As Cavaliers convene for first practice, Cedar Hill semifinal loss very much on their mind
Lake Travis kicked off football practice Monday with last season’s state semifinal loss to Cedar Hill still very much on the brain.
Most consider a 12-2 season that ends in the state semifinals a successful one. For certain, Lake Travis remains proud of last season’s success. The Cavaliers, however, lament how the season ended. Less than six minutes away from a berth in the 5A, Division II title game opposite Katy, the Cavaliers couldn’t finish and lost 19-10.
“In the last six minutes of the game against Cedar Hill is when things changed for us,” head coach Hank Carter said. “We couldn’t block them. They blocked us. And we couldn’t get their big, physical running back on the ground. Those are things that we’re going to harp on.”
From his team’s opening practice Monday morning, head coach Hank Carter made it clear that the 2014 Cavaliers will do everything they can to make sure last year’s painful history won’t repeat itself. In not so many words, the Cavaliers ran out of gas, and many feel it cost them a state championship. Cedar Hill went on to defeat Katy 35-24 to win the 5A, Division II title.
“Whenever things got really hard, our team, well, we broke down a little bit,” senior quarterback Dominic De Lira said Monday. “They were getting more physical as the game went on. Whenever we work on being a mentally tough team, like running sprints at the end of practice or working hard in the weight room, we just have to remember how it felt when we were tired and weak and they were just beating us down.”
Carter said the first week of practice will be all about re-introducing the players to Lake Travis’ specific nuances. It won’t be as much about strategy as style, expectation and pace.
“Coming back in and getting the kids to understand the pace that we have to play at to be successful is the big thing,” he said. “We tell them that all the time.”
Though Lake Travis will be running a new offense – the Cavaliers used the spring to install new coordinator Mike Wall’s scheme – Carter’s not worried about whether the kids remember the plays.
“They remember how to play football, no question about that,” he said.
The refresher course will come in pace, intensity and more pace. He and the defensive coaches stopped drills several times when effort didn’t meet expectation or players didn’t sprint to the ball. Defensive players had to do “up-downs” before drills resumed.
“They think they remember how we need to practice,” Carter said on the eve of the first workout. “They probably don’t. So really, this is about driving the herd and getting them to the tempo that we want to play at.”
For Lake Travis, pace is everything. On offense, the Cavaliers want to snap the ball within 10-15 seconds of the last play’s end. Defensively, it’s about getting as much speed on the field so all 11 players can rally to the ball wherever it goes.
“We want to play fast defensively because we’re not the biggest, fastest, strongest team in the world,” Carter said. “We are very smart and our guys play together. We play fast during practice because that’s how teams want to play against us on Friday nights. And it also gets us in a physical type of shape that where the fourth quarter comes around, we’re still fresh.”
The last time the Cavaliers needed to be, they weren’t. Carter will make sure that memory remains fresh in every players’ mind. After all, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
“We get reminded about it almost every time we’re out here by the coaches,” said senior receiver Grant Foster. “For the players, it’s always on our mind.”
Opening Practice Notes:
· Seniors John Brewer and D’Marcus Lacy both made multiple interceptions during coverage drills, but sophomore Austin Hiller turned in the play of opening day with a leaping interception.
· Sophomores will get opportunities to play key roles on this year’s team. Lake Travis’ initial roster includes seven sophomores, and most worked with the first team during drills. Along with Hiller, linebacker Sammy Ochoa worked with the starting defense. Receivers Cade Green and Maleek Barkley ran with the first team, as did tight end Cade Brewer. Quarterback Charlie Brewer rotated with De Lira and Kevin Hathaway, and Aaron Brown-Nixon – younger brother of Shaun – worked in spots at cornerback.
· A defensive tackle in 2013, senior Hunter Rhodes moved over to offense and held the starting left guard spot, between returning starters Garrett Stotts (center) and Jeffrey Gibbs (tackle).
· As many as eight current players have older brothers who played on one of Lake Travis’ state championship teams: Erich Streuling, Charlie Brewer, Aaron Brown-Nixon, Luke Laney, Paul Hatch, Garrett Womack, Seth Pate, and Cole Reichle.