorbing yet another lopsided district loss Friday night, 44-14 to Del Valle at Bob Shelton Stadium.

The loss dropped Lehman to 3-5 overall and 0-3 in District 17-4A. In its third season of varsity ball, Lehman is 0-17 historically in district play. And it’s not so much the fact that the Lobos lose, but the way they lose that distresses the Lehman faithful.

“There’s no execution,” said an excruciatingly frustrated Lehman head coach Steve Davis. “That freshman group, they know how to execute and they’re 8-0. I feel sorry for a few of our seniors who play hard and practice well.”

As all adults within the Hays CISD understand, the story of Lehman football is the story of a school district that needed to open a second high school and really didn’t want to let go of Hays High School football, which had done so much through the decades to offer common purpose for the formerly competing towns of Buda and Kyle.

It’s hard enough to ramp up a competitive varsity program under the best circumstances, and those best circumstances weren’t in play for Lehman. The school district drew a very low socio-economic attendance zone for Lehman, then allowed open transfers for years, enabling kids from the Lehman zone with resources to jump over to the established program at Hays.

So, not only has Lehman not been around for long enough to set up a player pipeline going down to the start of middle school, but the kids on hand come from tough circumstances such that football is more of an indulgence than a commonplace. As a result, Lehman football has not enough kids, and those kids generally have not enough resources in the home, and they were bound to lose, and now they just don’t know how to win.

The contrast with Hays is telling. The Rebels are, by accounts, less talented than any team to come from that school in years. But the kids come from better resourced homes and they answer to a winning tradition by knowing how to win. Lehman doesn’t know how to win right now, but that 8-0 freshman class gives the community hope.

The Lobos lost Friday night the same way they’ve marked their other four losses this year. They made four turnovers, three of which led Del Valle touchdowns. The Lobos ran the ball well again, but couldn’t supplement their rushing attack with a consistent passing game or any more than a token defense. Once the game began to unravel, the Lobos again demonstrated no aptitude for damage control and the sideline lost all signs of life in the second half, except for an occasional display of frustration.

From a football standpoint, though, the basic problem is a constant stream of turnovers and bizarre errors. On Lehman’s second drive, at the end of play on which Lobos running back R.J. Hardaway advanced to the Del Valle 25, the Lobos were called for a late hit on their offense. The ball went back to the 40 yard line and the drive died within two snaps.

Later in the first quarter, a fumble by Lehman’s Caleb Frank at his own 21 set up Davion Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown run two plays later, pulling Del Valle into a 7-7 tie. Lehman’s next possession after that ended when quarterback Chris Duran threw an interception and, just to add a little humiliation, the referees called Lehman for a horse collar tackle at the end of the play.

Lehman’s next possession after that ended on the first play, when Hardaway fumbled at his own 18. Del Valle turned it into a 26-yard field goal by Heribeto Martinez, giving the Cardinals a 10-7 lead with 6:36 left in the half.

The game really began to run away from Lehman on its next possession, which ended with Fernando Castro’s missed 26-yard field goal with 41 seconds left in the half. The Lobos probably should have gone to the lockerroom down only 10-7, but Del Valle scored another touchdown in two plays. First, Josef Cortez ran for 46 yards, then Cortez connected with Johnson for a 50-yard touchdown and Del Valle increased its lead to 17-7 with 15.4 seconds left before intermission.

On Lehman’s first play from scrimmage in the second half, a Lehman lineman missed a block, which kept Hardaway from taking a good grip of a handoff. Hardaway fumbled and Tyrell Avery returned it 40 yards for another Del Valle touchdown to make it 24-7.

“Unfortunately, that’s something I can’t correct,” Davis said of Lehman’s propensity for turnovers. “We can run all the drills, but the players have to do it.”

Hardaway turned in another highly productive game, rushing 31 times for 200 yards and bringing his season rushing total up to 1,139 yards. It’s true that Hardaway also fumbles a bit this year, but when he makes a mistake, there’s no one there to pick him up.

Duran gives a game effort, but he is not well practiced at quarterback because, as a senior, he never before played the position. Again, it’s symptomatic of Lehman’s lack of an established pipeline, which has kept the program from developing a quarterback. By contrast with Hays, again, the Hays coaches refer to their classes by the name of each class’s quarterback as it comes up through the ranks, so they talk about the Nash McPheeters group, the Brooks Pinckard group, the Clayton Rogers group, and so on.

Some day, perhaps, the Lobos will be well enough established in numbers, talent and programmatic infrastructure to field a varsity team with an experienced quarterback. For now, as Davis said, “It’s like a broken record,” the same lack of a passing game, the same tendency to give the ball away and, with it, the same kinds of losses.

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