By Kathi Bliss and Rob Ortiz
Halfway through the District season, and after a week of recuperation, the Lions took the field at home on Friday night for a showdown with District 26-5A’s new powerhouse team, the Dripping Springs Tigers. Despite making a strong beginning in the first half, the Lions ran out of gas after the break, finally closing out the night on the short end of a 48-30 final score.
If the Tigers came to Lockhart looking for an easy win, they soon learned they had come to the wrong place. Throughout the first half, the Lion defense challenged the Tiger offense at every turn, forcing the lowest-scoring first half the Tigers have had all season.
Though Dripping Springs jumped out first, scoring after a grueling first-quarter drive, the Lions soon answered back, and even took the lead, if only for a moment.
In fact, the Lions’ first score on the night can be almost directly attributed to the defense.
After forcing the Lions into a punt, the Tigers were thwarted deep in their own territory as the Lion defense overpowered them. Lion fans went wild as the defense held on a fourth-and-1 attempt, turning the ball over on downs at the Tigers’ 20.
The Tiger defense forced the Lions into the backfield, forcing them to prepare for a field goal attempt on fourth down. However, Dripping Springs drew a penalty flag for lining up offsides, putting the Lions back in the hunt for the end zone.
Small gains by Austin Garcia and Stephon Houston put quarterback Logan Brown in the perfect position to pitch to Houston, who slid through the line and in for the touchdown.
Try as they might on their next drive, the Tigers could not get past the Lion defense, taking a punt on fourth-and-1 at their own 34.
Inch by inch, the Lions clawed their way back to the red, eventually emerging at fourth-and-8 on the Tigers’ 13, with less than two minutes in the half.
Head Coach Brian Herman called on his kicker, soccer player Juan Ocampo, to fight the wind and split the uprights on a 30-yard field goal attempt, giving the Lions a 10-7 lead.
However, the Tigers responded promptly, taking to the air to secure another touchdown as seconds ticked away in the half.
The Lions had one more chance on the half, as they received the kickoff with 47 seconds on the clock.
Houston teamed with Brown, Garcia and Greg Rivera to put the Lions close to scoring position. However, the wind caught Ocampo’s 45-yard kick, sending it wide and closing the half with the Lions down 14-10.
It was after the break that the wheels came off for the Lions.
Taking a chance on a short kick at kickoff, the Lions failed to recover, giving possession and ultimately momentum to the Tigers.
“The extra possession that the Tigers stole gave them momentum,” Herman said. “ They played faster and with more purpose in the third quarter and it took us a minute to right the ship.”
Throughout the third quarter, the battered Lions struggled, giving up 20 points in the quarter, while scoring only eight of their own.
In the fourth, the Lions bounced back, picking up two more touchdowns, but failing on the two-point conversions. However, the damage had been done, and the Tigers’ two touchdowns in the fourth quarter allowed them to keep out ahead of the 48-30 score.
As the schedule fell this season, the Lions faced their three biggest challenges in rapid succession. The third of those three tough games is arguably the most important, and coming up this week as the Lions travel to San Antonio to take on the Alamo Heights Mules on Friday night.
“Alamo Heights has circled this game on their schedule and from many sources I hear that they are coming guns blazing,” Herman said. “We will have to match their intensity and minimize our mistakes. Alamo Heights is the highest ranked team in our district and they are on a mission after missing out on the playoffs last year.”
The Mules were edged out of playoffs last year by Herman’s decision to capitalize on the “net points” system, making way for Lockhart and San Marcos to advance into the post-season, and leaving the Mules in the locker room.
Most Lion fans expect that Alamo Heights, currently (6-0 [3-0]) will be looking for payback. Still, after having defeated the Mules last year, the Lions seem cautiously confident.
It will be a big night in District 26-5A, two of the three undefeated District leaders, Boerne-Champion and Dripping Springs square off. Kerrville Tivy (1-5, [1-2]) will face Marble Falls (2-4 [0-3]), and Seguin (1-5 [0-3]) takes on Medina Valley (3-3 [1-2).
With four games left in the season, the Lions are currently tied for fourth place, and the final playoff spot with Kerrville Tivy and Medina Valley.
“We must win at least three, if not all four, of the rest of our games to qualify for the playoffs,” Herman said. “Being tied with Medina Valley and Tivy for the final playoff spot means we are in control of our destiny still.”
After they take on the Mules, the Lions will face Medina Valley, Marble Falls, and finally Kerrville Tivy.
This week’s showdown will take place at Alamo Heights High School, 150 E. Fair Oaks Pl., in San Antonio. Kickoff is scheduled at 7:30 p.m.