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Following loss to Judson, Lake Travis looks to rebound against another top 10 rival

Originally published in the Lake Travis View

For the second straight year and fourth time since 2013, Lake Travis players and coaches spent Labor Day weekend recovering from a season-opening loss.

“Any time you lose, it affects your entire team,” said senior tight end Kyle Wakefield following the Cavaliers’ 65-45 loss to Converse Judson Friday night. “We just have to stay focused and take things one game at a time. We know if we can beat Steele, the Judson game is forgotten.”

That philosophy worked for the Cavaliers last year. After a frustrating loss to Judson, the Cavaliers regrouped and did enough to outscore an explosive Cibolo Steele team, jump-starting a run to the state championship.

As he did a year ago, Lake Travis coach Hank Carter knew Judson would present his team a formidable challenge. The Rockets entered the game as the state’s top-ranked team and did nothing to disprove the pundits.

“That’s a really good program,” Carter said Sunday afternoon. “The quarterback [Julon Williams, newly committed to Houston], if you don’t keep him in front of you, he can, and did hurt us badly.”

A fourth year starter with experienced players around him, Williams exposed Lake Travis’ relative inexperience. While the yards (723) and points the Rockets amassed proved hard to stomach on the Lake Travis sideline, Carter already knew his team’s inexperience would be a challenge.

“I don’t know that there was anything revealed Friday that we weren’t already aware that we needed to work on,” he said. “We’ve just got a lot to learn. We’re playing more sophomores than we’re used to playing because they are very talented and going to be great players but they’re young. Even some of our upperclassmen have not played in their current position or even played a varsity game.”

Those young Cavaliers will have to grow up quickly as a talented Steele team makes the drive up from San Antonio looking to avenge its only regular-season loss a year ago.

“It’s out of the frying pan and into the fryer,” Carter said. “This is a great team. Steele is similar to Judson with their athletes. Their skill kids are excellent and they’re really big on the offensive line but they may not be as big on the defensive line as Judson or as big as they were a year ago.”

The Knights opened the season with a 36-3 win over Madison behind a bruising rushing attack that gained 375 yards despite missing pre-season all-state running back Brendan Brady. De’Quavion Thomas and Tylee Tyson combined for 325 yards, and new quarterback Onyx Smith attempted just five passes. Defensively, the Knights rely on all-state safety Caden Stearns, a dual-threat who caught a trio of touchdown passes against Lake Travis last year. He had four tackles and an interception against Madison.

If Lake Travis’ sophomore laden team hopes to mirror how last year’s senior-laden team bounced back, they must work themselves into game shape and up their physicality, Carter said.

“We know we’ve got to play ourselves into football shape, especially because we play several teams that are no huddle and playing fast,” Carter said. “We need to get ourselves to where we can play our kind of football for 48 minutes, not just sporadically.”

That process began mere hours after the Cavaliers returned from Judson.

“We came in Saturday and lifted weights and then did a lot of running,” Wakefield, who caught a pair of early touchdown passes, said. “I think we are going to be ready for Steele.”

Carter also wants the Cavaliers to be more physical at the point of attack, but conditioning and physicality are merely two of many things Carter said must improve, but these aren’t necessarily specific to Friday night.

“This isn’t anything different than a year ago week 2 or the year before that week 2,” he said. “It’s every year. You’ve got fires all over the place that you’re trying to douse.”

Based on his experience and the glimpses of positive signs he saw at times against Judson, Carter’s confident his team will regroup quickly.

“We’re disappointed that we lost,” he said. “We’re disappointed we gave up that many points. But I’m encouraged by what I saw for a lot of it. There are a lot of reasons to feel good about what’s coming this year. We’re going to be dang good. We’ve just got to get them taught.”