By BILL PETERSON
BUDA — The Hays Rebels haven’t even played a game yet, and they already need a win badly.
The run-up to the 2009 season has not gone smoothly for Hays head coach Bob Shelton, now entering his 42nd year as the only head football coach in the school’s history. The best he can say is that a problem he thought he might have has gone away, since senior quarterback Sam Breyfogle has been cleared to play Friday night against Bastrop at Bob Shelton Stadium (7:30 p.m.). The Rebels thought they might miss Breyfogle for at least Friday’s opener after he underwent an appendectomy a few weeks ago.
But Breyfogle’s return won’t be absolutely complete. Shelton said he’s likely to rotate with Phillip Abreu, the team’s regular fullback who has taken snaps behind center this fall.
Additionally, Breyfogle won’t be throwing the ball to edge threat Anthony Pesina, who will miss the opener with a skin condition. Nor will he hand the ball to speedster Torrance Smith, who is out for two weeks on a disciplinary suspension. And linebacker Godford Maxwell, a strong performer last season, will miss this entire season for disciplinary reasons.
“It’s high school kids,” Shelton said. “Sometimes, they do things that they shouldn’t do.”
Shelton said none of the disciplinary suspensions stem from the end of last year’s first-round playoff game, in which Magnolia came to Bob Shelton Stadium and put a harsh 26-14 loss on the Rebels. The game ended in an ugly bench clearing brawl, after which Magnolia coach Andy Sexton ordered his players to not shake hands post-game with the Hays players.
That night went down as a bitter disappointment for Shelton, whose team finished the District 17-4A season 5-0 for its first undisputed district title in ten years. Wind gusts of 35 miles per hour showed up for the game. The Rebels threw three interceptions in the wind, while Magnolia chewed up 314 total yards with a physical wishbone offense.
Ten years ago, Hays was the team with the physical wishbone offense, which it executed so well that Class 4A opponents struggled to stop it even when they knew it was coming. But Shelton and his coaching staff diversified the offense after the 2000 season, when the Rebels had moved up to Class 5A. At that highest level, superior athletes could defend the option by playing assignment football. So, Shelton and his staff designed the most productive multiple offense to be found between Austin and San Antonio.
Thus, it was a rather bitter pill for Hays fans when they came to last year’s playoff game, back in Class 4A, and a hard wind killed their offense while an opponent stepped on their field and rolled their kids from the wishbone. Making matters worse, a Hays team that used to win sportsmanship awards from high school referees lost its composure and ended the season with a brawl.
“That was an embarrassment,” Shelton said.
So the Rebels need a win Friday night as they attempt another run to and through the playoffs. They need to find their stride again, to be who they are again, and they need to settle a score. Leading 27-13 with five minutes left at Bastrop last year, the Rebels folded up and lost, 34-27 in overtime, to begin their 2008 season.
Between the loss at Bastrop and the home field playoff loss to Magnolia, the Rebels won seven of nine games, sometimes with their magic dust. The season included Shelton’s 300th career win when Trace Gandy struck from nowhere with a late 60-yard touchdown run to bail out a stagnant performance with a 21-20 victory against Lockhart.
This year promises more of the same for Hays. Any game they lose in District 17-4A will be considered an upset, and no scenario short of a natural catastrophe envisions them missing the playoffs.
But they’ll have to get back to who they are, first. Within a couple weeks, Breyfogle should be at full strength, Pesina will be healthy and Smith will come back from his two-game suspension. The Rebels aren’t short when it comes to offensive weapons. If anything, the next couple weeks might help them create a few more.
“The good part of it is that we’re in the non-district schedule,” Shelton said. “It will give us a chance to develop some depth for the rest of the season.”
Maybe that will help them go deeper into the playoffs. That, and a calm Friday night in November. For now, they’ll settle for a win of any kind Friday night, just to bring themselves back to normal.Email | Print