Lions start season off with statement win
By Miles Smith
The Lockhart Lions checked copious boxes in their Friday night season-opening win against the Travis Rebels.
Multiple passing touchdowns? Check.
A defensive shutout? Check.
Forced turnovers by the defense? Check.
A pair of 100-yard rushers? Check.
The ability to chew up the clock in the second half and run out the clock? Check.
The Lions’ punting formation was about the only thing not seen on the field in a 54-7 victory that featured touchdowns by three different running backs and allowed head coach Brian Herman to give his bench some work in a game where the Rebels never posed a threat.
The win came on senior night, no less, a cherry on the top of a triumph that had the packed home bleachers going wild as time expired.
“I told the team I’m not sure of the last time we last won on senior night,” Herman said after the win. “We had it during our opener last year but we tripped up, and before that, we held it on the last game of the year against some pretty tough competition.””
The Lions quickly took command of the game, pushing their lead to 27-0 at halftime as junior starting quarterback Jayden Garza launched the first of his two touchdown passes — a 22-yard fade on fourth down in the corner of the end zone to sophomore tight end Richard Moya, who made a diving catch in bounds with 58 seconds remaining.
The play was Garza’s first completion in the first half. It came on a play that was similar to a quarterback keeper on a bootleg run that resulted in a score in the Lions’ first scrimmage, Herman said.
“I said on the headset (to the coordinators) that I was not going to put the ball in the air at the end of the quarter — we were up 20-0 and I didn’t want to take that risk,” Herman said. “But I didn’t feel like the run game was going to get us into the end zone from that distance. I told Jayden to remember the scrimmage when he scored and to keep the ball unless he was absolutely sure he had a guy open.
“The play was a little messier than I would have liked but it worked out.”
Garza, who also connected with wide receiver Adam Romero on a 63-yard catch-and-run that made the score 47-7 with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter, only had one apparent gaffe in the contest when he fumbled after being hit in the backfield near the Rebels’ red zone. Travis safety Mark Martinez retrieved the ball and scampered 75 yards to the end zone to narrow Lockhart’s lead to 27-7 with 7:51 remaining in the third quarter.
But the mistake was an aberration in an stalwart effort rather than a turning point. A rushing attack powered by senior running back Daequan Ellison, who scored two first-half touchdowns, and Noah Garcia that was capped with a goal-line dive by Jourdan Garcia — one of two scores by the reserve halfback — chewed more than seven minutes of clock and effectively killed all chances of a Rebels rally.
Herman said he was proud of the defense, which allowed zero points and forced a turnover in the fourth quarter when junior defensive back Caleb Jennings picked the ball off while Travis was deep in its own territory. Travis didn’t cross midfield until late in the second quarter.
“I thought they played admirably,” Herman said. “To pitch a shutout like that was a great job by our defense.”
Ellison and Jesus Aldana scored the first two touchdowns of the game on runs set up by short fields. Ellison scored from a yard out with 8:43 left in the quarter on a drive that started at the Travis 48 yard line, and Aldana trotted in from five yards out on a drive that began near the Rebels’ goal line courtesy of a punt blocked by linebacker Eddie Tucar.
Lockhart will face Taylor on the road next week. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Friday.