ARLINGTON — Lake Travis played Saturday’s season finale as if the first 14 seconds never happened.
The Cavaliers battled back from a three-score deficit, scoring 24 unanswered points but ultimately falling to Allen 35-33 in the Class 6A Division I State Championship game Saturday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
“Our guys are mentally tough,” Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter said. “It develops with the season we’ve had. Our non-district is set up for the purpose so we can get in some adverse situations. You don’t know how you’ll respond until you get your nose bloodied a little bit. The kids didn’t panic.”
Lake Travis’ Ohio State-bound starting quarterback Matthew Baldwin went down with a knee injury on the first play of the game and the Eagles returned the fumble for a touchdown.
Sophomore Hudson Card —who spent most of the year as a receiver — came in for the rest of the game and finished with 224 passing yards and one touchdown, three interceptions and ran for 73 yards and a score.
“Of all the games to come in for, that’s probably the most pressure you can have,” Baldwin said. “He did a great job and stayed calm the whole time. He’s got a lot in front of him and he’s going to move on from this.”
Junior Lake Travis receiver Garrett Wilson caught eight passes for 99 yards. Kyle Wakefield ran for 24 yards and caught a touchdown. Defensibly, three Cavaliers finished with double-digit tackles led by Mauricio Trevino with 14. Ty Badciong and Bryce Roeder each had 12.
Allen running back Brock Sturgis ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Grant Tisdale had 82 rushing yards and one touchdown.
The Eagles out-rushed the Cavaliers 289-92, while Lake Travis held a 224-34 edge in passing yards.
“When you play a team like Lake Travis, you know it’s going to be the whole four quarters, “ Allen coach Terry Gambill said. “That’s what you’ve got to withstand.”
Sturges ran for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns for Allen, first from 13-yard out with just under 10 minutes left in the period and again five minutes later to extend the Eagles’ lead to 21-0.
Lake Travis started to fight back when Nathan Parodi returned a kickoff 84 yards on the ensuing kick. Card ran for a 3-yard touchdown on the first drive of the second quarter and Cameron Dicker hit a 32-yard field goal just before the half.
“The team was down and I knew we needed a momentum switch,” Parodi said. “I just try to go out there and be that guy that gets our team hype and back in the game. All it takes is one play and our team lifts their heads up.”
The second half started just like the game did, with a defensive touchdown. Sophomore Kyle Eaves took an interception to the house to give Lake Travis its first lead of the game.
Allen started to grind the running game on back-to-back drives, scoring first on a 13-play, 74-yard series and again after eight plays and 44 yards.
The Cavaliers counterpunched with a touchdown pass by Card to Kyle Wakefield. The game-tying 2-point conversion fell incomplete.
“I’ve got the best kids in the world. It was an awesome year. It was a grueling year, 19 weeks of tackle football will wear you down. Our program is not to the point where we like moral victories. We’re disappointed, we felt like we had a chance to win the game.”
Lake Travis has been to the state championship game eight times in the last 10 years — including three straight appearances — and have won six titles.
This season, the Cavaliers dropped their season-opening game to Converse Judson and lost to Westlake for the first time in a decade after a mass exodus of talent to the college level.
But this year’s team proved it truly was reloaded.
“When we graduated all those (great) players, everyone wrote us off and said it was going to be a rebuilding year,” senior defensive lineman Reid Bacon said. “We didn’t really listen to that. We decided to take it upon ourselves to be the best we could be and we did that.”