By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – Playing their first scrimmage of the football season, the Hays Rebels hung in there with Westlake, encouraging Head Coach Bob Shelton with their effort.
Just eyeballing the first team players, Westlake could claim a slim 21-20 victory because Hays missed an extra point. But the true measure of this scrimmage for Hays was an explosive offense.
Defensively, the Rebels faced their struggles, including Westlake tailback Ryan Swope, who rushed last year for 1,821 yards. It’s unlikely Hays will face a running back of that caliber during the season, however, depending on who replaces Jacquizz Rogers for defending Class 4A state champion Rosenberg Lamar.
“I thought we had a good effort,” Shelton said after seeing his group play a different jersey for the first time this year at Bob Shelton Stadium. “When you play a good team like that, you’ll learn. We’ll learn a lot from the film.”
Shelton said the new quarterback, Trey Berry, looked mostly sharp on his snaps, and the coach also is high on his running back situation, even though they’ll go without fullback Nick DeSantiago, who rushed for 763 yards last season. DeSantiago has decided to concentrate on baseball, where he has future prospects as a catcher.
“We’ve probably got our best group of running backs that we’ve had here in a while,” Shelton said.
Among those backs are Torrance Smith, Tony Garza, Trey Gandy, Phillip Abreu and Anthony Pesina.
Westlake, the most reputed Austin-area football power, is among the statewide favorites this season in Class 5A after last season’s 7-4 performance. Being a Class 5A school, Westlake is much deeper than Hays, which accounts for its ability to run through the Rebels in the later portions of the scrimmage.
The Rebels missed the playoffs for the first time in five years last season with a 6-4 record, losing their chance for the postseason with a 35-29 overtime loss to Cibolo Steele on the final night of the regular schedule. If the Rebels had won that game by six points, they would have gone to the playoffs.
The new year puts Hays into a new district, as well as a new region. Due to Hays’ location between Austin and San Antonio, it has become something of a nomad school in the University Interscholastic League’s geography. In the last three UIL alignments, they have been in Region II, Region IV and, now, Region III.
On the face of it, playoff contention stands to be much less of a challenge this year for Hays. Moving from a very competitive Region 26-4A, Hays now goes to District 17-4A. The other five teams in the district are Lehman, Lockhart, Del Valle, Elgin and Manor. The top four teams will go to the playoffs.
Hays will enter the season as the odds-on district favorite. The question is whether the district will toughen them up enough to last long in the regional playoffs. But the Rebels have scheduled well for their pre-district games, which includes meetings with Lamar and defending District 25-5A champion Bowie. The Rebels also will play Anderson, Bastrop and MacCallum.
Hays will open its season on Aug. 29 at Bastrop. The home opener is Sept. 5 against Anderson.