As spring practice kicks off, Cavaliers begin next quest for state championship
The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least that’s what Lake Travis hopes to prove as it begins its spring football practice schedule on Monday morning.
The Cavaliers have played for a state championship in each of the last three seasons, winning in 2016. Last season’s 35-33 loss to Allen came in what many outside of Lake Travis considered a rebuilding year after as many as eight 2016 starters left for FBS colleges. Graduation took its toll on the 2017 runners-up too, but head coach Hank Carter said the Cavaliers are ready to reload for another run.
“Our program is about as deep as we’ve ever been,” he said.
Spring will give Carter and the coaching staff, including new offensive coordinator Will Stein, their first look at the nucleus of the 2018 squad. Some key pieces return from last year’s squad – top national recruit Garrett Wilson, defensive tackle Kaleb Wenson and a trio of offensive linemen to name a few – but competition will be intense for a number of key starting roles.
“I’m eager to get a look at this group of players – we’ve never had this team before,” Carter said. “There will be a lot of battling for top two spots at each position.”
With his defensive background, Carter will have a keen eye on the competition along the defensive front. Wenson, a senior, returns to provide a sizable presence on the interior after regaining his form following knee surgery between his sophomore and junior seasons. Sophomores Raleigh Erwin and Austin Spille will battle for playing time in their first varsity seasons.
“Defensive line is a big priority,” Carter said. “It’s the most important part of our team.”
Junior-to-be Maui Trevino returns after a solid debut season at linebacker, and the group also gets a boost from senior Matthew Peterman, who missed last season after injuring his knee in the 2017 spring game. He played extensively in the 2016 championship season as a sophomore.
“It’s great having him available again,” Carter said. “He gives us experience and size at linebacker.”
While the team’s top cornerbacks from last season return – Kyle Eaves and Copeland Gothard both started the title game as sophomores – the Cavaliers must replace a pair of graduated safeties. Newcomer John Hunter Henry arrives after starting at nearby Cedar Park and will figure in the mix either at safety or rover, and a host of young players will also compete for spots.
Offensively, all eyes will be on the quarterback spot, where junior Hudson Card figures to be next in the line of future major college quarterbacks – the last eight starters have earned Power 5 conference scholarships. Card, who stepped in when Matthew Baldwin left the title game after one play and nearly rallied the Cavaliers from a 21-0 deficit, won’t be handed the job outright, though. Peyton Janecek and Nathan Yarnell will compete for the chance to start during the spring.
“They can all spin it,” Stein said. “We like a guy who can run a little bit back there as well. We’re going to play the best kid. If we have multiple quarterbacks that can all play quarterback, then we’ll find ways to get them all on the field, whether it’s at quarterback, receiver, kick returner, something.”
Whoever wins the job will get plenty of protection. OLs Dawson Weiss and Andrew Salem return to anchor the front five as juniors along with senior Chad Wolf.
Wilson aside, the Cavaliers must also determine who’ll get the first chances to catch passes and run the ball. Fortunately, Carter said, the Cavaliers have plenty of players lining up at both positions at every level of the program.
“Running back and receiver are two of the spots where we’re the deepest,” Carter said.
The coach will also keep a close eye on the special teams, where for the first time in four years, a new kicker will take over from strong-legged Cameron Dicker.
“We’ve got three or four guys we’re looking at who’ve also got a soccer background,” Carter said. Sophomore Nathan Ellisor, who also played receiver and defensive back as a freshman, could be a kicker to watch.
Spring practice begins Monday. The Cavaliers will practice four times per week, primarily before school at 7:15 a.m.. The spring season culminates in the annual spring game, set for Friday, May 18.