The Lake Travis (Austin) Cavaliers started the season with their third head coach in four years and with all the pressure that comes with three straight state championships and a 46-game winning streak.
So, naturally, they put together one of the state's most rugged non-district schedules, starting with Class 5A Division I runner-up Westlake (Austin) on a Saturday at 100,000-seat DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium on the University of Texas campus.
The Cavaliers' next game is at their more modest on-campus stadium, but the spotlight could be even brighter.
Lake Travis, winner of the 4A Division II title in 2007 and '08 as well as last year's 4A Division I crown, will host
Aledo, the '09 4A Division II champ at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Both teams are 2-0 and ranked 1-2 in the Associated Press state poll (LT is No. 25 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 presented by the Army National Guard).
The game still shapes up as a showdown between two highly regarded players, even though neither is at 100 percent. Lake Travis senior quarterback Michael Brewer, a Texas Tech commit, left last week's closer-than-expected 34-24 win over Hendrickson (Pflugerville) after taking a hit on his throwing shoulder. Coach Hank Carter says Brewer is OK and will play Friday.
Aledo's ace is junior running back Johnathan Gray, who is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. He picked up 84 rushing yards in the Bearcats' season-opening victory over Stephenville, then broke through with 214 yards and five touchdowns last week in a 48-13 rout of Weatherford.
The Bearcats have started the season with more impressive victories, but against lesser competition than LT has faced. The Cavaliers defense, expected to be a strength, has had its troubles so far. If LT has a decided edge, other than the home field, it's kicker Stephen Pyle. He has three field goals, including a 40-yarder; Aledo, on the other hand, has missed two extra-point tries.
Elsewhere around South/Central Texas ...
2. Tivy on the rise: If Lake Travis' streak survives this weekend, it might not make it past the next. Next up for the Cavaliers is a Sept. 17 home game against another 4A Region IV power, Tivy (Kerrville), which opened some eyes with a 39-34 victory over 5A Madison (San Antonio), which the week before had defeated Steele (Cibolo) on national TV. The Antlers are 2-0 behind quarterback Johnny Manziel (more on him later), who hit 41 of 75 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns in addition to 78 rushing yards and another score against the Mavericks.
3. King assumes the throne: After disposing of several highly regarded teams, including Westlake (Austin), in winning the 76-team Pearland Tournament, King (Corpus Christi) continued its rise by going on the road and defeating and Canyon (New Braunfels) on the same day. As a result, the Mustangs are the first Corpus Christi team to be ranked No. 1 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association's weekly state poll. Senior hitter Dempsey Thornton, who has committed to UTSA, has been named the state's Player of the Week for King, which enters the week 25-3 and is No. 14 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, presented by the Army National Guard.
4. Two tired scoreboard operators: The week began with two games finished early by lightning Thursday night in San Antonio. The game that did go on endured two weather-related delays and then went to overtime before Boerne-Champion (Boerne) outlasted Brandeis (San Antonio) 51-50. The next night in Austin, Austin and Belton also needed overtime before the host Maroons won 66-63 on an 18-yard field goal by Zach Smith.
5. Outside Austin/San Antonio: 3A Wimberley continued its strong start with a 33-14 victory over Dripping Springs, a week after ending Cuero's 33-game home winning streak. Dennis Smith ran for 145 yards and three touchdowns, caught four passes for 80 yards and, on defense, recovered a fumble ... 5A Harlingen traveled to Corpus Christi and recorded a surprisingly one-sided 42-0 victory over Carroll (Corpus Christi), limiting the Tigers to 164 total yards.
(Non-Johnny Manziel division)
* Jordan Jaquez and Cayleb Jones, Austin: Jaquez hit 30 of 41 passes for 410 yards and seven touchdowns, and also ran for the score forced overtime against Belton. Jones was on the receiving end of 13 of those completions, including four of the touchdowns and two YouTube-buzz catches.
* John Free, Boerne Champion: The 4A Chargers picked up the highest-profile victory in their brief history by downing 5A Brandeis, a 5A Division II regional finalist last year. Free was the key, accounting for seven touchdowns (five rushing) and three 2-point conversions (two passing).
* Kenny Williams, Hendrickson: Don't blame the Hawks' close loss to Lake Travis on him — Williams ran for 268 yards and two touchdowns, and returned a fumble 50 yards for another score.
Among this week's top events ...
* In addition to Lake Travis-Aledo, the area's top football games (all on Friday) include Steele and its star running back Malcolm Brown traveling to Kerrville to continue Tivy's rugged non-district schedule; MacArthur (San Antonio, Texas), off to a surprisingly strong 2-0 start, visiting Smithson Valley (Spring Branch, Texas), which has allowed a total of 3 points in two wins; and an intruging matchup of Southwest (San Antonio, Texas)'s power vs. Alamo Heights (San Antonio, Texas)' wide-open spread in Alamo Heights.
* Tivy quarterback Johnny Manziel, who committed to Oregon in June, reportedly is reconsidering after receiving a "surprise" offer from Texas A&M. Manziel thus far has thrown for 809 yards and eight touchdowns and ran for 209 yards and four touchdowns.
MY $.02 WORTH
Sometimes in life, it's possible to be a victim of one's own success. Such currently is the case with San Antonio's Northside ISD — the state's largest academically "recognized" district — which this year opened its fifth new high school since 1998. That gives NISD 11 free-standing high schools, of which 10 compete in UIL team sports. Every new school's opening means the slicing up of existing enrollments; in coachspeak, a loss of "numbers."
That dilution is being felt acutely by Northside's football and volleyball programs, none of which is ranked in the San Antonio Express News' weekly list of the area's top 10 teams in each sport, likely for the first time since those rankings have been around. Only five of the district's nine 5A volleyball teams (newcomer Brennan (San Antonio) is 4A) have overall winning records entering the week, and none better than 15-11 by O'Connor (Helotes). It's even worse in football, where NISD's 10 teams have combined in two weeks for four victories ... and two of those were NISD teams Holmes (San Antonio) and Taft (San Antonio) beating fledgling Brennan. Only Warren (San Antonio) (which held off Southwest) and Holmes (which beat lightly regarded Highlands (San Antonio)) have won against non-NISD teams. On Saturday, four NISD teams were defeated by four teams from elsewhere in San Antonio by a combined 154-55. The good news? Indications are that a new high school won't be needed for several years, giving some usually proud programs some time to rebuild.
Gaylon Krizak soon will be moving to Corpus Christi, but still will keep tabs on the Austin/Region IV area. Contact him at email@example.com.