Lehman ready to put practices to the test against Canyon Lake

Ryan Gomez (left) runs straight ahead with the football as teammate Nick Tamez tries to stop his progress during a recent Lehman practice. The Lobos will scrimmage at Canyon Lake High Friday beginning around 6:15 p.m. (Photo by Judy Cooper)

by WES FERGUSON

They played spring football for the first time ever, survived the opening week of fall practice and debuted before a standing-room-only crowd of Lobo faithful at Saturday’s Blue and Silver intrasquad scrimmage.

By now, Lehman High has seen more than enough Lobo-on-Lobo football action.

“Our offense knows what our defense is going to do,” head coach Todd Raymond said. “And our defense knows exactly what we’re working on offensively.”

Finally on Friday, the Lobos will get to test out Raymond’s new offensive system against an opponent not wearing blue and silver. They’ll travel to Canyon Lake, where each team’s offense will run a couple of series of set plays, followed by two quarters of live, full-speed football.

The scrimmage starts at 6:15 p.m., a moment that Bradley Braxton, a senior offensive back, said he and his teammates have been waiting for since the end of the 2011 season.

“I just can’t wait to go against somebody other than us,” he said. “I want to see where we’re at as a football team.”

Raymond said the Lobos aren’t quite ready to run 100 percent of his offensive playbook, but he added that he’s been pleased by the Lobos’ fast progress during their first week of training – especially important since the Canyon Lake scrimmage is the only tuneup for Lehman before the season opener on Aug. 31 against Cedar Ridge at Shelton Stadium.

“The retention from spring football was incredible. I’ve been really pleased with where we’re at right now,” he said. “Is it where we need to be? No. But it’s getting there.”

Though 180 players turned out for football practice, up 60 from last year, the depth chart continues to be a concern for Raymond. Four of five offensive starters, and another four or five defensive starters are getting repetitions on the other side of the ball, and several of them can expect to get at least a little playing time both ways this season.

“With all those kids playing football, there’s still a depth issue,” Raymond said. “We get a couple of the wrong kids dinged up, it’s going to put us in a little bit of a bind. But everywhere I’ve coached has been like that. My biggest concern is building depth everywhere.”

Raymond singled out Braxton for the transition he’s made. A starter in the defensive secondary a year ago, he’s moved into a hybrid offensive position that is part running back, part slot receiver. Braxton said he’s feeling comfortable on offense and will continue to help out on defense some.

“I have a lot more to work on as an offensive player, like reading and knowing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m just trying to get used to the system like everybody else is. I’ve been doing good at blocking and being more of a wide receiver type, but running the ball will also be a strength of our offense.”

Newcomer Josh Guerrero has become Raymond’s first option at quarterback. But the coaching staff is also making room for backup quarterback Paul Matthews, testing him out at running back, slot receiver and the secondary.

“Paul is a quick little kid, and we want to get him in a space and take advantage of his athleticism,” Raymond said. “He can do some things that Josh can’t do, and vice versa. Josh is becoming more comfortable in our offense, and his timing is getting better. As long as progress is happening, I’m good.”

After focusing on his footwork and timing, Guerrero has begun to connect with the Lobo receiving corps, throwing a touchdown to Trace Gonzales and a 60-yard completion to Brandon Hamilton during the Blue and Silver scrimmage.

“Our offense is looking good right now, but there’s always room for improvement,” receiver Tyler Dodero said.

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