Young team ready to rise to redistricting challenges
By Kathi Bliss
With only a handful of returning seniors and an unenviable spot in a district full of powerhouse teams, it might look like the Varsity Lions are in for a battle this season reminiscent not of David and Goliath, but rather of David’s little brother and Goliath’s entire family.
The redistricting, announced in February, moved the Lions out of a more balanced district, containing teams like Elgin, New Braunfels and Manor, and stacked the district with former-5A contenders, including Smithson Valley and Alamo Heights. Arguably, Lockhart is the smallest school district in the bunch, with the smallest student population.
Rather than perceiving that size as a challenge, though, Lion Head Football Coach Robin Rapp suggests his team intends to use it as an advantage.
“We’re going to be the little guys,” he said. “No one is going to be watching for us, and they aren’t going to see us coming.”
Just a few days into preparations for the new season, Rapp took time out on Monday to talk about the team and the upcoming season, which promises to be unlike any the Lions or their fans have experienced in the recent past.
“We are a very young team, but that also means we’re a hungry team,” Rapp said. At present, the roster contains only 13 returning seniors, where last year’s lineup included nearly 30. “It’s my experience with young teams that, even though they might not have the varsity experience that we might be up against on some of the other teams, they have a faster rate of improvement, and they work themselves up on a fast curve.”
That curve, Rapp said, is something he can already see developing in the young men under his tutelage, and something he and his staff hope to continue to foster throughout the season.
“We’re all very well aware that there are going to be some challenges this season,” he said. “But the kids are excited about those challenges, rather than being worried about them… [they are] excited about the opportunity we are going to have to face some of these teams who… if you beat them, you’re going to get noticed.”
Indeed, the ultra-competitive district includes only one team, the Lehman Lobos, which did not make a playoff appearance last year.
“In a district like this, every game is like a bowl game,” Rapp said. “The crowds are going to be bigger and more excited, and the stakes are going to be higher.”
Because the bulk of the district is closer to San Antonio than Austin, Rapp said more attention would likely be paid to the Friday night lights than the Lions are accustomed to.
“San Antonio doesn’t really have a college or pro program that they identify with during football season,” he said. “So what they do is, they follow high school ball. There are going to be more fans, there are going to be bigger games, and if you win against these teams, there are going to be news reporters paying attention to that… Especially if you’re little ol’ Lockhart and you stand up to a Smithson Valley or an Alamo Heights.”
Stand up, he said, is exactly what his team intends to do.
“The attitude, the team unity and the work habits of this team is really what’s going to make the difference for us this year,” he said. “They all [understand] that there is no one person as big as the team, and they all support each other and encourage each other. They’re improving daily, and I feel like as high as we as coaches have set the standard, they have set it just as high, or higher. They are unselfish and they work hard… and more than anything, they believe in one another.”
Rapp said the team is running, at this point, much like a business. Each day the team meets before practice, goes over presentations regarding what they will be working on and what will be expected of them, and then works to meet those goals during practice.
“The main thing we’re doing is, we’re focusing on improving every day, and controlling the things that we can control,” Rapp said. “We’ve got some teams called powerhouses in our district. There are some bigger teams, and more experienced teams. But we aren’t going to worry about that. What we’re going to worry about is playing the best game we can play, and doing the best we can do, as a team. The rest of that stuff, we can’t change it.”
Rather than trying to change it, Rapp said, the team intends to work around it.
“Again the main thing I can say is that these guys have an amazing work habit, and they’re already improving so fast, every day. They’re really, really hungry, and I think they’re ready to do whatever it takes.”
What it takes, at this point, is two-a-day practices, in full pads, beginning at 5:30 p.m., and continuing through until – usually – after 9 p.m.
What might that work yield?
The Lions will open their season at 7 p.m. on Saturday, in a scrimmage against Cuero. On Aug. 20, they will scrimmage with the Luling Eagles, again at 7 p.m., this time in Luling.
And then… the real fun begins.
“Really, we’re kind of the unknown factor in the district, because we are so small,” Rapp said. “It’s going to allow us to fly under the radar.”
The Lions’ 2010 season schedule is as follows:
Aug. 27 Lions @ La Grange 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 3 Lions @ Bellville 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 10 Lions vs. Austin Travis (Senior Parent Night) 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 17 Lions vs. Dripping Springs (Homecoming) 7:30 p.m.
*Sept. 24 Lions vs. Alamo Heights (Pop Warner Night) 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 1 Lions @ Clemens 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 15 Lions vs. Hays (Old Timers’ Game) 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 22 Lions @ Canyon 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 29 Lions vs. Smithson Valley (Junior High Night) 7:30 p.m.
*Nov. 5 Lions @ Lehhman (Shelton Stadium) 7:30 p.m.