Chaps fall short against Southlake Carroll


Senior offensive lineman Mike Haneman rests on the sideline during the Westlake vs. Southlake Carroll game.

Before Friday night’s game at Southlake Carroll, Westlake head coach Todd Dodge walked the field at Dragon Stadium and reminisced about his time leading the Dragons.

Dodge, Southlake’s coach from 2000-2006, guided the Dragons to four State Titles, and a 98-11 record. To him, playing the season opener at his former stadium was a surreal experience.

“I let myself go back for 10 or 15 minutes as we walked the field,” Dodge said. “[I have] lots of great memories from that place. After that, it was over, and I was focused on the game, and it never really crossed my mind once it kicked off. It just seemed like another game.”

Southlake elected to receive, and on their first drive of the game, Westlake’s defense forced them to punt. Westlake quarterback sophomore  Sam Ehlinger, starting his first varsity game, led the Chaps offense down the field on a five-play, 68-yard drive that culminated in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Sam to receiver junior Reid Klubnik.

“I was really prepared,” Sam said. “That helped on that first drive.”

Reid, a former quarterback, led the Chaps with 10 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.

“We think he has the potential to be a great receiver for us,” Dodge said. “He stepped up and was very impressive.”

After the teams traded punts, Southlake quarterback senior Ryan Agnew set up a field goal after a 66-yard run, making the score 7-3 in favor of Westlake going into the half.

“I think our players really bought into the fact that we weren’t going to Dallas just to make a good showing,” Dodge said. “We went in expecting to win the game.”

On their opening drive of the second half, the Dragon running back senior Lil’Jordan Humphrey scored from 18 yards out to make the score 7-10.

Two drives later, Carroll scored again, this time on a two-yard run by Ryan to take a 10-point lead with a quarter left.

Westlake’s offense, who’d been unstoppable on its first drive, sputtered throughout the second half, gaining only 20 yards in the third quarter, and late in the game the score remained 7-17.

With around two minutes left, Westlake took over on its own 48-yard line, and on the second play of the drive, Sam found Reid for a 16-yard gain down to the Carroll 36-yard line. The drive seemed to stall, and three plays later the Chaps faced a fourth and 18 from the Carroll 44, desperately needing a score to give themselves a chance to win the football game. It was now or never.

That’s when Sam made the play of the night. The sophomore QB dropped back to pass, and the pocket collapsed on him. A hole opened up in the middle of the line, thanks to a block by lineman senior Jordan Edgar, and Sam hit the hole, dashing downfield and then cutting back in front of two Dragon defenders, and spinning out of a tackle, willing his way to a 19-yard gain and a first down.

“What’s incredible is that Sam went from freshman football to varsity football in a tough atmosphere, and he performed really well for us,” Dodge said.

Westlake had a first down, but more importantly, they’d finally shifted the momentum, which had seemingly been with Southlake the entire second half, and got the crowd, many of whom had begun to pack up their belongings and prepare for the long drive back to Austin, back into the ballgame.

Two plays later, Carroll was penalized for a pass interference in the end zone, and Westlake got the ball on the Dragon two-yard line, where, on the next play, Reid hooked up with Sam on a two-yard reverse-pass to make the score 14-17.

But the Chaps still needed to get the ball back, and with under a minute left, they lined up for the onside kick. A penalty on the touchdown had resulted in the onside kick being placed 15 yards back from the usual spot, meaning Westlake kicker senior Rolando Navarro was kicking off from his own 25 yard-line.

“We had two penalties that really cost us,” Dodge said. “That was one of them. You look at that field position, had we not got the penalty, we could’ve been a lot closer to field goal range, and we could’ve been heading into overtime instead of losing.”

The kick traveled the mandatory 10 yards and found its way into the hands of Reid, giving the Chaps possession at their own 35 yard-line with little time to spare. But penalties killed the drive and Westlake turned the ball over with 13 seconds left, guaranteeing the 14-17 win for the Dragons.

“That’s why we practice our onside,” Dodge said. “[Rolando] our young kicker, got a perfect hop. We put Klubnik in there because he can jump, and he got the ball about a half-yard past the 10-yard mark. Unfortunately we just weren’t able to get the ball down into scoring range.”

Despite the loss, Westlake succeeded in proving the pundits wrong, as many predicted the Chaps’ trip to Dragon Stadium would end in them being blown out, and that couldn’t have been further from the truth. The two teams were nearly even in total offense, with Southlake racking up 267 yards to the Chaps 266.

“I challenged our really good players, especially those on the defensive side of the football, to play well and be leaders,” Dodge said. “[Several returning starters] played really well. That’s the first time in history, I know for a fact, Southlake has been held to under 300 yards of total offense in a game, much less at home. So hats off to our team, especially the defense for doing that. I think when a lot of people picked up the paper on Saturday morning, that score probably shocked a lot of people. Lots of folks thought it was going to be in the 40-15 range or the 50-20 range, and I think our players played with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder because of that.”

Really, the only difference was Westlake’s inability to mount a long drive following their first possession, as seven of the Chaps’ 12 penalties were called on the offense, putting them in long 2nd down and 3rd down situations.

“We really have got to improve offensively, especially along the line,” Dodge said. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t have a lot of holding penalties, and in terms of our entire offense, making sure we stay ahead of the chains. It’s hard to function when you’re in 2nd and 20, or 3rd and 15, all game long.”

On Sept. 5, the Chaps take on Temple in their home opener. Temple, in the lower 5A classification, beat Round Rock High School 35-28 last week, and moved up to number two in the AP 5A rankings. Last season, the two teams faced off in similar circumstances, and the Chaps mounted a 21-point comeback to win 45-41 in a thriller.

Dodge said he expects another dogfight this year.

“They’ve got one of the premier running backs and dual-threat quarterbacks in the state,” Dodge said. “We’ve got to work on tackling very elusive athletes in space, and be smart in that aspect of the game. They’re big and physical, and arguably we’re going up against an even better team than we went up against week one. I’m dang glad to be coaching at Ebbie Neptune Field.”