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Junior all-state running back Johnathan Gray and the Bearcats will be on the state-wide stage when No. 2 Aledo travels to No. 1 Lake Travis on Friday (Sept. 10) to take on the Cavaliers in a battle between last year's Class 4A state champions.
By Tony Eierdam
The Community News
Every year, after the UIL football playoffs are decided, each classification awards two state championships in football.
The Division I champion comes from a pool of the largest teams in the classification, while the Division II champion comes from a playoff bracket played by the smaller schools in each classification.
Each season four teams qualify for the playoffs in each district, and each district must send two teams to each playoff bracket. The two largest enrollments from each district go one direction while the pair of smaller school goes to the other playoff bracket.
Which naturally begs this question each and every year: Who would win between the Division I (big school) and Division II (small school) bracket.
This year in Class 4A, that question will be played out on the field when the Class 4A Division II defending state champion Bearcats travel to Lake Travis (just outside of Austin) to play the three-time Division I state champion Lake Travis Cavaliers, a team on a 48-game winning streak.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10.
The match up will feature two strong defense and two talented offenses. The Bearcats (2-0) will combat the Cavs’ defense with junior all-state running back Johnathan Gray and junior quarterback Matt Bishop, while Lake Travis (2-0) will rest its offensive hopes on the arm and legs of senior signal caller Michael Brewer.
Brewer has completed 47 of 84 passes for 596 yards and three touchdowns in wins over Austin Westlake and Pflugerville Hendrickson.
Brewer has already committed to Texas Tech and is the son of former Texas Longhorn starting quarterback Robert Brewer (1981-82). He has a strong arm, is quick on his feet and has excellent field vision. He led the Cavaliers to last year’s state championship in his first year as a starter.
Brewer was taken off the field last week in the Cavs’ 34-24 victory over Hendrickson, but Bearcats heads coach Tim Buchanan is preparing the Bearcats for Brewer.
“I expect him to play. He is too much of a competitor not to want to play in this game,” Buchanan said.
Recent reports our of Austin say Brewer will start against the Bearcats.
“Brewer is a little bit bigger and one year older than (Aledo junior quarterback) Matt Bishop,” Buchanan said. “He is the same as Matt with great vision and great running ability, but he is a little bit bigger (6-1, 175) than Matt.
“He runs the ball more than Matt does, on both designed plays and scrambles. Brewer is probably their best ball carrier. He loves to fake a handoff and run on designed plays that are meant for him to carry the ball.”
Lake Travis will use five wide receivers in no-back sets as its primarily offensive schemes.
“They have a running back, but he is more of a blocking back,” Buchanan said. “When they want to run the football one of their inside receivers will go into motion and receive the ball on a stretch play.
“They have a complicated offense – it is not an easy offense to break down. Every set that they get in they have about three different things they can do out of them – either pass, play-action pass or a running play.
“It’s (Tulsa University offensive coordinator and former Lake Travis head coach) Chad Morris’ offense and they do a great job with it.
“The thing we need to do is not give up big plays. We need to make them (slowly) move the ball down the field. Hopefully, they will make a mistake and we can get some turnovers.
“The thing about trying to pressure Brewer is that he is a very elusive quarterback. When we do get pressure on him, we need to wrap him up and tackle him. I don’t want our pass rushers leaving their feet (in an attempt to deflect a pass). We told our guys to get to the quarterback and tackle him like you would Johnathan Gray – be under control and bring him down. If we jump up, that gives him another half-second to deliver the ball, which he is going to do. He is very hard to sack.
“We will have to heat him up and get after him. We will have to blitz, we just can’t play a base defense (with only the down linemen rushing the passer) to get pressure on him.”
Buchanan also pointed that the Cavaliers’ offensive line is “big and good.”
Lake Travis is led on the offensive line by Taylor Potts. The 6-5, 270-pounder has already signed with Texas.
“Their offensive line will be the biggest we have seen this year,” he said. “Potts is a big kid who is very strong. But even though he is so big, you can’t pick him out on video because they are all big.
“And their fullback (Turney Maurer) has good hands and is a good blocker. But what he does is compliment the offense. He is by no means a Johnathan Gray, but is effective in their offense.
“Michael Pojman is their top receiver, and he also runs with the football.”
Lake Travis runs a similar defense as Aledo, a 4-2-5, and is led by inside linebacker Austin Williams, who stands 6-1 and weighs 223 pounds. Safety Colin Lagasse is also highly regarded.
“Williams is probably one of the best linebackers in the state,” Buchanan said. “He can run and hit. He is a college-level linebacker. He reminds me of (former Copperas Cove linebacker) Tanner Brock at TCU. And they have two safeties that are outstanding athletes.
“They run a 4-2-5 – TCU’s defense – and (Lake Travis head coach) Hank (Carter) is a riverboat gambler on defense, he likes to blitz and use a zone blitz. He is going to heat it up and have his defense come after the quarterback.
“These guys are pretty darn good at blitzing. We have not seen anything like this. Not this year, at least. They are physical.”
Buchanan said the strategy would not necessarily be to run Gray more than 30 times, rather, to put the ball in the air.
“We are going to have to throw the football,” he said. “These guys are good – we can’t be one-dimensional and try to pound the ball down their throats. We know they like to blitz two safeties and drop a backside tackle or end into coverage, and if they do that we need to be able to locate a receiver in an open zone.
“They will disguise (the zone blitz) and they will bluff, and it will be a challenge. They didn’t win 48 straight games not knowing how to play defense.”
The reason the two teams will square off is interesting. Both schools – because of their success – were having trouble finding a third non-district game. The other was to keep the money away from TV brokers and instead in the coffers of the two schools.
Lake Travis will play at Aledo in 2011.
“We decided to do a home-and-home rather than do a ‘Padilla Classic’ game in San Antonio (where both schools would not have cashed in on the entire gate),” Buchanan said. “We started talking about it in October (2009) and finalized it the first Monday in February. Fortunately, Lake Travis needed a game the same week we did. It is a long drive, but it won’t be next year.
“We understand the game is getting a lot of (statewide) hoopla, but once the game kicks off the kids will worry most about the guy in front of them. This is still a football game, and whoever blocks and tackles the best will win it.
“We are not worrying about media and all of that stuff. We are aware of their (winning) streak, and we do want to win. But that streak is tougher on them then it is on us. It puts a lot of pressure on them.”
Check this site Friday night (Sept. 10) for updates and video highlights.