With Westlake waiting, Cavaliers still focused on Maroons
As Lake Travis prepares for its Thursday night District 14-6A battle with Austin High, the fan base may already be looking ahead to the following Friday’s battle with Westlake.
Head coach Hank Carter can understand people wanting to look forward to the annual rivalry game with the Chaps, but he said the Cavaliers still have plenty of work to do before they can turn their attention to Westlake.
“The fact that they’ve won a couple of games in a row – they beat Hays and that’s a big win – our kids understand that they need to take care of business,” Carter said of Austin High. “The challenge at hand is Austin High. It’s also about Lake Travis. We need to fix some silly mistakes that we’re making.”
The Cavaliers survived those silly mistakes – and some injuries to key offensive players – in last week’s 50-17 win over Anderson. Lake Travis threw two interceptions and committed a mess of penalties –11 for 100 yards – in a less than stellar offensive performance.
“Overall, our offense was sloppier than we would have liked,” Carter said. “We can’t turn the ball over. Too many penalties. Some of them are just not concentrating. That’s not playing championship football like we want to play.”
Players didn’t need the benefit of watching game film to understand what happened as it happened.
“We need to eliminate the penalties that are stopping our drives, because we’re too good for that,” senior quarterback Dominic De Lira said Friday after the game. “Our offense is too polished and clean to be making those dumb mistakes. We need to fix that going into next week. The coaches will do a great job with that.”
De Lira’s comments came after he set a career-high with 345 yards passing. Despite the career-high he knows he can play better. His coach agreed.
“He’s just like the rest of the guys,” Carter said. “There are some really good plays and there are some things that we have to get better at. We can’t turn the ball over. We want our passing game to be on time. There were a couple of times where Dom saved the play because of what he did with his ability to get out of trouble when we didn’t protect as well. But there are also some times where we need to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball, trust the protection. That’s the number one thing about being back in there and getting reps.”
While Carter saw room for offensive improvement, he did like the way players stepped up when starters left with injury. The Cavaliers lost offensive linemen Garrett Stotts and Aiden Rourke and running back Abe Willows before halftime. Tuesday Carter said Rourke and Willows could have returned to the game had it been closer but took advantage of the opportunity to rest. Stotts’ injury might be more long-term than those suffered by Rourke and Willows. He left the field with his arm in a sling and Carter feared it might take time to get him back into the lineup.
Will James and Hunter Rhodes stepped in for Stotts and Rourke, respectively, and played well. Luke Laney filled in for Willows and scored a touchdown. Ben Lacey and Maleek Barkley also added rushing touchdowns.
“I’m very proud of Will James,” Carter said. “That’s a tough thing, to go in there. He gets plenty of reps in practice, but he was out there with the number one unit in a competitive time [for the first time]. I think he performed really well. When Rourke went out…we’ve had six guys who we’ve felt are starters, so [Hunter] Rhoads came in and played and played well.”
While James adjusted to playing with the starting line, the Cavaliers are still looking at how to handle Stotts’ absence on special teams.
“Garrett is our long snapper, and he’s an elite long snapper,” Carter said. “We need some guys to step up and we need to make sure we can fill that void until he gets back.”
The next opportunity comes quickly – Thursday instead of the standard Friday night. Carter hopes that the short week, coupled with the Maroons’ two-game win streak, helped focus his team’s attention and keep it from looking ahead to next week’s battle with Westlake.
“A couple of years ago Austin High came over here and really had a chance to beat us,” Carter said Tuesday. “They had the ball late with a chance to tie or go ahead. The fact that they’ve won a couple of games in a row – they beat Hays and that’s a big win – our kids understand that they need to take care of business. The challenge at hand is Austin High.”
Austin High averages 30 points per game and throws the ball as much as anyone in the district, which has Carter’s attention.
“They can score points and throw the football,” Carter said. “The quarterback stands in there and delivers the ball. They can put up points pretty quickly and they all believe in that system. They are a quality opponent offensively, no question about it.”
In their 50-17 win over Anderson last week, the Cavaliers played suffocating defense. The Trojans’ touchdowns came on a pick six and a short drive following a 61-yard run with a punt that had been blocked. The Cavaliers more than dominated a passing attack that had been effective coming into the game.
“Defensively I’m pleased with how we played,” Carter said. Anderson enjoyed one sustained drive where backup quarterback Thomas Ramsdale connected with Gavin Graham four times before Chris Roller intercepted a pass to end the threat. Most of Graham’s catches came against sophomore corner Aaron Brown-Nixon. Despite giving up the catches, Carter liked the way Nixon battled the bigger receiver.
“I thought he handled himself pretty well,” Carter said of the sophomore. “[Graham] was very physical and that was a good test for us.”
Austin High throws the ball even more than Anderson did. Junior quarterback Beau Kalbacher’s passed for more than 1,400 yards and 13 scores, and he’ll put the Cavaliers’ young and deep secondary to the test again. Allik Anchando and Jacob Traudt have combined for 51 catches and 656 yards to lead the attack.
Defensively, the Maroons struggle. While Austin High scores 30 points per game and has topped 35 in each of its last three games, the defense allows nearly 40 points per game. Opponents have topped 40 points three times, including 63 by Westlake and 41 by Akins.