By Moses Leos III
For roughly half of play Friday, the stars began to align in the Lehman Lobos’ quest to score a win over the Hays Rebels.
But a 28-point Rebel outburst scored during the final 24-plus minutes, spurred by a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, gave Hays a 35-7 win over Lehman and continued dominance in the series.
With the win, Hays improves to 11-0 over its crosstown rival. For Hays head coach Neal LaHue, “blocking out the noise” of a rough start to the season helped toward the win.
“I’m proud of our kids. We were 1-5, 0-2 in district,” LaHue said. “There are a lot of people saying things about your team. I’m proud of the kids blocking out the noise and playing hard to get the win.”
The first half of Friday’s game was a defensive stalemate, as the Lehman and Hays defense ruled the roost.
Lehman’s defense limited Hays’ running back Cade Powell and the Rebel offense to 115 yards in the first 24 minutes.
Powell, who finished with 113 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns, said the team couldn’t get its pass game going in the first half.
“We kept relying on running the ball,” Powell said. “The defense picked up on it and they started to be there at the right place at the right time.”
But the Rebel defense countered with an equally tough performance, limiting the Lobo offense to 130 yards in the first half.
Lehman head coach Todd Raymond said the Lobos struggled to generate a rhythm on offense, which was a theme during the course of the game. Lehman’s offense was limited to 178 total yards in the contest.
“We knew they were going to blitz and bring pressure. They did some good things,” Raymond said. “We couldn’t maintain. We knew that because they blitzed so much, we had to maintain.”
Hays took a 7-0 lead off of a three-yard touchdown run by Powell in the first quarter. The Lobos countered in the second frame with a momentum changing interception that was returned for a touchdown by defensive back Edward Arana that tied the score at 7-7.
Lehman’s defense maintained momentum following a second interception on the ensuing Hays drive. The Lobos attempted a scoring drive before halftime, leading to a 45-yard field goal attempt within the final minute.
Hays recaptured momentum right back. Hays defensive back Nathan Tovar blocked the field goal attempt, which was then scooped up by defensive back Hector Fuentes, who returned the ball for a touchdown.
“A blocked field goal for a touchdown is special,” LaHue said. “It gave us momentum.”
Hays seized a 14-7 lead at halftime and didn’t let up from there.
The Rebels’ passing game opened up in the second half, as quarterback Tyler Conley threw for 125 yards in the final two quarters. His success in turn opened up the Rebel run game, allowing Powell and the Rebels to succeed. Powell said the offense began to read the defense and was able to make “all of the right blocks.”
Powell punched in a touchdown run in the third quarter to give Hays a 21-7 lead.
“The offensive line worked hard for me, they’re always the key behind the run game,” Powell said. “I can’t do any of the running without them.”
But for the Lobos, inconsistency, mixed with self-inflicted wounds, led to continued issues. Lehman struggled to maintain composure, as the team had 80 yards in penalties on the night.
Lehman defensive back Kaleb Priestly said the team did “everything our coaches told us to do” in the first half, which included not letting emotions get the better of them.
“In the second half, we started getting angry and we let our emotions flare out and it didn’t work out as we had planned,” Priestly said.
Hays capitalized in the fourth quarter, as Conley and wide receiver Marquis Howard connected twice for score. Conley opened the fourth quarter with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Howard. The two connected again later in the quarter to expand Hays’ lead to 35-7.
For Raymond and the Lobos, taking care of the little things, such as limiting penalites, must occur as they ready for a tough stretch to close the season. Lehman hosts district leader Lake Travis Friday.
Hays, which travels to play at Leander Friday, hopes to ride the momentum as the team seeks a playoff berth.
“The win gives us a lot of confidence and momentum in the next game,” Powell said. “And it gives us bragging rights against our rivals for another, and confidence for next year when we play them again.”