Lions make history of Heights
By LPR Staff
In a game that came straight out of a Hollywood film, capped by a hit that will be remembered for years, the Lions made history on Friday night when they came out on top of a grueling battle with the Alamo Heights Mules.
Since the two teams have been paired in District play, this was the first time the Lions
were able to get the win over the Mules, and they did it in front of a capacity crowd.
“It was great to see the community, out here and supporting us like this,” said Greg Rivera, who made the hit that broke up the pass that secured the game for the Lions. “Coach believed in us, so we knew we needed to come through.”
Come through, they did.
From DJ Ellison’s first 81-yard touchdown to Rivera’s tackle that gave the Lions the game, Lockhart’s Boys of Fall were in their finest form of the season as they rumbled to a 44-36 victory over the 27-5A powerhouse Mules.
The Mules struck first, pushing a long drive past a determined and driven defensive line, opening scoring to take a 0-7 lead with 7:16 left in the first quarter.
The Lions answered back immediately, fielding the kickoff return at the Lions’ 14-yard line. Two plays later, the offensive line made a hole for Ellison, who took an 81-yard stroll to put the Lions on the board.
“DJ seemed to be on a mission to lead us to victory, and I believe his efforts inspired everyone,” Head Coach Brian Herman said of Central Texas’ new leading rusher, who picked up 350 yards on 25 carries to break the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season on Friday night.
Ellison and the offensive line didn’t let up; before the night was over Ellison would have four touchdowns under his belt, and increase his rushing yards to 1,035, with five games left in the regular season.
Not satisfied with the 6-7 score after Juan Ocampo’s point-after attempt failed, the Lions chose to go for the onsides kick, which the Mules fumbled, allowing the Lions to take possession at the Alamo Heights 41. Leaning heavily on the efforts of running back Stephon Houston, the Lions put together another successful drive, capping it with a 4-yard touchdown run from quarterback Nick Sanchez, and a good kick from Ocampo, giving the Lions the 13-7 lead.
Trying to get into their groove the Mules mounted another offensive attack, but it was cut short when Belar Sneed snagged an interception and forced the turnover, giving the Lions the ball back at the Alamo Heights 47.
The Mules’ defense locked down, trying to prevent any further damage but the Lions continued to press forward, finding their way into the red zone again. At fourth-and-5, all eyes turned to Ocampo, as Herman instructed him to go for the field goal. On a kick of about 26 yards, Ocampo opened the Lions’ lead to 16-7 with 8:59 left in the half.
“It really is about confidence and trusting everyone to ‘do their job,’” Herman said. “When everyone fills their role, we can accomplish anything.”
Less than a minute later, the Mules took advantage of a 35-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 16-14, and the rest of the half would continue in the same way, the offense and defense trading blows and trading touchdowns.
Ellison picked up his second touchdown of the night when he found the end zone on a 56-yard scamper, and Ocampo split the uprights to put the Lions ahead 23-14, but the Mules responded again to close scoring for the half at 23-21.
As they normally do, the Lions chose to receive in the second half, and Herman chose to pair the strengths of Ellison and Houston for a slow, powerful drive that ended with Ellison reaching the end zone on a 32-yard sprint.
Ocampo’s performance remained solid, and the Lions went ahead 30-21.
The Mules continued to employ a game of short passes that the Lions found difficult to stop, keeping the game within a handful of points throughout the third and fourth.
As the fourth quarter began, the Lions continued downfield on the way to a 37-28 lead, which was answered quickly as the Mules found the end zone and made the conversion to draw the score to 37-36 with only 4:19 left on the clock.
With emotions running high, the Lion fans remained shoulder-to-shoulder in the stands, creating a loud, electric atmosphere as the Lion offense took the field.
On the first down after kickoff return, Ellison twisted, swerved and worked his way through the line for a 51-yard touchdown run that was eventually called back on a holding penalty against the Lions.
Undaunted, the Lions redoubled their efforts, taking their time in making the touchdown, instead of embracing the fast run. With 58 seconds on the clock, the Lions increased the lead to 44-36.
Giving it one last shot, the Mules offense mounted the passing game that had been so effective against the Lions for the bulk of the night.
However, Rivera shattered that dream when his hit on a receiver on a fourth-down pass broke up the play, knocked the ball loose, and gave the Lions the win.
“In general, the defense knew coming into this game that we were going to have to make the big stops,” Rivera said after the game. “We knew what we needed to do, and we knew we needed to do it.”
“We made commitment cards, we do before every game,” he said. “This week, my card said I’m going to help my team make history and get this win.”
Riding high on the win, the Lions will travel to Floresville to take on the Tigers on Friday night.
“It took them some time, but they are starting to click,” Herman said. “They play physical football, and we will have to match or exceed their physicality.”
Additionally, Herman said, the Tigers tend to run the ball and keep the game short, much like the Lions.
Elsewhere in District 27-5A, the Tivy dropped Kennedy 56-6, Floresville fell to Boerne-Champion 50-6 and San Marcos romped Memorial, 67-9.
“Every week, there are games that affect our positioning in the playoff hunt,” Herman said. “This week, we will be paying close attention to the scores between San Marcos and Heights, and Tivy and Champion.”
Lockhart, Boerne-Champion, San Marcos and Tivy all remain, in Week Three, undefeated in District play.
Floresville Stadium is located at 1813 Tiger Lane, in Floresville. Kickoff is slated at 7:30 p.m.
(Additional information and reporting by Rob Ortiz)