Lions knock Rockets out of orbit
By LPR Staff
With their eyes focused on each play, instead of the playoffs, the Lions have trudged through the season with careful determination that has allowed them to give the community an opportunity they have not seen since 2008.
One more victory on the season will land the Lions in a playoff berth, for th
e first time since Troy Moses took the team two deep in 2008.
“There are many factors involved with accomplishing this goal,” Head Coach Brian Herman said on Tuesday. “Luckily, we still remain in control of achieving that goal.”
The first step toward achieving that goal, the first stepping stone in Herman’s program, was to secure a winning season. With a big 40-14 win over the Kennedy Rockets on Friday night, the Lions did just that.
After trading defensive blows for the first minutes of the game, the Lions broke it open with a 98-yard drive capped by Ronald Hutchinson weaving in and out of traffic up the middle on a 14-yard touchdown run.
Enrique Villegas found the uprights to put the Lions ahead 7-0 with 1:35 left in the game, and setting a momentum that the Rockets were nearly powerless to break for the next three quarters of play.
In fact, on the kickoff, the Rockets muffed the catch, putting Darius Jones in the position to recover the ball and put the Lions in possession at their own 28-yard line.
Three plays later, senior running back Curtis Hawkins hit a major milestone, crossing the 1,000-yard mark for his second consecutive season with the Lions. A leading rusher for the Lions since his sophomore year, Hawkins said with a laugh that he is starting to help coaches groom underclassmen, including DJ Ellison and Stephon Houston, to follow his lead next season.
“I do my part, but I can’t do what I do without the line making it possible for me to do it,” Hawkins said. “It’s not about what one person does or another person does, it’s what the whole team does that leads to success.”
Moments later, Hawkins found the endzone, and Villegas made good on another kick, giving the Lions a 14-0 lead in the opening moments of the second quarter.
After the defense locked down on the Rockets’ next drive, Houston came up with a 40-yard kickoff return, getting knocked out near the Lions’ 5-yard line, and putting Lockhart in scoring position once again.
Hawkins and Villegas teamed to put another seven points on the board, thanks to what some fans called a “textbook” setup by the special teams.
For a brief moment, the sun shone on the Rocket offense, as strong passing plays coupled with defensive penalties against the Lions to give Kennedy a shot at the end zone late in the half. Connecting a 20-yard touchdown pass, Kennedy finally made their way onto the board.
However, the Lions answered back on their final possession of the half, clutching for territory before Ellison found the opportunity to slough off two defenders and slip around two others for a 34-yard dash to the end zone. With two seconds left on the clock, Villegas found the uprights again, increasing the Lions’ lead to 28-7.
“This is how we do what we do,” Jones said of the Lions’ tight defense and his personal opportunities to make big plays during the game. “Our goal is to get to the playoffs, and that takes the whole line, the whole field.”
Lockhart didn’t let up in the second half, despite making some changes that took some players out of the game and allowed others the opportunity to step up.
“We prepare the same way each week but sometimes you know when you have a chance to get more players on the field to get more experience,” Herman said. “Doing that rewards the hard work of all the players and helps build for future success.”
On their first shot of the second half, the Rockets started with an onside kick, which they recovered to push for the first offensive shot. However, the Lion defense was having no part of it, and after allowing Kennedy to gain a few yards, a hit from Jones caused the Rocket quarterback to bobble a pass, landing it in the waiting hands of Lion junior Rafael Jaimes, who brought it back 24 yards to give the Lions possession in their own territory.
Engaging in another long, slow march, the Lions pushed through the Rocket line, setting Ellison up for a final 2-yard scamper across the goal line with 3:55 left in the quarter.
The Rockets were able to block the kick, keeping the Lions’ lead at 34-7.
Special teams came up big again on the ensuing kickoff return as the Rockets fumbled and Jacob Perez came in for the recovery to put the Lions at first-and-10 at midfield. Another push from the Lions resulted in senior Bailey Girouard crossing the line for his first touchdown on the season on a 2-yard grind. The snap bobbled, but the Lions maintained a 40-7 lead with 2:30 left in the quarter.
The Rockets capitalized on their opportunities in the fourth quarter, first cranking out a touchdown drive from their own 30 and culminating in a quarterback scramble from the 5-yard line, to decrease the Lions’ lead to 40-14.
The wheels came off the Lions’ game during their next possession. After being burdened by penalties, a bad snap on fourth-down allowed Kennedy to take possession at their own 21-yard line.
The defense, however, was able to stop the final series and hold the score at 40-14 until the buzzer.
The win brings the Lions to 6-2 [4-2] on the season, ranked in fourth place in District with three games left.
Next up, the Lions will face the District 27-5A leaders, the Boerne-Champion Chargers. Despite their fearsome record in District this season, the Lions have a 50-50 record with Boerne-Champion, falling last year but edging a 34-32 victory in 2012 during the first outing of the rivalry.
“We strive to respect our opponents not fear them,” Herman said when asked if his players were intimidated by the Chargers’ present record, which holds them undefeated on the season, earning an average of 31 points per game, while only allowing an average of 19. “We are attempting to build a program that sticks its chest out and says we are here to play, watch out.”
The Lions have also scored an average of 31 points per game, but have allowed an average of 32 after big losses to Alamo Heights and Kerrville Tivy.
Still, confidence and pride are running high, and the Chargers remain one of the Lions’ final obstacles to a playoff berth this year.
And as Herman tells his team every week… “An undefeated season in high school football is something that’s actually pretty rare.”
The Lions travel to Boerne-Champion on Friday night, with kickoff slated at 7:30 p.m. The Boerne ISD Stadium is located at Boerne High School, #1 Greyhound Lane in Boerne. For those who cannot travel, follow the Post-Register on Facebook for constant updates.