Lake Travis, Hays battle for district's top Division 1 playoff seed, home game
Originally published in Austin American-Statesman
For much of the bye week, Lake Travis’ defensive coaches believed the schedule-makers inadvertently gave the Cavaliers an unintended break.
Using a unique Slot-T, tight-formation, ground-based offense in a predominantly spread-offense world, Hays won its first seven games. Del Valle, Lake Travis’ opponent coming off the bye week, had also utilized Slot-T concepts similar to Hays, so the Cavaliers got a little extra time to prepare for the different offense.
While the Cavaliers prepared for a heavy dose of Slot-T formation plays from Del Valle, the Cardinals had other ideas, opening the game with a more conventional one back, three-receiver set.
“It’s funny,” Lake Travis coach Hank Carter said after the Cavaliers beat Del Valle 55-23. “We prepped a ton for their [slot-T] stuff and we didn’t see a whole lot of it.”
Though Del Valle rushed for 245 yards in the game, Lake Travis used strong play at the point of attack led by Raleigh Erwin (six tackles) and Ryan Colliau to keep the Cardinals from flying too far from the nest early. Lake Travis built a 55-9 lead before Del Valle got two late scores, including a 49-yard run from Tavierre Dunlap, for the final margin.
“I’m pretty pleased with our front,” Carter said. “They’ve gotten a lot better in the last two weeks. I’m proud of how we handled things, especially with our first group.”
Del Valle’s decision to minimize its Slot-T usage may not have helped the Cavaliers in game situations, but the time spent preparing for the possibility gave the Cavaliers some two-in-one preparation. The Cavaliers adjusted their defense in the back end, said linebacker Maui Trevino, to bring a safety up to help support the run, and they’ll likely add bodies to the box again to clog the running lanes for Xavier Green, Sam Scott, Devin Hines and Nash Danford.
To say the Rebels prefer to run the ball in veteran coach Les Goad’s first year in Buda is the understatement of understatements. Quarterback Xavier Martinez has yet to complete 10 passes in a game, and he’s only tried 10 twice, most recently against Westlake, where he completed just six of 16 passes with two interceptions.
While the Rebels have used their rushing attack to bewilder opposing defenses, their own defense has struggled of late Austin High scored 47 against Hays and came within a last-minute failed two-point conversion of handing the Rebels their first loss. Westlake scored a season-high 70 last week to knock Hays from the ranks of the unbeaten.
After struggling against Westlake, Lake Travis bounced back offensively with touchdowns on its first eight drives despite missing receivers Garrett Wilson and Grayson Sandlin. Hudson Card connected on his first 13 passes and finished 20 of 22 with six touchdowns in the win. Kyle Eaves led a balanced receiving effort with seven catches, and five different players caught touchdown passes.
Led by Weston Stephens, Marcelo Alanis and Card, the Cavaliers also rushed the ball for more than 200 yards against the Cardinals.
“I’m really pleased with how our offense played,” Carter said following the win over Del Valle. “We were able to run the football and we were able to pick up the unique things they did pressure-wise. I think we were more physical on the offensive line.”
Series record: Lake Travis leads 4-3. Last Lake Travis win: 2016 (60-34). Last Hays win: 2006 (35-14). Lake Travis has won four straight in the series.
Playoff ramifications: Of the district’s four most likely playoff qualifiers, Lake Travis and Hays have the two largest enrollments, which would place them both in the 6A, Division I bracket. The game becomes a seeding battle. The winner would the top seed and host the second seed from District 26 in the Bi-District playoff round. Westlake and Bowie would be the Division II qualifiers. Bowie and Anderson enter the week tied for the fourth playoff spot, but Anderson must still face both Westlake and Lake Travis.