Cavs de-claw Cougars 49-7

For the second week in a row, Lake Travis scored on its first offensive play, making sure the tortoise couldn’t stop the hare Friday night in Lakeway.

The top-ranked Cavaliers overcame New Braunfels Canyon’s dogged effort to shorten the game and control the ball. A big third quarter broke open a surprisingly close game and Lake Travis cruised 49-7 despite a shortage of possession.

“When you get the ball, you better score,” Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter said following the win. “Their style works well for them when they don’t fall behind.”

Time and again Friday night, Canyon held the ball, content to pound it into the interior of Lake Travis’ defense. But for all their possession, the Cougars managed just one score, and that came courtesy of the second Lake Travis fumble of the first half. Four times, Canyon held the ball on drives longer than five minutes, and all four drives came up empty.

“That I formation can really take time off the clock,” said Lake Travis running back Shaun Nixon.

Nixon overcame a sluggish first half, where he had just three rushing yards on three carries, 17 yards on two catches and lost a fumble at the goal line after taking a screen pass from Baker Mayfield, with a huge third quarter and one play in the fourth. After halftime, he took another screen pass from Mayfield for 53 yards before scoring to cap a 1:17 drive. On the first play of the final quarter, he sprinted 87 yards for the game’s final score. Afterward, Nixon said he’s still biding his time to find his rhythm.

“We have a great quarterback and great wide receivers, so it will take some time to develop the running game,” he said. “You don’t always get as many carries as you might think, so you have to make the most of the ones you get.”

With his big second half, Nixon finished with eight carries for 110 yards and two scores rushing and three catches for 70 more yards.

As they did a week ago, Lake Travis started quickly. After Canyon held the ball for more than five minutes and managed just 16 yards, a bad snap on a punt set the Cavaliers up in Cougar territory. Mayfield ran the zone read to perfection, faking the ball to Nixon and then running through the defense for a 34-yard score.

He added first half touchdown passes to Preston Dupre and Zach Austin, but between the scores the Cavaliers fumbled twice, including Nixon’s fumble as he headed for the end zone. Whether he ran with a bit of anger in the second half following the fumble, he didn’t say. Neither did Carter, though the coaches weren’t happy about the fumbles.

“A lot of the coaches weren’t happy with how much the ball was on the ground,” Carter said, though he said he was pleased at how the Cavaliers bounced back, Nixon especially.

“I was really happy to see Shaun have some success,” he said. “He always runs hard, and he got some space tonight. He did a real good job.”

Leading 21-7 at the half, Lake Travis scored three quick touchdowns in the third quarter. Nixon’s long catch and run set up his first score, and Zach Joiner blocked Canyon’s ensuing punt. Joiner capped the quick drive with a four-yard run, and the defense went back to work. Under heavy pressure, quarterback Philip Shelton tried to throw the ball away, but Vince Villagomez intercepted it and returned it to the Canyon five-yard line, where after some penalties pushed the Cavaliers back, Mayfield connected with Tyler Payne for a 15-yard score.

Mayfield finished 11 of 15 for 215 yards and three scores. He completed just two passes after halftime.

In all, Lake Travis gained 398 on just 34 offensive plays. Canyon dominated possession but managed only 170 yards on 57 offensive plays. The Cougars suffered three second-half turnovers.