By Moses Leos III
With the Hays starting play in the 6A ranks, head coach Neal LaHue wanted to give his team a glimpse of what 6A life would be like.
Scrimmaging a powerhouse in the Pflugerville Hendrickson Hawks proved to be the barometer they needed.
“They are one of the best teams in the area. You only get better by playing good teams,” LaHue said. “I thought our kids played hard. We made some mistakes, but I’m proud of their effort.”
Keeping up with the speed of the Hawks was one aspect LaHue focused on.
It proved tough on defensive side. Hays tried to corral the rushing efforts of Hendrickson running back Tazh Maloy. Equally, the Rebels were tasked with halting quarterbacks Ian Starkey and Carrington Kearney.
Holding their own were the Rebels, anchored by their young defensive line. Despite giving up several big runs, Hays defense found ways to stave off several Hawk scoring attempts. It proved vital during the timed portion, where the Rebels completed a goal line stand.
“They worked extremely hard. They did a good job of pressuring [Starkey],” LaHue said. “He’s elusive, so we had some breakdowns in the rush lanes, but they did a good job.”
On the opposite side, the Rebel offense sought to continue progress under quarterbacks Braeden Kent and Jacob Zamora.
LaHue said both quarterbacks, which saw time on the field, “handled the moment well.”
“I thought Braeden did a good job of leading his team,” LaHue said. “Jacob solidified himself as our top backup at this point.”
Also holding their own was the Rebel offensive line. Their strength up front allowed the Rebels to find success against the Hendrickson front seven.
While the Rebels were able to generate movement, the Rebels could only punch in one touchdown – a two yard strike from junior running back Cody Gandy in the untimed session. Hays senior offensive lineman Connor Lanfear said the Rebels were not used to the speed Hendrickson had. Mental errors also caused some issues.
While he said the group does need improvement, he felt the line is in good position. It goes toward the team’s physicality against a bigger opponent.
“That’s just something we pride ourselves in,” Lanfear said. “Our feeling is, ‘shame on them for lining up in front of us and shame on them for lining up in front of the Hays Rebel line.’ We’re mean and we go to work.”
Progress was also evident for the wide receiving corps, which features several new elements.
Going up against Hendrickson defensive backs KeShawn Somerville and P.J. Mbanasor was a challenge. Both are Division I college commits.
“I’m proud of how we worked. It’s different getting used to the intensity,” junior wide receiver Austin Maudling said. “It will be a solid year for us wide receivers and us as a team. We have a name to prove. I think we are ready for that task.
The Rebels now prepare for the grind that lies ahead. Ten straight games await the Rebels; the team’s bye week isn’t until the final week of the regular season.
For Rebel senior fullback Jackson Effiom, focus could be the key for success.
“It’s going to be all mental. Physically, we’ll be a little tired, but we can work through that,” Effiom said. “But we have to stay in football mode, week after week, game after game and stay focused and ready to play.”