By WES FERGUSON
There’s no denying that Lehman has a chip on its shoulder when it comes to cross-town rival Hays.
The underdog Lobos have never defeated Hays in football. They came the closest last year – within a single agonizing point of victory – but the 28-27 loss crushed the Lobos and sent them on a midseason tailspin. Lehman recovered in time to win its final two games of 2011, securing the first winning season in school history. Now it’s a new year, and the Lobos will be looking to make history a second time when they take another crack at their Hays CISD rivals on Sept. 28 at Shelton Stadium.
New head coach Todd Raymond knows just how badly his players want to win this one.
“It’s an important game, and I definitely don’t have to add any extra motivation for the kids,” Raymond said. “Rivalries are awesome. For any kid who’s growing up around here, it’s a good thing. You want to have that excitement.”
But Raymond is anticipating a little too much excitement on his team’s part. He said he’ll remind his players their ultimate goal is to start things right on the opening night of District 27-4A action. A win would set the Lobos on a course toward their first-ever playoff spot.
“You almost have to calm them back down because they’ll be overexcited and not able to perform,” Raymond said. “They get so much energy from it, but for us it’s the first district ballgame. Where we’re at as a program, we need to be more focused on doing the right things and improving as a team – more so than getting eaten up with the fact that it’s Hays.”
Here are the top three reasons why Lehman can beat the Rebels.
1. Lehman is hungrier – Other than a trip to the playoffs, knocking off Hays is the biggest goal this seven-year-old program has yet to accomplish. Hays has spent decades building a grand football tradition, not to mention last year’s postseason run, so the Rebels tend to hog the spotlight in the local football universe. That leaves players and fans of the Lobos feeling snubbed. They’re the younger, less-accomplished sibling in the school district and they know it.
Adding insult to injury, the Lobos were leading at halftime in their past two encounters with the Rebels, and they still believe they could and should have pulled out a victory a year ago. Lehman took a 19-0 advantage in that game but were stunned as the Rebels came storming back to keep the streak alive. This time around, the Lobos want revenge.
2. Hays will be overconfident – The Rebels rolled in their first two games of the season, walking all over their opponents with the stellar play of quarterback Caleb Kimbro and his arsenal of wide receivers and backs. The Hays defense has also been stifling. Even with Kimbro missing more than half the Rouse game due to injury, the Rebel defense found a way to keep Hays undefeated.
Lehman, on the other hand, has been slower to find its footing in Raymond’s new offensive scheme. The team was drubbed in its first two games, despite showing hints of promise on offense and defense. The Lobos finally got the boost of confidence they needed with a 15-14 win over Anderson at House Park on Sept. 14. If the talented Lobos continue to improve and cut out the penalties, misfires and misreads, they could catch the Rebels napping.
“We have been working hard and working as a team, and things are starting to come together for us,” said tight end Tyler Dodero, who caught the game-winning TD pass against Anderson for the Lobos.
3. It’s time – If the Lobos win, it will represent a major upset and put the Rebels on notice that Lehman has evened up the balance of power in Hays CISD athletics.
The Lobos are due. They’ve put in the hard work, and they can finally earn bragging rights if they’ll practice what their coach has been preaching all season – fundamental and error-free football.
“A lot of little things in football can really sway a game,” Raymond said. “We need to start working toward not making mental errors and making sure we’re lined up correctly and we’re focused on doing what we need to do. We’ve got to take care of the details.”