by JASON GORDON
1. Steve Davis resigns
Lehman High principal Don Ruisinger asked athletic coordinator and head football coach Steve Davis to step down from his position at the school in late December. Davis then resigned his athletic coordinator and head football coach positions before the holiday break ended.
“I asked Steve to step down,” said Ruisinger. “It wasn’t something I did in a vacuum. I consulted with my bosses before making the decision. He was gracious through the entire process. I just thought it was time for a new vision throughout our athletic programs at Lehman.”
In six years of varsity competition, the Lehman football team won only three district games and had only one winning season under Davis, who was hired when the school opened in 2004.
Ironically, Lehman closed out the 2011 football season by winning two district games, against Clemens and Lockhart, to finish with its first winning season in school history at 6-4.
“I think Steve did a good job guiding us through these early years at Lehman, but I felt like we needed new leadership,” Ruisinger said. “We thought it was time to have someone else take what Steve built and lead us into the future.”
Davis said he was definitely surprised when he was asked to step down.
“I really was kind of shocked,” said Davis, who finished with an overall record of 20-40 at Lehman. “I felt really good about the year we had coming up and I felt not only the football program but all our athletic programs were starting to reach the level we were hoping for. I’m disappointed I won’t be able to be there to enjoy some of the fruits of that labor, but I’ll always be rooting for the kids at Lehman and I fully expect the football team to be in the playoffs next season. I’ll enjoy going to some of their games next season to watch them succeed.”
Ruisinger didn’t last much longer than Davis at Lehman, as he stepped down from his principal position shortly afterward, citing health reasons.
2. Todd Raymond hired as athletic coordinator and head football coach
In mid-February, Austin McCallum head football coach Todd Raymond agreed to become the new head football coach and athletic coordinator at Lehman High.
Raymond was among three finalists interviewed by superintendent Jeremy Lyon for the job. The other two finalists were current Lobo defensive coordinator Toby Spivey and former Lehman assistant coach J.L. Geist, the defensive coordinator at Vista Ridge.
“I knew a lot of people in the district,” Raymond said when he accepted the Lehman job. “And I have a lot of friends who live down here, so I was real excited when I was offered the job. It’s a great community. Right now I have a tough commute from Round Rock. It was so important to my wife and I to have our children, who are 9 and 11, attend elementary and middle schools that feed into each other and then feed into a high school like Lehman. We’re so excited about being in Kyle and about Lehman High School.”
Lyon was extremely pleased with the new hire.
“Todd looked at Lehman and saw the extreme potential so many of us see in the school,” Lyon said. “He really wanted this position and I could tell how excited he was when I offered it to him. We’re excited he will be joining the Lobo and Hays CISD families.”
Raymond had an illustrious career before Lehman. In 2009, he returned to his alma mater McCallum after a two-year coaching stint at Stony Point following the unexpected death of longtime Knights’ head coach Pat Honeycutt.
Raymond led McCallum to a 9-3 record in 2009 and the District 26-4A championship. That year, McCallum beat Lampasas in the bi-district round of the playoffs and Clemens in the area round before falling to Port Lavaca Calhoun, and Raymond was named Central Texas’ Coach of the Year by the Austin American-Statesman.
In his three years at McCallum, Raymond had an overall record of 22-12, including a 14-2 mark in district play. The Knights won district titles in 2009 and 2010.
Raymond said leaving McCallum was a tough decision.
“When I told my players, I was crying and they were crying,” he said. “I want people to know that I’m a player’s coach and I’m all about developing relationships.”
In 2008, as an assistant coach at Stony Point, he helped guide the Tigers to a 13-2 overall record and a berth in the Class 5A Division I semifinals. Stony Point fell 23-21 in the semifinals in Waco to eventual state champion Allen.
“Todd’s a proven winner,” Lyon said following the 2012 hire. “I’m so pleased we have a coach of his caliber taking the position.”
Raymond said Lehman’s history reminds him of his time at Stony Point. He added that he has no doubts about the Lobos’ bright future ahead.
“When Stony Point opened, it was always considered a little brother to Round Rock High,” he said. “When Stony Point finally beat Round Rock in football in 2007 and 2008, and then we reached the state semifinals, it was a very big deal. I see the same thing happening at Lehman. There will be a point where Lehman beats Hays in football, but I don’t want that to be the end all. We have bigger goals – I want us to win district championships, win playoff games and compete for state titles. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think Lehman had that kind of potential.”
3. Boys soccer wins first varsity playoff game in history of Lehman High
The Lobo boys soccer team broke down a barrier in March that saw its first brick positioned in 2004, the year Lehman High School opened.
The soccer team became the first Lehman team in any sport to win a playoff game, with a dominating 3-0 victory at Pflugerville Connally in the bi-district round.
“I think this is huge for the school. Lehman should be seen as a strong opponent across the board in all sports,” Lehman boys head soccer coach Jay Sansom said. “The teams we play should be thinking if they don’t play well they are going to get the hell beat out of them. Winning breeds winning, and that’s what not only our team but a lot of teams are starting to do at Lehman.”
Lehman senior Andres Castro agrees with his head coach.
“This win feels amazing and after the game we were ecstatic,” Castro said. “We are happy to know we have achieved one of our biggest goals, but we are not finished. We are still craving to go farther in the playoffs and continue to make a name for ourselves and for Lehman. We are proud to be Lobos and represent the school with pride.”
Fernando Mercado scored both of Lehman’s first-half goals. The first came after he took a long pass from Pablo Martinez and then beat the Connally goalkeeper with a kick angled into the right side of the net.
Minutes later, Mercado dribbled his way through four would-be Connally defenders before chipping the ball into the back of the net from close range, and the Lobos led 2-0 at the break.
Five minutes into the second half, Josh Newenham powered a free kick from 40 yards out that Francesco Bonfe headed in for a goal to give Lehman a comfortable 3-0 advantage.
“We knew we had a strong team going into the playoffs,” Sansom said. “I’m proud of what these guys accomplished and I hope we can build on it heading into the future.”
4. Lehman powerlifters fare well again at state meet in Corpus Christi
Lehman’s Michaela Castillo didn’t bring home the gold medal she coveted from the state powerlifting meet, but when she reflects back on her high school athletic career she certainly has a lot to be proud of.
Castillo again led her Lady Lobo teammates at the girls state meet in Corpus Christi.
Competing at the 114-pound level, Castillo brought home the second-place silver medal for the second straight year. Castillo, a four-time state qualifier, won the bronze as a sophomore.
Lehman’s six-girl team consisting of Castillo, Alyssa Gaitan, Kat Mohle, Alexis Pineda, Jessica Gonzalez and Natalie Guerra, finished 13th overall out of more than 50 statewide high schools that were represented at the state meet.
The only other Lehman competitor who medaled individually was Jessica Gonzalez, who finished fifth in the 105-pound weight class.
Pineda narrowly missed the medal stand with a sixth-place finish, as only the top five individuals medal in each weight class at state.
“I’m really proud of myself and my teammates,” Castillo said. “We gave it our all and that’s all anyone can ask of us. I was sad not finishing first, but I have accomplished a lot in four years. I had so much support from my family, friends, and we have two great coaches in (Eric) Ray and (Trey) Rose. Building those lifelong relationships and building up this program is what it’s all about. I want Lehman to shine now and into the future.”
Lehman’s Brandon Alford capped his powerlifting career by winning a third-place medal in the 132-pound weight class at the boys state powerlifting meet March 24 in Abilene.
It was Alford’s third straight trip to state, but it was his first trip to the medal stand.
“It felt really great to medal at state,” Alford said. “It shows me that all my hard work really did pay off. I’ve worked really hard since I was a freshman and Coach (Eric) Ray has been a big inspiration to me.”
In addition, Lehman senior Ethan Martin finished 14th at state in the 220-pound weight class with a three-lift (bench press, dead lift and squat) total of 1,455 pounds.
Alford’s medal-winning weight total was 1,140 pounds.
“Brandon’s story of success is a great one,” Coach Ray said. “He was just one of those kids that was maybe too small to play football, but he was very strong, so he decided to concentrate on powerlifting. It paid off for him in a big way and we’re all very proud of him.”
Martin became the first Lehman powerlifter in team history to squat 600 pounds at the state meet.
“Ethan is Mr. Lehman athlete when it comes to sports,” Ray said. “Whether it’s football, track or powerlifting, he always seems to excel.”
Lehman’s overall team finish was 23rd at the event that saw nearly 100 schools represented at state.
Ray said if not for the loss of one of his top lifters, Kenny Higgins, to a torn ACL in January, the Lobos would have likely finished in the top three as a team.
“Ken would have probably finished in the top two or three in state in the super heavyweight division,” Ray said. “That’s what losing one exceptional lifter can do to you in the team competition. That said, I’m really excited about what our team accomplished this year.”
5. Hardaway qualifies for state track and field
Lehman senior Jaylon Hardaway finished ninth in the 400-meter dash, with a time of 49.63 seconds at the UIL State Track and Field Meet at UT-Austin in May. It was nearly a second faster than he ran at regionals and was his personal best time in the 400.
Hardaway said he gave it his all at state.
“I went out and gave 100 percent effort, and that’s all you can do,” Hardaway said. “Finally being on a starting line at the state meet made me feel accomplished. It’s definitely a feeling I won’t forget.”
Lehman coach Michael Laney said four-time regional qualifier Hardaway will certainly be missed.
“Jaylon was a kid who could do everything – run anywhere from 100 to 400 meters, all the relays, and even do the triple and high jumps,” Laney said. “He gave our team its swagger. He showed the young kids that if they work hard they can get to state and compete at the highest level.”
6. Two Lehman soccer players named to All-State team
Heading into the spring semester, only one Lehman High athlete in the history of the school had ever been named to an All-State team.
The Lobos got the news in May that number would be changing – and it was twice as nice.
Both Lehman midfielder Eli Guajardo and forward Fernando Mercado were named to the second-team All-State soccer team by the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches.
“Anytime you’re named All-State, it’s special,” Lehman head soccer coach Jay Sansom said. “Eli and Fernando were a big part of what we accomplished as a team this year.”
Mercado set a Lehman single-season scoring record with 25 goals, including three in the playoffs. He was also named District 49-4A MVP.
Guajardo led Lehman in assists and helped drive the team’s offense.
Both Mercado and Guajardo were also named first-team All-Region.
“Eli and Fernando both added a higher level of skill to our team,” said Lehman goalkeeper Andres Castro. “They demanded respect from our opponents and made our attacking force one to fear.”
Baseball player Nick Cerda, who was named second-team All-State last year, was the only other Lehman High player in history to earn this prestigious accolade.
It seems appropriate the Lehman boys soccer team would be the one to add to that number.
The soccer team became the first Lehman team in school history to win a playoff game in a team sport this season, with a 3-0 win over Connally in the bi-district round.
“We’ve had some exciting things happen this school year,” Sansom said. “We’re trying to build on what we’ve accomplished, and awards like these, and playoff wins, will obviously help get people talking and will help build your program.”
Lehman Athletic Director Todd Raymond agreed making an All-State team was quite an achievement.
“It’s a huge accomplishment because you’re getting voted on by people outside the program,” Raymond said. “It’s something these kids will remember the rest of their lives. It also does a lot to help put Lehman High School and Lobo soccer on the map.”
7. District Coach of the Year Garcia guides Lehman girls soccer team to 16-6 finish
Lady Lobos coach Nauri Garcia guided his team to a 16-6 record, best in school history, and a win over Hays for the first time ever. He was named the district’s Coach of the Year.
Lady Lobos named first-team All-District were midfielder Haley Parsons, defender Brenda Murillo and forward Max Soto.
Lady Lobos named second team were Shayla Seeger, Evelyn Martinez and Valerie Murillo. Lehman girls selected for honorable mention were Mariah Tamayo, Pressley Bailey and Madison Blok.
“Haley was our captain and this was the second straight year she made first-team all-district, which is very tough to do, so people definitely noticed how hard she played,” Garcia said. “Brenda was our last line of defense. She’s quick and athletic. We had 12 shutouts this season and she was a major reason why. Max is only a sophomore but she was our finisher on offense. She led our team with 20 goals, which is the second most ever for a Lehman player in a season. I think the best is yet to come for her.”
8. Lehman football team finishes off tough season with district win
The Lobos saved their best for last as the Lehman football team won its District 27-4A finale 28-20 over Clemens at Shelton Stadium in November.
It was the first district win for Lehman, which finished the season 2-8 overall and 1-6 in 27-4A.
“We talked about all week how we wanted to finish strong for the seniors,” said head coach Todd Raymond. “This also gives our young guys some momentum going into the offseason. I’m super proud of the way the kids played tonight.”
Sophomore Jeremy Schilhab started the game over junior Paul Matthews after seeing significant playing time in a loss to Lockhart. Although most of his production came via his speed out of the draw, Schilhab showed off his ability to handle the passing duties as well, with 128 yards through the air.
“(Schilhab) came in these last few games and has done a really good job,” said Raymond. “It’s something for us to build on going into next season. It really allows people to see the diversity our offense has when he is out there running around and stretching the field.”
Despite not starting at quarterback, Matthews was on the field often at running back, wide receiver and quarterback throughout the game.
A blocked punt on the Buffaloes’ first possession set up the Lobos first drive inside Clemens’ 20-yard line. Five plays later, Paul Brown scampered around the edge and into the end zone for an eight-yard score.
The Lobos tipped the Buffaloes’ next punt attempt to put themselves in Clemens territory again. A long touchdown run was negated by a holding penalty. Lehman made up for it a couple of plays later when Conner Baird hauled in a 69-yard Schilhab pass. One play later, Schiluab scored from one-yard away and the Lobos led 14-0
Junior running back Paul Brown found the end zone again in the second quarter on a one-yard dive, and Brown would score his third touchdown of the game on the Lobos first drive of the second half, this time on a four-yard run that gave Lehman a 28-7 lead.
“I came into this game wanting to win for the seniors,” said Brown. “I’ve played with a lot of them for years so I wanted to do my job right. We went out and had fun instead of hanging our heads like we could have. I’m glad we all found something to play for and were able to send out our seniors with a win. We played as a team tonight.”