For 17 short-lived seconds Friday, the Hays Rebels held out hope they could finally get the better of the state ranked Lake Travis Cavaliers.
The inability to suppress a potent Lake Travis offense, however, quickly rendered Hays’ dreams moot as the Cavaliers powered ahead for a 59-27 win and sole possession of the top seed out of 25-6A in the 6A, Division I playoff bracket.
Hays (7-2, 5-2) struggled to limit an effective Lake Travis air assault led by quarterback Nate Yarnell who went 13 of 16 for 257 yards and four touchdowns passing. Three of Yarnell’s touchdown passes were thrown to wide receiver Kyle Eaves, who finished with five catches for 136 yards.
Goad said preventing explosive plays, while also putting pressure on Yarnell, were two primary points to the defensive game plan. However, Hays conceded six plays of 20 yards or more, three of those resulting in touchdowns. While the Rebel defense had “spots” of success, including a handful of sacks from their linebacking corps, Goad said inconsistency allowed for Lake Travis’ offense to thrive.
“You have to get pressure on them. When you play a team like this, the kind of explosiveness they’ve got, you’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback,” Goad said. “We have to be more consistent with it.”
But it was Hays that got out to an early 7-0 first quarter lead aided by a Lake Travis special team’s miscue. The Rebels capitalized on the error by orchestrating a five play, 22-yard scoring drive capped off with a one-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Durand Hill.
The lead, however, was short lived as Lake Travis flexed its muscle 17 seconds later when quarterback Yarnell tossed a 59-yard strike in stride to wide receiver Kyle Eaves to tie the game at 7-7.
Lake Travis’ offense powered its way for 28 more unanswered points over a 20-minute span to hold a commanding 31-7 lead at intermission.
Meanwhile, Hays’ offense struggled to bypass a formidable Cavalier defense that limited the Rebels to 97 total yards in the first half.
Hays quickly sprinted out of the gates after halftime by scoring 13 unanswered points that was bridged by a key onside kick recovery. A 26-yard touchdown run by running back Xavier Green, followed by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Hill to running back JoeAngel Carrasco, cut Lake Travis’ lead to 31-20. But Hays drew no closer as Lake Travis’ offense kept the Rebels at arms’ length all evening. The Cavs outscored Hays 28-7 over the final 16-plus minutes.
Key adjustments on offense, along with execution on the field, were key factors that led to the 13-point flurry, Goad said. While Hays had “near misses” in the first half, inconsistency also played a role in their struggles.
“As a coaching staff, we have to do a better job of getting them prepared to execute and make those plays,” Goad said. “We got off to a good start, but we let it snowball after that. We have to make more plays.”
Xavier Green led the Rebels with 135 rushing yards on 21 carries and two scores. Carrasco finished with 97 yards rushing on nine carries.
Now with their playoff fate sealed, Hays head coach Les Goad said gearing up for their season finale against Del Valle Friday, as well as getting healthy for their bi-district match-up against state-ranked powerhouse Converse Judson, is imperative.
“We have to take things one game at a time. We know we’re in the playoffs, next team up,” Goad said. “We have to get better next week; we have to execute and improve. It’s an opportunity to get better at the game.”