By WES FERGUSON
The evolution of the Lehman Lobos made a great leap on Friday night, a leap that took the form of a last-minute, fingertip touchdown grab by tight end Tyler Dodero.
Following a huge stop by the Lobo defense and a five-minute, 50-yard drive by the Lobo offense, Dodero made the 17-yard scoring haul on a pass from Josh Guerrero to put the Lobos ahead 15-14.
But Anderson’s offense still had one more chance to score and more than enough time to do it. That’s when the Lobo defense took over again. Trojans quarterback Easton Johnson threw three straight incompletions at midfield, and Lehman cornerback Kyron Morrissette ended Anderson’s hopes when he intercepted Johnson’s fourth-down desperation pass toward the home sideline, giving the ball back to the Lobo offense.
“I was baiting the quarterback the whole time,” Morrissette said. “As soon as he wound up to throw I was full-speed to get it.”
Guerrero then kneeled the ball twice to secure the Lobos’ first win in three tries.
“This is a very important win for us,” said Guerrero, who completed 7 of 15 passes for 105 yards but also threw three interceptions. “If we had lost today, we’d have our heads down. We didn’t play our best, but we still fought to the end. That’s all that matters now. We just keep building character more and more each game.”
Paul Brown led the Lobos rushing attack with 85 yards on 21 carries. Anderson’s Deryl Bunton led all rushers with 123 yards on 17 attempts.
Throughout two-a-days and the first two games of the season, Lehman coach Todd Raymond has shepherded his players through his new system, with the team showing improvement at times while continuing to make frustrating mistakes that hampered their ability to sustain drives. The tide started to turn on Friday.
“The kids are starting to execute,” Raymond said. “This is not about starting district or even playing the Hays game next, but more importantly it’s for our kids to believe in what we preach to them day in and day out. They work so hard and do everything we ask, and to get over that little hump is huge, even though there were times we really didn’t play very well tonight.”
The mistakes that had plagued the Lobos in their first two games continued through the opening half, however. Guerrero’s first interception came deep in his own territory and set up an easy Anderson touchdown when Johnson faked a handoff to Bunton, then plowed past his right tackle for the three-yard score.
Just when things were looking down for the Lobos, though, kickoff returner Tyler Hyss gave them something to fight for. Filling in for the usual return man Brandon Hamilton, who missed the game with a bruised sternum, Hyss cradled a high kickoff at his own 15-yard line and darted up the middle of the field. When the lane closed, he bounced outside and turned on just enough speed to slip past the last Trojan standing between him and the goal line, and he outlasted them all on the tiring 75-yard dash.
Anderson regained the lead late in the third quarter when Johnson fielded a shotgun snap on the three-yard line and jumped out of the way of diving linebacker A.J. Armonta, then trotted untouched into the end zone. The extra point gave Anderson a 14-9 advantage.
Lehman’s offense sputtered on its next two tries, and Anderson saw the win was within its grasp, as Bunton began to steamroll the exhausted Lobo defense for runs of 18, 13 and 12 yards. But then Armonta stuffed Johnson in the backfield for a six-yard loss and the Lobos broke up Johnson’s attempted screen pass on third down.
Anderson’s 45-yard field goal attempt came up short, and speedy backup quarterback Paul Matthews came in for Guerrero to give the Lobos a quick 21-yard burst to start the game-winning drive. Guerrero and Brown battled the Lobos down to the 17-yard line, setting up Dodero’s touchdown grab. Guerrero threw a hard, high pass that Dodero tipped with his fingers, then hauled in as he crashed to the end zone.
“I thought he was going to drop it at first,” Guerrero said.
“I just have to trust my quarterback,” Dodero said. “We’ve been working on that play every morning, and we’re all getting used to the system and trusting the system. Josh put it in the right spot, and we made the play.”
Lehman is off next week, giving the Lobos extra time to practice for the rivalry game against Hays on Sept. 28.