Missed opportunities by the Lehman Lobos offense, coupled with a special teams miscue and defensive woes, led to a 51-17 season opening loss to the New Braunfels Canyon Cougars Friday at Shelton Stadium.
Bruce Salmon, Lehman High head coach, said taking things one game at a time is the key for a program that’s continuing to build itself.
“We are going to find the little things that we didn’t do right tonight, that we are going to fix, and we are going to go from there,” Salmon said. “This ain’t a wash, or a one game season, and it ain’t going to be a one game fix. Our kids and coaches are committed to doing it and we are going to take care of it and get better every week.”
Lobo woes started early when Canyon blocked a punt on the first drive of the game; that set the Cougars up at their own 20-yard line less than two minutes into the game.
Canyon senior running back Seth Leeper-Hane gashed the Lobo defense on their first drive and went on to score a 1-yard touchdown, putting the Cougars up 8-0 early in the first quarter.
Another three-and-out by the Lehman offense on the following possession gave the ball right back to the Cougars. Canyon capitalized via a 43-yard touchdown run by senior running back Nathan Culbreath, pushing the Cougar lead to 16-0 after a two-point conversion.
The Lobo offense showed signs of life on their third and fourth drives of the game, but couldn’t covert when they reached the red zone.
Lehman converted a 30-yard field goal by senior kicker Alex Mantilla late in the first quarter.
Salmon said leaving points on the board during those long drives was a big hit to the offense.
“We just got to get consistency,” Salmon said. “We got inside the 20 (yard line) three times and didn’t score (touchdowns). If you add that on the drives then it is a lot closer than what it is.”
While the Lobo offense got its footing, Lehman’s defense struggled at stopping Canyons two-headed rushing attack of Leeper-Hane and Culbreath.
Culbreath added a 31-yard touchdown run, while Leeper-Hane punched in a 17-yard touchdown run to give the Cougars a decisive 30-3 halftime lead.
Culbreath finished the game with seven carries for 127 yards and four touchdowns, while Leeper-Hane had 163 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
“The big thing is we just cant get buried inside blockers,” said Salmon. “They were a little bit bigger than us tonight and kind of surrounded us. We’ve got to use our hands and fight across face and do the things we’ve been coached to do, and take care of our gaps. The thing with defense is everybody has to play their responsibility and trust one another and that’s something that takes a little time to build.”
Despite the struggles, Lehman orchestrated a pair of second half scoring drives to put more points on the board. The first score came on a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bryant Lewis to wide receiver Daniel O’Neal.
Lewis followed with an 86-yard touchdown run later in the contest. Lewis finished the game 12 of 17 passing for 96 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing 19 times for 93 yards and one score.
“The big thing for us to trust the deal,” Salmon said on what he wants to see his team improve on. “We had a couple mental mistakes and a couple missed blocks. We had some openings and some things that we just didn’t exploit all the way through. We’ve got to trust it and make those keys.”
Lehman travels to play McCallum Friday, 7:30 p.m. at House Park in Austin.