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Sept. 23, 1998

TAKING ON THE 'BIG GUYS' - Powerful Clemens Team Boasts Skill, Experience

        The pressure's on ... or is it? One week after suffering their school’s largest margin of defeat in five years, Fredericksburg High School varsity football team members now find themselves faced with what is arguably an even more formidable task: tackling perennial gridiron powerhouse Clemens.
       The Schertz team of District 29-AAAA is undefeated in three games so far this season, has out-scored its opponents by a 97-23 margin and is expected to make the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
       The latest notch in a string of 22 regular-season victories occurred over the weekend when the Buffs scored a 32-10 runaway win against much-larger New
       Braunfels High -- a club that was ranked No. 7 in state Class AAAAA rankings and one that made it to the state semifinals last fall.
       Before that, 17-year Buffalo head coach Robert Lehnhoff’s team, which sports a string of 20 consecutive league wins and which is after its fourth straight district title, opened with an easy 51-6 AAAAA Brackenridge triumph before easing by AAAA New Braunfels Canyon (14-7).
       Still, what do the Fredericksburg Billies, who fell this past Friday to Smithson Valley, 34-0, have to lose by playing the larger school (1,643 enrollment) at 7:30 p.m. this Friday in Schertz?
       Nothing, many would say.
       Hailing from a school with a much smaller average daily attendance (915), FHS (2-1) on Friday won't be under pressure as the expected victor and consequently can play the role of giant-killer.
       Clemens has 18 lettermen -- including five offensive and three defensive starters -- back from a 12-1 squad that won a district title (5-0) in 1997 on the way to making it as far as state quarter-final competition.
       In addition, the Buffalo squad is the third of five Fredericksburg pre-district foes who made it into the playoffs last fall.
       This baptism-by-fire approach for conditioning FHS for league play, while challenging, has proven beneficial in recent years.
       Two years ago in 1996, the Billies lost all but one of their five pre-loop games (including a 24-7 decision to Clemens) before going on to win a district title.
       The same thing happened last fall when the 1997 FHS varsity followed a 1-4 start (again falling to the Buffs, this time by a 42-14 margin), only to take Fredericksburg's third straight district title.
       In fact, the only time in recent history that a Fredericksburg vanity has downed Clemens occurred in 1995 when the Billies slipped by, 12-7, again on the way to the post-season action.
       Predictably, FHS head coach Jerald Klett this week said his team is doing the best it can after the Smithson Valley shellacking in order to surprise Clemens on Friday.
       "The kids were fired up and have looked good during workouts this week," he said late yesterday afternoon. "We've stepped up the difficulty factor during practices, and so far our players have responded well."
       Meanwhile, he said the Smithson Valley loss is now history.
       "There's nothing we can do about it," he said of that game which was the largest margin of defeat since a Billie varsity fell to Marble Falls by 41-6 in 1993. "We're just going on and getting ready for this next game, although last week's loss definitely got our attention."
       Standing in the way of any Fredericksburg plans for an upset is a powerful Buffalo team bolstered by, among others, running back Donnie Pinkerton (5-8, 155) who last season rushed for 1,887 yards and who before last week's New Braunfels battle had been averaging over 12 yards per carry in 1998.
       In general, Clemens has speed to burn this fall since the Schertz school returns all four members of a 400-meter relay squad (brothers Donnie and Damien Pinkerton, D.J. Johnson and K.R. Carpenter) who set a school record last spring.
       "Donnie Pinkerton is a good one with very good speed," Klett said. "The danger with him is that, while you might be able contain him for four plays, if you don't watch it, he'll get away from you on the fifth."
       Responding to the signals of senior quarterback Scott Lehnhoff (6-2, 185), the Buffaloes also benefit from the help of fullback Jesus Lira (5-11,200) who scored a touchdown and led his teammates in rushing last week with 87 yards. And then there is also wide receiver Carpenter (5-10, 165) who snagged a pair of Lehnhoff TD tosses against NBHS.
       "Lehnhoff’s ability to throw the ball short or deep on the bootleg or sprint-out really keeps you off balance," the Billie coach said. "The fact that they can run or pass with equal effectiveness prevents opponents from keying on any one aspect of their offense."
       Finishing out the overall Buffalo yard-gobbling package is a formidable offensive line led by junior Nathan Heiman (6-4, 230) and senior Ben Niemietz (6-1, 230).
       "Their entire line is big and does a particularly good job on pass protection," Klett said.
       Across the line of scrimmage, the opposition would appear to be just as effective. "We have always stressed defense", Lehnhoff said.
       Suited up there are the likes of returning starters Patrick Jackson (5-10, 180 junior tackle), Cody Williams (6-0, 185 junior linebacker), Jamal Edwards (6-2, 210 defensive end), Mark Tafolla (5-8, 165 senior linebacker) and Scott Hall (6-1, 175 junior safety).
       "Edwards is very quick, and Tafolla is particularly effective on blitzes," said Klett who added that Damien Pinkerton (5-7, 145) is "really good in the secondary" while Hall does a good job shutting down the run and passing game.
       Across the field, Clemens head coach Lehnhoff (115-63-4) is also vocal in praising the Billie roster.
       "I'm confident that Fredericksburg's kids will play like crazy here Friday," he said yesterday afternoon in Schertz. "Last week's loss was a tough defeat against a really good Smithson Valley team."
       He acknowledged that the 1998 Buffalo varsity is a good team.
       "We knew we would have a good squad back this fall, even though it is a little young with; just five seniors on offense and three on defense," Lehnhoff said.
       He added that he's hopeful that the Buffaloes will continue to improve in time to launch his club into another successful district campaign. "We sure don't want to get to a point where all that stops."
       Neither team is expected to be substantially hampered in the injury department this Friday, although Fredericksburg defensive end-center Sergio De La Garza (6-0, 210) is questionable for the Clemens clash due to a thigh injury.

Turnovers Trip Up Varsity In Shutout To Rangers

      Two weeks after benefiting from opposition turnovers in a 33-0 win against Llano, the shoe was on the other foot for Fredericksburg High School varsity football players this past Friday in neighboring Comal County where the Billies suffered a 34-0 non-district loss to Smithson Valley.
      Were it not for four FHS miscues, the game might have had a happier ending for the Billies.
      But, as it was, two fumbles, a blocked punt and a kickoff mix-up all served to produce 20 Ranger points and help the hosts record their third straight 1998 shutout while improving to 3-0.
      "We just got down," said FHS head coach Jerald Klett whose team dropped to 2-1 in pre-district action. "If we could have scored on our first drive, I think we would have been in good shape."
      But after moving 38 yards on their first possession down to the Ranger 26, the Billies committed their first of four turnovers by fumbling behind the line of scrimmage back at the SV 35.
      From there, the Rangers -- who defeated Fredericksburg last fall by 18-6 in bi-district action -- drove 55 yards to score on a 7-yard Marc Coleman field goal with 5:37 to go in the first quarter.
      More bad news followed soon thereafter when FHS punter Danny Marquardt's kick was blocked, setting up a 33-yard touchdown pass from Ranger quarterback Michael Peel to Dustin Tondre. With 2:54 left in the period, Coleman added the one-point PAT kick for a 10-0 Smithson Valley lead.
      On the ensuing kickoff, another wheel fell off the FHS victory wagon when the Rangers came up with the ball at the FHS one-yard line. Coleman's third kick ensued with the clock reading 2:87, and the Billies were in real trouble, down by 17-0 still in the first stanza.
      "From there, 'Big Mo' left us in a hurry," said Klett who acknowledged that, although Friday's loss was the result of a combination of problems, turnovers (five fumbles and three pass interceptions) have been hurting the Billies ever since the season officially started three weeks ago.
      "We have to eliminate those kinds of mistakes if we're going to be a good football team," he said, adding that, in addition to "hanging onto the football, Fredericksburg must drive the ball more consistently.
      After the hapless first quarter, the Rangers scored on their fifth possession, moving 72 yards to score on only one of the night's three sustained SV drives. This time it was Peel connecting on a five-yard TD toss to Aaron Garcia before Coleman's toe put the hosts further ahead, 24-0, with 9:41 left in the half.
      A rejuvenated Billie defense shut down the Rangers through the remainder of the second period and on throughout much of the third before the Comal County team put together a 44-yard scoring march that ended just after the fourth quarter got underway.
      This time it was Peel hooking up with Greg Williams on a five-yard aerial with 10:38 left to play. Coleman then boosted the score to 31-0 with the PAT kick.
      Credited by Klett for "playing pretty good football," the FHS defensive unit successfully held the hosts at bay following another FHS fumble on the ensuing kick-off, but that was not to be the case later in the fourth when Fredericksburg fumbled a third time deep in their end of the field.
      At that, the Rangers recorded one more score as Coleman split the uprights with a 35-yard field goal as the clock read 2:l2 to go in the game.
      Fredericksburg was then able to dent Smithson Valley's defenses for only the second time in the night, but the march died on downs with 6nly 13 seconds left just inside the Ranger 20.
      In fact, of the 12 times that Fredericksburg got its hands on the ball Friday, the visitors had possession across the midfield stripe only twice, moving as close to paydirt as the hosts' 26 (on FHS’ first possession of the game) and the 19 (on the last).
      The final score was in marked contrast to FHS' previous two games in which the Billies had rolled up a 28-AAAA scoring high of 60 points and just seven allowed.
      The loss was also the first time a Fredericksburg varsity had suffered a shutout since 1994 when Kerrville blanked FHS, 2-0.
      Held to just 88 yards in total offense (compared to Smithson Valley's 265), the Billies were led in the rushing department by Manuel Gonzales (40 yards) and Freddy Cantu (36).
      Meanwhile, FHS signal caller T.J. Theis accounted for 31 net yards passing, with Justin Klaerner grabbing two aerials for a net 17 yards.
      On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Ranger running back Eliseo Saldana rolled up 100 yards rushing as teammate Donnie Couser added another 47.
      In the air, SV quarterback Peel connected on nine passes for 124 yards as teammate Cody Fuller caught two for 50 yards.
      Defensively for FHS, tackle and assisted-tackle leaders included Drew Woerner (8-3), Chris Weirich (7-4), Jamie Reeh (6-1) and Barrett Durst (5-3).

(To see all the stats go to the schedule section and click on the game)-Sorry not available yet!

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

ON THE MOVE, Fredericksburg High School varsity speedster Freddy Cantu makes the turn and heads upfield for a short gainer Friday night at Smithson Valley. Cantu was held to 36 yards rushing, while fellow tailback Manuel Gonzales could manage just 40 yards on the ground in FHS' first loss of the season.

-Standard-Radio Post Photo by Cathy Collier

TOUGH TALK--Trying to help his team climb out of a turnover-plagued hole, Fredericksburg High School head football coach Jerald Klett has a sideline talk during Friday night's game at Smithson Valley with Kaleb Kothe (11), Dustin Mills and other Billie varsity gridmen. FHS ended up losing the pre-district game, 34-0, to fall to 2-1.

-Standard-Radio Post Photo by Cathy Collier

YARDAGE WAS SCARCE Friday in Smithson Valley for the Fredericksburg High School varsity offensive unit which could muster only 88 yards in total offense in a 34-0 loss to the Rangers. Here, while teammate Adam Kiehne blocks, running back Manuel Gonzales (33) cuts left, looking for daylight in the pre-district contest

-Standard-Radio Post Photo by Cathy Collier

REACHING for one of the seven tackles he recorded Friday night at Smithson Valley, Fredericksburg High School varsity junior defender Chris Weirich (21) gets a hold of Ranger ball carrier Aaron Garcia.

-Standard-Radio Post Photo by Cathy Collier