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Friday morning QB: Despite big win, Cavs' effort not special enough

The first two months of the 2015 football season will be tough for the Lake Travis football team. Maybe just not on the scoreboard.

With his team gathered around him Friday night following a 56-13 beating of Copperas Cove, head coach Hank Carter gave the team the bitter, unfiltered truth. Nice work getting the win, but by no means are the Cavaliers playing Lake Travis football.

“We’re not playing to our standard, nowhere near it,” Carter said the Monday following the game. “The kids know that too.”

Those standards have been built over the last decade, which saw Lake Travis rise from some pretty deep depths – don’t remind fans of the 2001-02 seasons when the team won just once. It took Jeff Dicus four years to get things rolling, and the Cavaliers – under Dicus and then Chad Morris and Carter – rolled to an unprecedented five consecutive state titles. The streak ended in 2012 and the Cavaliers have been striving to earn a sixth title ever since.

The five titles came more on understanding and the practice of perfection than they did on raw athletic ability – though those championship teams had plenty of ability. But it’s been that pursuit of perfect execution that set Lake Travis apart. That’s the message Carter wants, needs, the Cavaliers to embrace.

“We know the areas we need to work on, the things we need to get cleaned up,” he explained during the preseason. “The way we always do it is to look at it from perfection.”

Against Copperas Cove, despite the wide margin of victory, Carter saw plenty that needed to be cleaned up. First and foremost on his list is kickoff coverage. He said the team’s standing goal is to pin the opponent behind its own 30-yard line. Lake Travis usually employs two kickoff strategies: a high, angled kickoff that more often than not results in a fair catch around the opponent’s 30; or a deep kickoff toward the end zone, daring returners to make a play when Cameron Dicker doesn’t force a touchback, which he’s done on five of 17 kickoffs so far this season.

“Our kick coverage was awful,” he said Monday, after the Cavaliers allowed a 92-yard return that didn’t score only because of hustle from Hudson Fife, who knocked Shamad Lomax out inside the 5-yard line. “We need to be able to kick it deep and know that our coverage can go down there and handle it. We have a kicker who can kick it to the goal line, even into the wind at times.”

If you think Carter’s looking for something to keep his team from getting complacent in big wins, think again. Details like that can win or lose games, make or break seasons.

“That cost us a ballgame last year in the second round,” he said, harking back to a kickoff return for a touchdown by Spring in that 34-28 Area playoff loss. “It’s just not good enough.”

So the Cavalier coaches spent Labor Day weekend tweaking the coverage team. Carter called on the coaches to be more proactive about making sure assignments are being carried out or making changes if expectations continue to not be met.

“As coaches we have to do a better job of making some in-game adjustments, and that’s something we’ve been harping on this weekend,” he said. “If we see something one time, we need to get it fixed. We had things that would go on four or five times in the game and we never got it fixed. That’s on me. We have to do a better job on that.”

Kick coverage will be one of Carter’s high-priority items against Hays, and if Friday goes like many of the Cavaliers’ district games have gone in the last few years, the kickoff coverage unit will get plenty of chances to prove itself. Lake Travis beat Hays 62-23 last year and beats District 14-6A foes not named Westlake by an average score of 56-10 over the last two seasons.

Nine times out of 10 this regular season, simply showing up to play will be good enough to win. But when the playoffs begin, a successful six-game run won’t start overnight. Carter wants, needs, his team to be clicking on all cylinders by then.