Cavaliers, Cougars have some history

Friday night Lake Travis will play its home opener against a foe with which it has some history.

Lake Travis and New Braunfels Canyon have met a handful of times through the years. The Cavaliers and Cougars were once district rivals, but the schools haven’t met since the Bi-District playoff round in 2007.

Canyon dominated the early games of the rivalry. The teams first started meeting as district foes in 2001, when Lake Travis’ program regressed after making the playoffs and winning a game for the first time in 2000. The games in 2001 and 2002 became laughers.

When Jeff Dicus arrived to take over the Lake Travis program in 2003, the games became much more competitive, but still, Canyon had the upper hand. The 2003 meeting came late in the season, and Lake Travis’ loss helped keep the Cavaliers out of the playoffs in Dicus’ first season. The Cavaliers, behind quarterback Nick Bird, running back Luke Lagera and a handful of receivers, had won their first three district games but dropped their final three to miss out.

Lake Travis tried to get over the hump in 2004, but Canyon’s stingy defense had enough to overcome the normally-flashly Cavalier attack. The Cavaliers let a scoring opportunity late in the first half get away. Quarterback Todd Reesing, with his team in field goal range and time on the clock for at least two plays, scrambled away from pressure and kept scrambling. By the time he found room to throw a pass, he lofted a ball toward the goal line, where a Canyon player intercepted it as time expired. The play lasted upwards of 20 seconds, and Lake Travis had a time out in its pocket to boot.

Still, as the Cougars took over late in the game for one final possession, Lake Travis led 9-7. But Canyon went on a methodical march and kicked a field goal as time expired to escape with a 10-9 win. Ironically, that became the Cougars last win over Lake Travis.

In 2005 Reesing exacted his revenge, leading the Cavaliers to a 35-14 win. The senior quarterback, who’d go on to star at Kansas University, completed 20 straight passes in the first half and never cooled down.

“That was my best game of the year,” Reesing said. “I think I completed something like 21 passes in a row that game and was just in the zone. So we came off a huge win there and we were flying high. We had a lot of confidence.”

The win was one of 11 straight for Lake Travis that season, but McCallum dashed the Cavaliers’ high hopes for a long playoff run with a 38-35 upset in the second round.

The teams didn’t meet in 2006, and their most recent meeting set the stage for a memorable Lake Travis playoff run. The Cavaliers and Cougars met to open the 2007 playoffs, playing in a Bi-District matchup at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos. Most who knew the history between the schools expected a tough matchup. Lake Travis entered the game with an eight-game win streak; Canyon entered having won five of six.

But 2007 was a magical year for Lake Travis, and the Cavaliers turned heads by scoring the game’s first 37 points. Garrett Gilbert completed 25 of 29 passes for 318 yards with four touchdowns, two to Cohl Walla and one each to Jason Bird and Chris Aydam.

“It was a tough one, how tough they’d been in the past, to beat them and dominate them showed we could really play with a physical team,” assistant coach Kevin Halfmann said years later.

Lake Travis used the win as a launching point for an unexpected run to its first state championship, a 36-34 win over legendary Highland Park in the 4A, Division II title game.