District play begins for Lions against Tivy
By Miles Smith
Through five non-district games, the Lockhart Lions are 2-3, with a pair of wins sandwiching a three-game losing streak against top-flight competition.
But for playoff qualifying purposes, they’re 0-0. With a shorter list of district opponents than in some previous years, the Lions’ playoff future will be decided by a five-game district schedule against quality opponents.
That campaign begins Friday at home against the Tivy Antlers, who are off to an 0-5 start and have been outscored 184-89. But head coach Todd Moebes said that doesn’t necessarily mean Lockhart fans should look past the perennial playoff contender.
Tivy’s non-district schedule was similar to Lockhart’s with tough opponents that make it difficult to get a read on how it will handle district play.
“You have a small margin of error when you have five district games,” Moebes said. “I think all of them are tough for us. They are all well coached and play physically, and you have to bring your A-game every week.
“(Tivy has) played some really good teams. There aren’t a lot of teams with that type of non-district schedule. They’re maybe a little more out of sync than they have been in the past, but they’ve played some really good people.”
Tivy beat the Lions 17-3 last season, holding Lockhart scoreless until the fourth quarter, when kicker Joseph Suarez made a 40-yard field goal to avoid the shutout.
Tivy’s opponents have included Dripping Springs, Shoemaker, Fredericksburg, and Austin McCallum, which narrowly beat the Antlers 23-15 in their closest game of the season.
The Antlers fell 21-0 to Calallen (4-1) in its final non-district game.
Lockhart’s other opponents this season have fared better in their non-district games, although some of them have arguably played easier schedules.
Floresville (5-0) follows Tivy, and the team has outscored its opponents 193-151. Lockhart comes back home to face Medina Valley (1-4) before going back on the road against Alamo Heights (5-0) and finishing the season at home against Boerne Champion (4-1).
Through two wins and three losses, there’ve been highs and lows for the Lions.
Bright spots have included flashes of brilliance on offense and catalytic plays on defense.
“We’ve gotten explosive at times offensively, which is good to see,” Moebes said. “Definsively, the experience we’ve had from some of the guys coming back has allowed us to be more versatile.
“I think our team has grown closer together. We’ve had bumps in the road and good hard conversations about the direction we’re wanting to go, and they’ve been really receptive to it.”
Things to work on? Namely, consistency and having a short memory when a bad play happens.
“Just being able to sustain a high level of execution for 48 minutes,” Moebes said. “We’ve had moments of brilliance where it looks really, really good, and then two plays later, we lost focus somewhere.
“A football play has a six to eight second life and then it’s done. There’s a lot for kids to process in the game now, with the way offenses have changed, and you’ve got to have a calming poise or presence about you so that whatever has happened on that football play is over with.
“It takes a high level of concentration and execution. Playing hard and physical is required to play football. (You have to be) where you’re supposed to be and make plays you’re supposed to and be accountable, because football is a game of one on one.”
Moebes said that while they don’t count in district play, both wins were “precious and we needed both of them.”
“It had been 658 days since we won a football game, so that was a big win to start the season against Victoria West,” he said. “And certainly when you drop three in a row, that was a much needed win against Davenport.”
Each loss had lessons to teach, but Moebes said in the game against Dripping Springs, though a 49-15 loss, the Lions showed some resiliency against a tough opponent a week after falling 56-8 to Buda Johnson.
The Lions kept pace with the Tigers in the third quarter despite falling behind 28-3 in the first half.
“I think we showed signs of being able to get back to who we wanted to be against Dripping Springs,” Moebes said. “Being able to come back (from the loss against Johnson) and sustain some success was big.
“We’ve seen different offenses and different defenses … and hopefully our body of work we’ve had pays off for where we’re going.”
Leading the way
It could have gone either way with a sophomore quarterback coming up from the freshman team, but Ashton Dickens’ first five games of his varsity career have looked promising.
The Lions’ starting signal caller has completed 65-of-112 passes (58 percent) through five games for 795 yards, passing for nine touchdowns and just two interceptions, and has been Lockhart’s leading rusher with 70 carries for 507 yards (7.24 yards per carry) and six touchdowns, outpacing his lead ball carrier Sean McKinney, who has had a solid season with 441 yards rushing, three rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown and a 4.08 yards-per-carry average.
“He’s done really well and handled himself really well,” Moebes said. “Our offensive staff has been able to put him in position, and his job has been managing what we do offensively. Outside that management, he’s had some ability to make plays on his own and help our football team.
“I think the sky is the limit for him, and I don’t even know where the ceiling is.”
To no one’s surprise, 6-4 senior Tay Andrews has led the Lions in receiving with 18 catches for 320 yards and four touchdowns.
But, Moebes said, there are unsung heroes on the team who have also played a big role in the progress the Lions have made during the season.
Senior running back Joseph Duron may stand just 5-5, but Moebes said he comes up huge when the Lions need him to, running the ball 24 times this season for 76 yards after making the switch back to offense.
Last year, the 168-pound Duron played on an injury depleted defensive line, making the move from running back out of necessity.
“He’s an unsung hero and a workhorse who goes out there and does his job the way he’s supposed to every single time,” Moebes said. “I’d take a million of him. He’s just been a stud for us and it’s good to have him.”
Other key unsung heroes have included the entire offensive line (Dickens has been sacked just once in five games and the team has more than 1,000 yards rushing), kicker Joseph Suarez (3-of-4 field goals with a long of 38 yards and 12-of-15 on extra points) and wide receiver/safety Diante Jackson, who has caught nine balls for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
“Diante’s played a huge role for us on both sides of the football, and that’s not easy to do at this level,” Moebes said. “We certainly have some guys who are getting the job done for us behind the scenes.”