By JASON GORDON
Hays and Lehman will have their seventh overall matchup at the varsity football level on Sept. 28.
The Lobos hope it’s a lucky seven. The Lehman faithful have watched their team from both the home and visitors side of Shelton Stadium six straight years now, and the outcome has been the same – a Rebel victory.
Hays’ dominance started early in the series with several lopsided wins, but last year it looked like the Lobos finally had the Rebs’ number, jetting out to a 19-0 lead early in the first half, before Hays came storming back to win behind quarterback Caleb Kimbro, who threw the game-winning pass to Taven Mayberry in the fourth quarter in a thrilling 28-27 Rebel win.
Although Lehman’s players, coaches, students and fans would love nothing more than to break the streak in front of nearly 10,000 fans at Shelton Stadium in the District 27-4A opener for both teams, it’s not going to happen.
Here are the top three reasons why Hays will beat Lehman again this year:
1. Hays has one of its best teams in recent memory – If the Lobos couldn’t knock off Hays last season, when Lehman had its best senior football class in school history (and a team that finished with a 6-4 overall record), they certainly won’t be able to this year. Lehman is young, making youthful mistakes on the field, and is simply going through growing pains after losing such a talented graduating class.
The Lobos aren’t putting enough points on the board to keep up with Hays. The Rebels, who won a share of the district title and advanced to the area playoffs in 2011, are better than they were on offense and defense a season ago. Quarterback Caleb Kimbro is one of the most talented players at his position in the area.
Kimbro’s shoulder injury against Rouse leaves a question mark on whether or not the talented senior will be on the field against Lehman, but Hays’ other skill players on offense – Granger Studdard, Taven Mayberry, Jaxson Schaubhut, Hayden Cagle, Shawn Leerssen, Marco Solis, Christian Rodriguez, Banner Steele, Jeff Jordan and Beau Reed – will still be too much for Lehman to handle this year.
2. Hays’ defense will cause havoc – The Rebels held their first two opponents, Burbank and Anderson, to an average of minus-1 yard from scrimmage in the first half, during two easy wins to start the season. They dominated Rouse after Kimbro’s injury, to keep the Rebs undefeated. With the likes of linebackers Devin Jennings, Emory Cuzze and Colin Hubert, defensive ends Kyle Cox and Daniel Minor, and cornerbacks Jared and Christian Rodriguez roaming near the line of scrimmage, talented Lehman running back Paul Brown will find yards tough to come by against the Rebs. Since the Lobos are still struggling to find a consistent passing game, it will make things that much tougher against Hays.
3. Hays’ players and coaches don’t want to be the first varsity football team
to lose to Lehman – It’s a simple enough concept, but true nonetheless. “Lehman being so close makes the game a lot bigger,” Kimbro said. “Most of the players on both teams have known each other since we were young and that is very motivating.” Hays head coach Blake Feldt got his first taste of the rivalry last season.
“Rivalry games like this is why you want to play on Friday nights. The energy in the stadium is a great thing for the community,” Feldt said. “I know none of our teams in any given year is going to want to be the first one to lose to Lehman.”
Hays senior Christian Rodriguez agrees.
“Keeping the streak alive against Lehman is important to us as a team and to our school,” Christian Rodriguez said. “It’s about bragging rights, and even though we share the same home field, we consider it ours since it’s on our campus. We always have to protect it.”
Hays offensive lineman William Trevillion said Hays won’t take Lehman lightly.
“We learned last year we have to come out ready to play,” Trevillion said. “This year we’re planning on starting a level of dominance from the very first play to the very last play, to keep our winning streak against them alive.”