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Cavs’ season comes full circle
Saturday, December 18, 2010 | | 8
It was the culmination of the rockiest of the last four years – a stretch littered with injuries to 12 starters, a head coaching change and more losses than the team has suffered since the 2006 season.
Yet it ended in the same way each of the previous three had – with an ecstatic team hoisting another championship trophy.
“Coaches always try to find a silver lining in everything. We try to make a bad situation good,” Lake Travis first-year head coach Hank Carter said. “This season has been tough on us in a lot of ways – we faced a lot of adversity, had a lot of injuries and a head coaching change, which is a big deal. We had a play caller change, too, which is also a big deal.”
It all led to the moment the Cavaliers celebrated a 27-7 win over Denton Ryan for their fourth consecutive state championship.
“Everything we went through really made us tougher. It set us up to win a game like this,” Carter said. “That’s a slobber-knocking, physical team that we just beat, and we can play that kind of ball. A lot of people don’t think we can but we can. I’m so proud of our guys.”
Carter came full circle. Ten years after winning his first state championship with Bay City as an assistant coach against Denton Ryan, he won his first as a head coach against the same school.
He admitted afterward that if you told him he would be a state champion head coach at the same level in just a decade, he wouldn’t believe it.
“Ten years ago, when I won my first state championship as a coach of any kind, I was just a young punk – I was just happy to jump on the bus,” Carter said. “That was at the old Texas Stadium, so to come back here and do this, it’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m so proud of everyone involved with the program.”
Senior receiver Conner Floyd came full circle. The senior star receiver broke his leg against Westlake to open the season. But rehabbed and trained hard enough to play in the final four games of the season, catching two passes in the state championship game.
“It’s what we’ve been working for since day one,” Floyd said with tears still lingering in his eyes. “It felt good to be a part of it and to tear [Ryan] up. It’s just a great feeling to be back out here.”
Senior tackle Nick Magnella came full circle.
One year ago, he filled in on emergency duty when teammate Taylor Doyle badly injured his ankle and had to leave the game. On Saturday, he capped his first full season starting by trying to stop 4A Defensive Player of the Year Mario Edwards. In many ways, Magnella neutralized the Raiders’ biggest threat.
“Skill doesn’t compare to heart, at all,” Magnella said. “When you have a team that gives all its heart and all its effort, good things happen.”
Still, it takes skill to stop a threat like Edwards.
“He’s one of the most amazing defensive ends I’ve ever played against,” Magnella said. “The week’s preparation was about finding the biggest guy and having him come full force at me. I watched tons of film, studied all his moves and I think it helped me.”
Michael Brewer came full circle. Two years ago, he was tasked with the unenviable job of replacing Garrett Gilbert. Two years later, he has quarterbacked as many title winners as his predecessor, and created his own space in Lake Travis football history after a season when he endured plenty of punishment and missed three games due to injury.
“It means so much to me,” Brewer said. “To be able to share this with all of my teammates. They’re my best friends, I’ll remember them forever and there isn’t a better way to go out than this.”
Some players stood in the middle of the storm this year, watching the circles complete around them. Players like linebacker Austin Williams, who leads the team in tackles and never missed a game, or Griffin Gilbert, who leads the team in receptions and was a safety blanket for quarterbacks whose options kept dwindling because of injuries, or Colin Lagasse, who seemed to play every position necessary to shorten the learning curve for his teammates.
“It was about all of us stepping up,” Gilbert said. “I knew when Conner went down, it was my turn to step up. We all have that attitude, and I’m just so proud to be teammates with all of these guys.”
The experience of watching your teammates drop like flies around you, and doing your best to anchor everything, is one that Williams will never forget.
“It’s intense to go through that,” Williams said. “To see guys flying around and then go down. I’ve just tried to let it come to me. It’s become my own little world, my own realm in the middle of the field.”
When things weren’t going Lake Travis’ way, it was easy to question whether the coaching staff was in over its head without Chad Morris steering the ship. A title has silenced that criticism.
“We have the best coaches in the nation,” Gilbert said. “That’s my opinion, but Coach Carter is an amazing leader. To come out on top with him is incredible.”
The Lake Travis fans have come full circle. Heckled by Central Texas for being Westlake wannabes and fair-weather fans, they showed up to Cowboys Stadium with the most impressive crowd of the last four championships.
“It was the best Lake Travis crowd I’ve ever seen,” Brewer said. “I just want to thank the community for everything. When we ran out of the tunnel at the beginning, that was a sight that I’ll never forget. It was absolutely incredible. They were behind us the whole game, and when we looked up after kneeling the final time, it was a feeling second to none.”
As has been the case with every title before, it took more than one or two players to win this one, including the many that should be listed in this article, but can’t because there just isn’t enough room. It took a program and community that has made coming full circle a habit.
After the game, Carter was met with suggestions for next year’s slogan.
“Strive for five?” someone asked.
“I don’t know, maybe. I’m not sure that’s catchy enough.”
Another voice jokingly chimed in.
“One more makes five.”
“I don’t know about that one, either.”
You can’t blame them for not having a slogan yet – they’ve still got a parade to plan.