By BILL PETERSON
KYLE — The start of the football season begins an identification process that revolves around two questions for every football team: Who is this football team? And why should anybody watch it play?
The Lehman Lobos began Thursday night answering those questions poorly, but ended it by posing a worthwhile initial proposal for their fans, who haven’t been around long enough to be called “long suffering,” so we’ll settle for “suffering.”
Perhaps the suffering is about to end, if certain trends from Thursday night hold up through the season. Without reading too much into the Lobos’ 24-6 win against Class 1A Riesel at Bob Shelton Stadium, a few building blocks appeared on that field.
First, though, the bad news. Lehman came out sluggishly, demonstrating the general lack of bite that often seems to be its undoing. Twice in the first half, the Lobos advanced to the Riesel one-yard line without scoring. They actually trailed, 6-3, at halftime.
The starting quarterback, Harvest Trammell, produced little, then went to the bench complaining of injury. The running back from Steele in whom fans have placed much hope, Richard Porche, carried the ball without conviction.
And the Lobos were messy, drawing 14 penalties for 139 yards. Against almost any Class 4A team, they would have lost Thursday night just on the penalties.
But the night didn’t pass without good news. The Lobos were a completely different team in the second half. With Trammell and Porche unable to step up, the Lobos produced alternatives who made a difference.
They thrived on the calm but earnest leadership of a sophomore quarterback. Matt Anguiano didn’t play a perfect game, by any means, but he walks like a winner and he moved the ball club. The quarterback for last year’s 9-1 freshman team, Anguiano hinted that he could be a key agent in a Lehman football turn-around if he holds his focus.
It’s true that Anguiano often enough neglected open receivers and produced penalties of the offsides and delay of game varieties. But he also completed eight of 11 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in the second half, when he took over the game. He didn’t give the ball away — no fumbles or interceptions.
On one occasion, Anguiano did a nice job of innocuously throwing the ball away instead of taking a sack. He once converted third-and-20 with a 30-yard pass to John Martell. With Anguiano taking the snaps in the second half, Lehman’s offense covered 210 yards and scored three touchdowns. And he made two very persuasive sets of ball fakes, each of which helped spring Martell for long touchdown runs.
Then, there’s Martell, one of the grand old men among Lehman’s 18 seniors who have been on campus for every Lehman varsity game. Deeply invested enough in three years of losing to do something about it, Martell ran nine times for 141 yards, all in the second half, including touchdown carries of 13 and 45 yards.
“We’ve got to find a guy who wants to take the pill and run with it,” Lehman head coach Steve Davis said. “(Martell) acted like he wants to be that guy.”
After Porche ran four times for ten yards in the first half — “He wasn’t running down hill,” Davis said — Martell moved to the backfield from wide receiver and ran with abandon. His first touchdown, coming with 3:59 left in the third period, covered 13 yards and gave Lehman a 10-6 lead. It also triggered a run of three straight Lehman possessions that ended with touchdowns.
The next Lehman possession proved the team’s quick-strike ability, as it actually turned the game. After two penalties backed the Lobos into third-and-20 from their own 25, they faced the very real prospect of punting to give Riesel a chance at the lead late in the third quarter. But Anguiano hit Martell on a short route, which Martell extended for a 30-yard gain. Then, on the next play, Anguiano’s draw fake helped hide Martell’s 45-yard journey to a touchdown, suddenly giving the Lobos a 17-6 lead with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
Barely more than three minutes later, Anguiano struck a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Ibanez, making it 24-6 and bringing a sense of security to the Lehman sideline. Just more than a quarter earlier, the Class 4A Lobos were knocking on the door of losing on their own field to a Class 1A team. But as Ibanez crossed the goal line with 9:59 left in the game, it was all over but the shouting.
The true source of that confidence might have been the Lehman defense, which produced four turnovers in the second half and held Riesel to 157 yards for the night. The only Riesel touchdown, a three-yard run by Trent Stiles in the second quarter, came after the Lobos took a pass interference flag on third-and-23. Outside of that one error, the Lobos played a top-notch defensive game. Defensive end Efrem Johnson recovered a fumble, while Jacob Torres, Devin Fox and Michael Aldridge all made interceptions.
Naturally, one has to factor in the opposition here. Riesel finished last season 1-9 and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football doesn’t expect the Indians to make the Class 1A playoffs. But the Indians line up big seniors all the way across their offensive and defensive lines. They’ve got that much of a football team. And if the difference between Thursday night’s game and last year’s 43-28 win at Riesel is any indication, the Lehman defense is a lot better.
We’ll see. For now, Lehman’s only tangible gain from Thursday night is a win.
“It’s nothing to be excited about,” Davis said. “We got the win and that’s all we’re going to say about it.”
Tougher tests are yet to come. But the Lobos at least showed in their opener that it’s worth watching how they do.Email | Print