By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – The Hays Rebels wore their blue home pants Friday night, as if to say that even if their game against Lehman was officially a road game, Bob Shelton Stadium is still theirs, and they’re keeping it.
But they put it more eloquently on the field, cruising to a 42-7 victory that might not have been their biggest win of the day. Earlier, Hays coach Bob Shelton won a coin toss to start the playoffs at home next Friday night against Magnolia.
Home would be the location of Friday night’s road game, where the road team dressed in its own home quarters and the home team lockered in the space set aside when it has a game that night.
But Lehman made itself at home in its usual tortured way, setting the tone so common at its home stadium in someone else’s home. Broadly, the game was more like a Lehman game than a Hays game, except the Lobos didn’t turn the ball over quite so much.
As always, when a game gets away from Lehman, it gets away quickly. The Lobos were right with the opponent well into the second quarter, driving towards a tying touchdown. Then, just as it happened two weeks ago on the same field against Del Valle, the Lobos couldn’t score. Then the opponent, with little time left in the half, busted a big play and scored a touchdown right before halftime to break the game open.
This time, the Lobos were on the Hays 20 with first down, trailing, 14-7 with less than five minutes left in the half. After R.J. Hardaway carried three times for six yards, the Lobos went for it on fourth-and-four from the 14. Almost on cue, they were flagged for illegal motion, making it fourth-and-nine at the 19. The Lobos went for it again, quarterback Chris Duran passing to Kevin Ibanez, but for only seven yards.
The Rebels took over on downs at their 12 with 3:27 left in the half, methodically advancing to their own 40 before Sam Breyfogle threw 54 yards to Colton Boothe, putting them on the Lehman six. Billy Gandy ran in the last yard two plays later, giving the Rebels a sudden 21-7 lead with 19.2 seconds left in the half.
“It’s the same thing every week,” Lehman coach Steve Davis said.
Said Hays coach Bob Shelton, in his understated way, “Getting that touchdown before the half was important.”
Lehman tried to climb back in it during the second half. Midway through the third quarter, the Lobos went for it on fourth down in their own territory, but came up short and Hays took over at its 47. Breyfogle hooked up with Trey Berry for 40 yards to the Lehman 14, then Torrance Smith ran two yards for the touchdown three plays later to make it 28-7.
The Rebels tacked on a couple touchdowns in the fourth quarter on Smith’s three-yard run and Clayton Hiawit’s 20-yard run. The Rebels thereby completed a 5-0 District 17-4A season, two games ahead of anyone else, though the margin really was much smaller, like the two late breakaway touchdowns that saved them against Elgin and Lockhart.
Lehman ended its season 3-6 overall and 0-5 in the district, running its record to 0-19 in district games during three years of varsity football. The district losing streak is the headline, which doesn’t describe the weariness of walking through it.
But the recency and tedium of that losing streak leaves an incomplete impression, because the Lobos really aren’t so stagnant. In reality, they made progress this year. They won their most games in their three years, assembled their first two-game winning streak and produced their first 1,000-yard rusher in Hardaway, who ended the season with 1,396 yards. They prevailed on a senior who had never played quarterback, and Chris Duran took on the challenge to give Lehman a better passing game, even if it still needs much improvement.
It’s another year out of the way in the process of building a football program out of little, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The team is young, losing only seven seniors. That 9-1 freshman class is coming with its winning personality. Starting Monday, the freshmen become sophomores in football terms, and those who show they want it by doing the work are going to the varsity.
“We have to get bigger, stronger and faster,” Davis said.
If Lehman fans can endure one more year of a young team’s trials, they stand to be rewarded with a playoff-quality team in 2010. And if that comes to pass, then these years of losing would feel quite different. It would constitute a fair achievement for Lehman to reach the playoffs in its fifth year of varsity football, considering all the obstacles.
Those who appreciate how Hays works will remember that Lehman remains a very young operation. The Lobos still haven’t had a class in their program for the full six-year run from seventh grade through its senior season. See where they are in a couple years. If this freshman class keeps the fire and growth starts feeding in more players, the future for Lehman will look quite different from today,
For Hays, this 7-3 season wasn’t all glamour, either. The Rebels started the year by losing in overtime to a Bastrop team that promptly went on a seven-game losing streak and won only one more game all year. On Sept. 11, with Hurricane Ike looming, the Rebels found out with only eight hours notice that their road game against Bowie was being moved up to that night. The Rebels took their worst loss in history, 56-14, to an 8-2 Bowie team that lost only to Westlake in District 25-5A.
But the Rebels will remember the good times, because there were many. On Sept. 26, the Rebels got to measure themselves against defending state champions Rosenberg Lamar. They lost, 35-24, but a rematch could be coming in three or four weeks as the Class 4A playoffs unfold in Division I.
On Oct 10, they hit a 97-yard touchdown pass from Breyfogle to Trevell Jones after bouncing off another player, tying Elgin with 31 seconds left, then winning in overtime. A week later, they claimed Shelton’s 300th career victory when Gandy broke a long touchdown run in the final minutes against Lockhart. Last week, they clinched their first district title in ten years.
And there’s more to come. The Rebels will open the playoffs next Friday (7:30 p.m.) at Bob Shelton Stadium against Magnolia (6-3, 5-2), which finished second to Huntsville in District 18-4A. Hays fans who worried about long drives to the playoffs can thank the coin flips for pushing that nuisance back at least a week.
The Rebels are living a charmed life this year. That’s why it will continue for at least another week.Email | Print