by JASON GORDON
For the first time since the school opened in 2004, the Lehman High varsity football team isn’t predicted to finish last in district action by Texas Football magazine.
The Lobos, who are coming off their first winning season in team history, were picked to finish fifth in the newly-realigned District 27-4A, just shy of earning one of the league’s four playoff spots.
Hays High, which finished in a three-way tie for the district title in 2011, is picked to finish second this season to Kerrville Tivy by Texas Football.
“Getting picked last every year was getting old,” said Lehman senior offensive lineman Kenny Higgins, a four-year member of the Lobo varsity football team. “We’ve come a long way. Every year we’re getting better and better. Next year will be pretty exciting.”
Texas Football predicted 27-4A would finish in this order in 2012: Tivy, Hays, Alamo Heights, Boerne Champion, Lehman, Seguin, Clemens and Lockhart.
Lehman beat Clemens and Lockhart to end the 2011 campaign. It was the first time the Lobos had ever earned two district victories in one season.
Lehman returns 11 starters and will have young, energetic new head coach Todd Raymond on the sidelines when its regular season opens against Cedar Ridge August 31 at Shelton Stadium. Raymond took over in March after Steve Davis resigned in December.
“Coach Raymond knows what he’s talking about, and we’re all fired up to play for him,” Higgins said. “We have a lot of starters coming back, and we have some new talent that will be filling starting roles.”
Higgins said there’s no doubt in his mind that Lehman can outperform Texas Football’s prediction for the Lobos in 2012.
“We’re going to earn even more respect this season, I can tell just by watching the intensity in our offseason program,” he said. “Getting to the playoffs is definitely our number one goal. It will take discipline on and off the field, cutting down on the mental mistakes during games and staying together as a team no matter what we encounter along the way to get there.”
Hays returns 10 starters from its area finalist team of 2011. The Rebels won their first playoff game in five years before bowing out against regional power Cedar Park.
Rebel quarterback Caleb Kimbro, who threw for a school-record 2,250 yards, rushed for another 891 yards and had another school record with his 30 total touchdowns, said Hays will be aiming for the district title.
“Being picked second gives us motivation because we know we’re capable of winning the district title with the talent we have,” Kimbro said. “The spring practice sessions rejuvenated our team and got us back into football mode. We know everyone will be working and preparing for the fall this offseason and that will make us even stronger.”
Texas Football gave high praise to Kimbro and Rebel returning receiver Granger Studdard, who caught a single-season record 41 passes for 639 yards and six touchdowns, calling them the best pass-catch combo in the state. Kimbro was also listed in the magazine as one of the top 30 quarterback recruits in the state.
“Things like that are an honor, but it doesn’t have anything to do with winning football games,” Kimbro said. “I’m totally focused on the team and not on individual things.”
Some of the other top returning starters in District 27-4A include Tivy quarterback Parks McNeil, who had 48 total touchdowns, and more than 4,000 combined yards rushing and passing, Alamo Heights linebacker Nick Uretsky, who had 173 tackles last season, and Boerne Champion quarterback Kyle Poeske, who had 1,500 total yards and 15 total touchdowns despite missing five games due to injury last season.
Hays High opens the regular season September 1 against San Antonio Burbank at the SAISD Sports Complex.