70° F Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Cavaliers covet another crown in a new class to put them into another stratosphere as a high school football program.

Coming off of five-consecutive Class 4A state championships, Lake Travis is aiming for its first-ever Class 5A state title this season. With all that has happened over the past six years and now 90 games, there is little that can or will surprise Lake Travis.

So it’s no shock that they’re ready to take on the rugged road to a title, starting with Pflugerville, which went 7-3 overall and 4-2 in District 16-5A to take the No. 3 seed.

The Panthers are probably one of the toughest three seeds in the entire Class 5A Division II bracket, having only lost to Stony Point and Hendrickson in district with a loss to Class 4A powerhouse Leander in the predistrict slate.

“I think they’re a very tough team; they’re in a strong district, and they played a lot of close games,” Lake Travis coach Hank Carter said. “They don’t give up points and can run the football – teams that can do that have a chance to stay in the playoffs quite a while.”

Carter and company spent the bye week focusing on themselves, and taking in the Pflugerville-Westwood game Friday night.

“It was nice to be able to see them in person, to get a feel for their speed and size and tempo they play at,” Carter said. “It was also nice to have a Friday and go sit and watch some football and see a whole game. Now, we’re ready to be back to playing games.”

Lake Travis finished the regular season as the District 15-5A champ, with a 9-1 overall mark and 6-0 perfect record in its first Class 5A season. The Cavaliers wound up ranked No. 8 in The Associated Press high school football poll.

Should Lake Travis surpass Pflugerville in the first round, the Cavs would play the winner of Spring DeKaney and Lufkin in the area round.

Although Division II is the smaller of the playoff schools – the two smallest playoff qualifiers in each district go to Div. II, the two larger schools go to Division I – Lake Travis has four ranked teams in its bracket. Top-ranked Katy is on the other side of the bracket, meaning the two teams would only meet in the state title game, as is the case with No. 3 Cibolo Steele and No. 10 Smithson Valley.

No. 5 Abilene could be waiting for Lake Travis in the semifinal round if the Cavs advance that far.

Having an open week as the last week of the regular season was a new wrinkle for the Cavaliers, but it is one that could be a boost with the tough slate ahead.

“We worked on fixing the things we’re doing wrong more than preventing what they’re doing,” Carter said. “It was different from the standpoint of us getting ready for playoff-type workouts while we were off. Now it’s time to hunker down for the stretch run.”

In the preseason, Lake Travis and Pflugerville were picked as the Austin American-Statesman’s top two teams. In looking at the common opponents between the two bidistrict foes, both Pflugerville and Lake Travis played Bowie, Westwood and Austin High this season.

Against Bowie, the Panthers rolled over the Bulldogs in the first game of the season 42-14. Lake Travis didn’t have it as easy, needing a strong effort to put Bowie away 24-14 back on Oct. 5.

Austin High scores also reflect two different games. Lake Travis barely escaped the Maroons with a 14-7 win, but Pflugerville ran away with a 34-14 win over Austin High in its second game of the season.

The Panthers suffered a narrow 10-7 defeat to Westwood on Nov. 9, and the Cavs had a similarly hard time with the Warriors, which wound up second in District 16-5A, as Lake Travis barely got by with a 28-24 win on Sept. 14.

Pflugerville coach George Hermann expects the Cavs to limit their mistakes and keep the same mentality that has carried them through a half-decade of success.

“They’re a 9-1 team, quality football team,” Herrmann said. “They don’t make many mistakes; it’s going to take our best football game to beat them. They’ve been very successful the last few years. Playing them is going to be a challenge. We’ve played some good football teams. We’ve played some teams that have gone deep in the playoffs before, so we feel like we’re ready to play them.”

The Panthers are going to run more than they pass, with running back Adrian Dilworth leading the charge with 1,086 yards and 16 touchdowns. Clarence Guidry added 375 yards rushing this season and six scores, and he was also the team’s second-leading receiver with 12 catches for 184 yards and two more scores.

“They’re extremely physical,” Carter said. “It may be the best offensive line as far as run blocking we’ve seen all year long. They have very talented skill players. They have four or five backs that are extremely talented. And their defense is really good as well. They have the biggest D-tackles we’ve seen all year.”

However, Dilworth was knocked out of the regular season finale and finished the game on crutches on the sideline. According to the Pflugerville Pflag, he is expected to play against Lake Travis. In his absence Kennard Rydolph led the Panthers with 43 yards rushing in the finale.

Quarterback Blain Kruemcke won’t do much with his legs but has thrown for 10 touchdowns this season.

He is 68-for-135 for 936 yards and five interceptions, while he has just 24 carries for negative yardage.

“They’re an offense that runs the ball; they go no-huddle, but they don’t typically try to play too fast,” Carter said. “That will shorten the game.”

The Panthers’ top receiver, Caleb Horton, had 15 grabs for 236 yards and three touchdowns.

“We feel like we’ve got the skill-guys that can matchup with them,” Herrmann said. “They’re a passing attack mainly. That’s what we’ve seen lately. They’re capable of running the ball, but the first thing we’re going to have to stop is their passing attack.”

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