Lake Travis faces another playoff rematch in Weslaco
When asked about how much of last year’s film he used to prepare for last week’s Area playoff against San Antonio Madison, Lake Travis coach Hank Carter said not much.
“I don’t know that we will use a ton of last year’s game plan,” Carter said.
As his team prepares for Friday’s 6A, Division I regional semifinal against Weslaco, that answer holds true again, but not just for the Cavaliers. The teams met last year in the same round, but Weslaco coach Roy Stroman won’t get much use out of that film as the Panthers prepare for the Cavaliers.
Due to injuries, the Cavaliers figure to line up without two offensive skill players who played large roles in last year’s 56-14 win. In that game, Hudson Card threw for 362 yards and seven touchdowns – both career highs – and Garrett Wilson and Lake McRee combined to make nine catches for 145 yards and four touchdowns.
Wilson’s now at Ohio State, but neither Card nor McRee are expected to play for Lake Travis. McRee tore his ACL during preseason practice and is out for the year. Card suffered a foot injury against Westlake six weeks ago and hasn’t played since.
“We’re playing quite a bit differently than we did last year,” Carter said.
With Card sidelined, the Cavaliers have taken pressure off of junior Nate Yarnell by emphasizing the running game. In two playoff wins, Lake Travis averages 217 yards per game rushing and 201 passing, a balance the school hasn’t seen in a while.
“This isn’t the old Lake Travis that would come out and throw it for 500 yards and run it for 30,” said senior offensive lineman Andrew Salem. “This is a new culture.”
Offensive coaches preach balance, and Lake Travis are practicing that word. Salem said the line – which also features seniors Dawson Weiss and Todd Moon --- came together and vowed to do whatever they could to make Yarnell’s transition into the lineup a smooth one.
“Nate is doing a great job,” Salem said. “If he needed to lean on us, we wanted to give him that ability. We have his back. We want to cut down the number of times that he’s pressured so he feels like he can step up in the pocket when he needs to.”
Despite the occasional interception, Yarnell continues to improve. He’s completing 66 percent of his passes and averaged an effective 216 yards per game with 11 touchdown passes.
“I think every week he is gaining in experience and confidence,” Carter said.
Part of that confidence stems from the Cavaliers’ newfound rushing success. After gaining just 66 yards against Westlake, the Cavaliers have taken off behind a resurgent offensive line and junior Weston Stephens, who’s rushed for 100 yards four times in his last five games since stepping back into the lineup after starter Marcelo Alanis tore his ACL.
“We can run it as much as we need to be successful,” Salem said. “We want to keep running the ball like we have been, and those guys have been doing a really good job.”
In the playoffs, four different Cavaliers have run for touchdowns – including Salem himself. The 260-pound tackle got his chance to carry the ball after opening holes for Stephens and Wesley Erwin to drive the Cavaliers close against Madison. Salem took a handoff and scored from four yards out to give Lake Travis a 42-7 lead en route to a 49-21 win.
“That was a ton of fun,” he said. “Being an offensive lineman, it’s always your dream to run for a touchdown and I got to do it.”
He’ll return to his traditional role as a blocker when the Cavaliers take the field at Alamo Stadium Friday afternoon looking to win their 12th straight game against a Weslaco team that features a pair of solid defensive tackles in Adrian Fuentes (67 tackles) and Aaron Garcia (44 tackles).
Unlike Lake Travis, Weslaco figures to rely on the same key offensive players they did a year ago. Dual-threat quarterback Jacob Cavazos (1,945 yards, 18 TDs passing; 1083 yards, 20 TDs rushing) leads the way. Peyton Knaub (1,089 yards, 19 TDs rushing) returns along with Jaden Cavazos (52 catches, 636 yards, 6 TDs).
The Cavaliers didn’t see much of Jacob Cavazos last year. After getting off to a slow start (1-5 passing for 5 yards; 6 carries for 19 yards), Cavazos suffered a concussion and didn’t return. Lake Travis jumped out to a 49-0 lead and cruised home.
- Lake Travis has won all 10 regional semifinal games in which it’s played.
- Weslaco marks the third straight 2018 playoff rematch for the Cavaliers.
- With 15 tackles against San Antonio Madison, Lake Travis linebacker Maui Trevino moved into third place on the school’s all-time tackles list with 379. He trails Mark Kuenstler (480) and Quinton Crow (389).
- By continuing his surge in the second half of the season, Stephens has climbed into the top 10 on Lake Travis’ career rushing list. His 1,518 yards rank seventh all time.