Batts, deep WR corps fire red-hot LBJ of­fense

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - SPORT SUNDAY - By Thomas Jones td­jones@states­man.com

The thun­der­storm that swept across Nel­son Field in the sec­ond half and stopped the game with 5 min­utes, 42 sec­onds left in the con­test was the only thing that damp­ened a red-hot LBJ of­fense in a 41-7 win over McCal­lum in the District 12-5A Divi­sion I opener be­tween these two fierce ri­vals.

Be­hind an­ther stel­lar per­for­mance from quar­ter­back Brian Batts, the Jags rolled up 364 of their 486 yards be­fore the break while build­ing a 34-7 half­time lead. The Jags fi­nally slowed down on the soggy turf in the sec­ond half, but LBJ (3-1, 1-0) had al­ready done plenty of dam­age while pick­ing up their big­gest win over McCal­lum (2-2, 0-1) since the 1990s.

“I credit our kids; they make my job easy,” said first-year LBJ coach Jah­mal Fen­ner. “They’re con­fi­dent, they be­lieve in our sys­tem, and they take care of the lit­tle things.”

Those lit­tle things — LBJ had just three penal­ties for 15 yards and didn’t fum­ble once de­spite the con­di­tions — added up to a big night for Batts and his deep

re­ceiv­ing corps. A ver­sa­tile se­nior who has played myr­iad po­si­tions dur­ing his three sea­sons on LBJ’s var­sity squad, Batts seems to have found a home be­hind cen­ter. He took over the start­ing spot in the sum­mer and has ac­counted for 14 to­tal touch­downs through the first four games of the sea­son. Three of those scores came in the first half against the Knights, in­clud­ing a 34-yard touch­down pass to Ed Thomp­son that came af­ter Batts weaved his way through an ar­ray of McCal­lum pass rush­ers be­fore fling­ing the ball down­field.

“I’m used to run­ning with the ball, so I’ve been stay­ing late and work­ing ex­tra on my pass­ing this year,” said Batts, who threw for 198 yards on 7-of-12 pass­ing and ran for an­other 66 yards on 10 car­ries. “I’m just try­ing to show out for all my team­mates.”

Donte Bour­geois led LBJ with 118 yards on four catches, but LBJ spread the scor­ing wealth. Six dif­fer­ent Jags reached pay­dirt, in­clud­ing sopho­more run­ning back Da’qwon Don­ald­son, who had 78 yards rush­ing.

Batts’ strike to Thomp­son mid­way through the sec­ond quar­ter gave the Jags an in­sur­mount­able 28-0 lead, and it helped give them brag­ging rights in what has be­come a high-stakes se­ries.

Since the de­cline of the Rea­gan foot­ball pro­gram in the early 2000s, the se­ries be­tween LBJ and McCal­lum has de­vel­oped into the best foot­ball ri­valry in the Austin school district. The two Class 5A pro­grams have been in the same district since 1992, and they are two of the three foot­ball pro­grams in the school district — along with Class 6A’s Bowie — that has a win­ning record since the start of the 2008 school year.

But it’s an­other stat that most con­cerns Fen­ner, a for­mer stand­out at Rea­gan who worked un­der for­mer LBJ head coach Andrew Jack­son, who died of cancer af­ter last sea­son. The win­ner of this game has claimed at least a share of the district ti­tle every year since 2004, but the ar­rival of pow­er­house Drip­ping Springs and a solid Seguin squad dur­ing UIL re­align­ment in Fe­bru­ary threat­ens that two-team grip on district.

“It’s all about pride, AISD pride,” Fen­ner said. “I’m a prod­uct of AISD, and we don’t want the (district) ti­tle to go out­side of this school district.”

Like Fen­ner, McCal­lum’s Tom Gam­merdinger is in his first sea­son as a head coach. Her served as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor un­der for­mer head coach Charles Tay­lor and helped con­struct a dom­i­nant unit that pro­pelled the Knights to a 14-1 record and a spot in last sea­son’s state semi­fi­nals.

But grad­u­a­tion gut­ted McCal­lum, and Gam­merdinger says a de­fen­sive unit that lost eight starters from 2017 still needs to cor­rect what he calls “things like mis­align­ments, wrong strength calls, down the line.”

“They (LBJ) have a ton of speed,” he said. “And I told the kids that you can’t make mis­takes against a team like this. You make a men­tal mis­take against them, and they’ll score. If you don’t line up right or make the tackle, they’ll make you pay.

“But all our goals are still in front of us. We have an off week (next week), and we have to get back to work.”

Jalen Sut­ton led McCal­lum with 92 yards rush­ing on 21 car­ries. Deron Gage, who ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2017 but missed the first three games of this year, ran for 58 yards in his re­turn to the field.

Over­all, McCal­lum had 199 yards of of­fense.

NICK WAG­NER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

LBJ quar­ter­back Brian Batts threw for 198 yards and ran for 66 more in a 41-7 win against ri­val McCal­lum at Nor­man Field. Batts ac­counted for 14 TDs in LBJ’s first four games.

NICK WAG­NER / AMER­I­CANSTATES­MAN

McCal­lum line­man Alvino Car­ba­jal lifts run­ning back Deron Gage over the goal line for a touch­down Fri­day against LBJ in Austin. It was McCal­lum’s only score of the night.

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