AUSTIN — Westlake has lost 10 in a row to rival Lake Travis. Its last win in the “Battle of the Lakes” came in 2007, when Derek Long was the head coach at Westlake, Jeff Dicus was still at Lake Travis, and these current seniors were in second grade.
The Chaparrals (6-0 overall, 2-0 in District 25-6A) will attempt to end that streak this Friday when they host the Cavaliers (4-1, 1-0) at Chaparral Stadium at 7:30 p.m. in the Texas HS Football Game of The Week.
“The one thing that you’ve got to make sure that your players understand is that the 2017 Chaparrals and the 2017 Cavaliers haven’t played each other,” Westlake coach Todd Dodge said. “If they just will stop and realize that this game obviously stands on its own, even though some people would like to think sometimes they think that a team that’s won for so many years in a row is a 14-point favorite, a 14-point advantage before the game has already started, but in reality that’s not the case.
The one thing that we want to make sure that our players are aware (is that) we are who we are. We’ve established an identity this year. I told them go out and play the way that we play. Don’t get so caught up in when people want to talk to you about nine or 10 in a row, and hats off to Lake Travis.
I’m not so sure how much of a rivalry it’s been, to be honest with you, lately. It usually takes two of them, someone else to win it. But bottom line, the game is very important to the people of these two communities and its most important to us and to the Lake Travis football teams because obviously the goal is for everybody is to win a district championship. Whoever wins this game has probably an upper leg on the district title.”
One reason Westlake fans might be optimistic is that Lake Travis’s defense hasn’t been playing up to its standards. The Cavaliers are giving up 35 points per game, which is almost triple the 12.6 points per game they allowed during last year’s state championship run. This year’s average includes a shutout of Pflugerville Hendrickson. In its other four contests, Lake Travis gave up 65 to Converse Judson, 31 to Cibolo Steele, 45 to Dallas Jesuit and 34 to Buda Hays.
“We just need to play better defensively,” said Lake Travis coach Hank Carter. “We take a lot of pride with the way we play offense, defense and special teams, and we haven’t played up to our standards for much of the season (defensively). But we believe in our kids, and our kids have a lot of pride and so does our coaching staff. Nobody on the outside has a higher expectation for how we should be playing than we do, and so our kids are understanding how we need to play in order for us to accomplish our goals, and are working at it. There is no guarantee.
Westlake is a great team. They’re a very balanced offense. They got a great running game. Quarterback can run the ball, he throws it well. They got tall weapons on the outside. They have a good screen game, good intermediate passing game. They’re a challenge so we’re going to have to go out there and play great assignment football, tackle and rush the quarterback with discipline and get as many guys as we can to get to (Nakia) Watson.”
Westlake will try to batter Lake Travis’s defense with senior running back Nakia Watson. The University of Wisconsin pledge is averaging 7.8 yards per carry with 985 yards and 13 touchdowns on 126 attempts. The Chaps are running the ball more than 60 percent of the time, which is high for a Dodge-coached team. Dodge has always been known more for his high-flying pass offenses than his ground-and-pound run game.
“It’s not so much that our philosophy has changed,” Dodge said. “The one thing as a coach you always want to make sure (is) that you identify what you do best. Over the last year and a half, probably what we’ve done best is run the football. I think our passing game and our wide receivers are starting to come into their own. If anybody will look back through the years when we were at Southlake Carroll, we always had a 1,500-yard rushing running back and a 1,000-yard rushing quarterback during those years.
A lot of times people thought that we threw the ball 60 percent of the time and ran it 40 percent of the time. But actually through all of my time at Southlake Carroll, and actually through my time at Westlake, we are closer to about a 52 percent run, 48 percent pass. It just happens to be that this has been the most successful window of rushing the football that we’ve had while we’ve been at Westlake, and it starts with our offensive line. They’re the ones that set the tone for us.”
Lake Travis knows if you put too much attention on Watson, however, that Westlake can still pop you with the pass. Junior quarterback Taylor Anderson has completed 59.4 percent of his throws for 1,124 yards, 10 touchdowns, and three interceptions. He’s also a threat to take off and run at any moment. The quick-footed signal caller has 413 yards rushing with six touchdowns on the ground.
“I always think they have a great offense,” Carter said. “Coach Dodge has been calling winning offense for a long, long time and this year is no different than any other year. They’re very balanced. You can’t just key on one guy. A lot of people like to talk about their running back, but if you watch the tape and you know anything about football you can see it’s not just about him. I think their quarterback is much improved. He’s a really good player. They got guys that catch the ball and can catch fades, can catch underneath routes. Their screen game is good. They do some run-pass option stuff and they’re tough. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Though Lake Travis has struggled defensively, it’s offense is humming along as usual. That’s mostly due to senior quarterback Matthew Baldwin’s seamless transition into the starting role. The Colorado State commit has thrown for 1,867 yards (373.4 per game), 24 touchdowns and two interceptions with a 69.2 completion rate, continuing the tradition of great signal callers to come out of the Cavalier football program. In his last outing, he threw for 459 yards and seven touchdowns against Hays. With Baldwin at the controls, Lake Travis is averaging 50.2 points per game.
“(He’s) extremely accurate,” Dodge said. “(He’s got a) great lower body as far as footwork. He never throws a pass off balance. He’s always got great balance. (He has) a really nice throwing motion, really nice transfer of weight. His situation and really his game reminds me a lot of Greg McElroy, that we had many years ago back at Southlake Carroll, where Greg backed up the reigning player of the year in the state of Texas (Chase Daniel) and he waited until his senior year and got his chance and did really well.
I’m sure Matthew has been waiting and waiting, and hats off to him. I respect quarterbacks who stick around and don’t transfer. A lot of time, nowadays, if you don’t get what you want immediately, you seem to want to go transfer to another school, and we’ve dealt with some of that here at Westlake. But hats off to him for waiting his turn, and obviously he’s having an outstanding senior year.”
Lake Travis benefitted from having a bye week leading into this game. The week off gave the Cavaliers extra time to rest their players and install their game plan.
“A bye week is great whenever it comes,” Carter said. “It gives us a chance to slow down and to work on the things that we know we need to get prepared for, and then our practices can be a little bit more physical because we don’t have to get prepared for a game on Friday night. I’d say as far as injuries, knock on wood, we’re in pretty good shape. Most of our injuries actually occurred in either spring ball or over the summer. We’re in pretty good shape as far as injuries.”
Brought to you by: