Lions roar into two-a-days
By LPR Staff
Despite having only one regular practice under his belt for the upcoming season, Lockhart Lions’ Head Coach Brian Herman displayed quiet confidence on Monday morning when discussing the upcoming season.
“It was probably the best first-practice we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Herman said
of Monday’s blistering schedule. “This is the fourth year, so our seniors have been here since they were Freshmen, and they know the routine and understand the expectations.”
The routine is a grueling series of morning practices and scrimmages leading up to the Lions’ opening game on Aug. 26. The expectations are simple.
Win more games than last year.
Make the playoffs.
Practice on Thanksgiving Week.
Slightly less than expectations, Herman refers to these points as goals for the season. Still, as the Lions’ program has grown on the gridiron, the stakes, and the expectations have risen, as well.
“Having the kind of practice [you had] today, you’ve set the bar,” Herman told the team as he released them from their morning workout. “You performed up here… Now you have to rise from there. You can’t come in tomorrow and start from ‘down here.’”
Staring down the possibility of shake-ups in District 26-5A with the removal of the two San Antonio Edgewood teams, Memorial and Kennedy, and the addition of both Marble Falls and Dripping Springs from the powerhouse Cedar Park District, the Lions could have their hands full this season.
“There are a few wild cards,” Herman said. “Again this year, we’re looking at probably stacking up those teams at the top of the District [Boerne-Champion and Kerrville Tivy] and then letting the other six teams fight it out for those other two playoff spots.”
According to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, the Lions are a long shot for a third playoff berth. The site listed the Lions sixth of the eight teams in the District. Still, Herman keeps his optimism.
“The way they do those rankings, there are a lot of things that factor in,” he said. “And I just don’t think we should put too much weight on that, at this point in the season.”
Instead, Herman said, he is concentrating on the things that are within the Lions’ control.
In seniors and starters alone, Herman has 37 team members returning to his bench, which as of Monday was projected to be more than 50 players.
“We’ve got at least 50 juniors and seniors coming back,” he said. “And we’ve also been able to make some changes, shifting to a ‘platoon system,’ which allows us to split up the team on either side of the ball.”
Instead of having players consistently on both sides of the ball, Herman and his staff have chosen to specialize the players on offense and defense, asking them to switch sides only in specific circumstances.
“This way, we have guys practicing specifically to their position, instead of having to think about [shifting gears],” he said. “There’s the starting linebacker, and then there’s his backup, so if there is an injury, or a coach needs to talk to someone, that doesn’t hurt the lineup on the other side of the ball.”
Also in the Lions’ arsenal this season is returning starting running back Stephon Houston, who broke 1,000 yards rushing last season as part of the Lions’ “Smash and Slash” offense.
Houston, along with Austin Garcia, Greg Rivera and Logan Brown, will make for a dynamic backfield this season, Herman said.
“There are some things that we’re working on to utilize those skills,” he said. “Instead of them knowing, ‘we’re going to get the ball to DJ,’ now they’re going to be wondering which one of them we have to get the ball to.”
On the offensive line, junior Joe John Colurciello will be leading a crew of relatively young, but talented linemen.
“Losing four All-District seniors on the O-line is a challenge,” Herman said. “But we were in a similar position last year in building the O-line and utilizing the skills we had there, and it worked, so we’re looking to do the same thing this year, and bring these guys up.”
He also believes the Lions will be strong on defense, with a large number of the returning starters coming back to the defensive side of the ball.
Kicker Juan Ocampo, who was instrumental in several edgy situations last year, also returns to the field as the starting kicker.
“We’ve been lucky that the program keeps growing and the guys keep coming back,” Herman said. “So that tells me we must be doing something right. And with this being the fourth year for a lot of these guys, and the fourth year for most of us coaches, this is… well, we have a good understanding of what we expect and what needs to be done.”
As the weeks roll on, several seniors are expected to prove their mettle as they rise to leadership roles within the team.
The Lions will make their first formal appearance on Saturday morning, as they return to Lion Stadium for the annual Inter-Squad scrimmages, at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturday.
As construction continues on the “new” home (west) side of the field, spectators will be asked to sit in the bleachers on the east side of the field.
Construction should be complete before the Lions host their first game of the season, against Victoria West, on Friday, Sept. 2. Season officially opens on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, when the Lions travel to Pflugerville to take on the Connally Cougars.
Season tickets are expected to be on sale next week.