Batts, deep WR corps fire red-hot LBJ offense
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.
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.
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.