Johnathan Gray Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)
You can't stop Johnathan Gray, you can only hope to contain him. Lake Travis took this lesson to heart. More after the the jump.
Lake Travis doesn't play often in the Metroplex against a future Texas superstar, so when I saw @ Aledo on the schedule, I knew I had to make the game. A couple 512 phone calls later, and I had my ticket.
Make no mistake about it, this was a huge game. How many high school games have jet flyovers?
I knew a few things going into the game. Johnathan Gray is bonified superstar, Lake Travis is an excellent to great team, and Aledo has a suspect defense. The game didn't change any of my opinions. I focused on the teams and three players, Johnathan Gray, 2012 Lake Travis TE / WR Griffin Gilbert and 2014 Lake Travis RB Shaun Nixon.
Johnathan Gray Observations
Johnathan Gray was spectucular, but overshadowed by Lake Travis' offensive dominance. Gray totaled 316 total yards and 4 touchdowns (29 carries, 269 yards, 4 catches 47 yards). Gray had stunning touchdown runs of 82 and 68 yards. It's pretty simple, once Gray gets into the secondary against any high school team, he's housing it. Taking good angles, and pinning Gray against the sideline aren't going to work. You can forget about anybody walking Gray down at this level. Gray has that next gear to make him an outstanding home run threat. Malcolm Brown meet your Lightning. Texas fans should prepare themselves for plenty of flying shoulder bumps.
Gray also showed soft hands out of the backfield, and plus acceleration after catching the ball. Gray caught a broken play, desperation screen pass and turned a likely loss into a first down and goal from the 1 yard line. The Texas offense will need some help bailing out the young quarterbacks. Gray certainly fits the bill.
Gray also has tremendous power. He always falls forward, and despite being bottled up by the LT defense in the first quarter, Gray didn't make negative plays. He runs hard and finishes every run. Johnathan will move the pile, and I never saw him go down on first contact. Gray uses his feet well and he can continue moving after being spun sideways. Gray scored a touchdown and extended plenty of runs using a variety of spin moves.
I expected all of this from Gray, but I had never seen him after the play and on the sidelines. Gray's demeanor jumped out at me. Johnathan carries himself like one of the great ones. Great athletes don't try too hard, they just are. I saw a supremely confident, cool young man, that possesses the Mack Brown copyrighted "swagger." Aledo trailed by 20 + points for much of the game, but Gray still wanted to be out there for every play and rally his team. The Aledo crowd, perhaps irrationally, thought that Gray could bring them back. Gray didn't pout on the bench, and despite being shaken up on a big hit, was out there on the very next play in a blow out. This isn't a kid that points fingers, and stews on the sidelines. Johnathan is a fierce competitor. Watch out would be Gregory ballers.
Gray broke the state record for rushing touchdowns with 148. Current Texas running back Traylon Shead previously held the record.
Griffin Gilbert Observations
Somebody serve me some crow, I was very, very wrong on Griffin Gilbert. I was one of the many Texas fans howling about Gilbert's Texas offer until it was clarified as a grayshirt offer and not a full scholarship. I think Texas might wish they had that one back. Griffin isn't his listed 6'5," he's probably pushing 6'7" hard, very hard. The young man is tall. Griffin is unstoppable on jump balls, but he's more than a go and get it receiver. He's a complete wide receiver. Griffin runs good routes, present his quarterback with a good target, and can do something with the football after he catches it.
Griffin had 7 catches for 117 yards and 4 touchdowns. 3 TDs came on jump balls, and a 36 yard touchdown when he got behind his defender. Griffin can get separation with his route running ability, and his speed is more adequate that advertised. Griffin did not line up once at TE for Lake Travis, it's a position he might have to learn at the next level.
TCU is getting a good one in Griffin Gilbert. Griffin is huge threat in the red zone on jump balls. Griffin could significantly improve red zone scoring percentages by himself. It's not real hard, throw it up and Griffin will go get it. I have no idea how his body fills out at the next level, or if he'll ever carry enough mass to play TE, but he's an offensive weapon wherever he plays.
Shaun Nixon Observations
I was very excited to see Shaun Nixon live. However, fate and the Lake Travis coaching staff had different plans. Nixon is currently playing through a turf toe and was unavailable the previous week.
Nixon's legend has been growing after a productive freshman season. Nixon and 2014 Everman RB Terrence Cook have emerged as the sophomore running back names Texas fans should remember. Nixon was used sparingly, but I liked what I saw.
Nixon looked taller than his listed 5'9." Nixon is solidly built, the listed 185 is about right. Nixon had an excellent kick off return, and threw excellent blocks in limited action. When Nixon did get carries, he showed excellent shake and good feet. Nixon tip toed the sideline on a good run late in the game.
Nixon's carries will probably be limited this year as senior SMU commit Colin Lagasse has taken over the starting running back job after starting at quarterback in Week 0 against Westlake. Hopefully Nixon will put together some good film this season to place himself firmly on Texas' radar. Nixon's junior film should be excellent.
Lake Travis defeated Aledo 62 - 35 in front of 8,000 fans at Bearcat Stadium.
Lake Travis: Somebody better tell Lake Travis players born after 1989, that winning the state title every year isn't a birth right. I'm not sure if they'll listen. Lake Travis is a machine. They just plug kids into their system and the program keeps rolling. Baker Mayfield to Griffin Gilbert is a lethal combination in the red zone. Colin Lagasse is a versatile hard runner, who gets tough yards and makes big plays.
Lake Travis' defense played well. Gray is going to get his. Period. The LT defense slowed Gray enough to allow the offense to put enough points on the board to put the game away. The game was briefly tied at 14, but Lake Travis took over after that. Aledo was able to cut the lead to 9 points, but the game was never in doubt after the second quarter.
Lake Travis looks destined for a record breaking 5th straight state title, and I'm not the only one saying that.
Aledo: I think it's unfair to call Aledo a one man team, but I would put Johnathan Gray in parentheses under Aledo on the UIL trophies. Johnathan Gray is a team guy, but it's difficult to ignore the lack of support. Baylor QB commit Matthew Bishop can do some nice things with his feet to keep defenses honest on Gray, but I was not impressed with Bishop throwing the football. Baylor is going to have to move Bishop to another position, or starting running the Bone. If Aledo has any wide receivers, I didn't notice one.
Aledo's defense remains a concern. Lake Travis dropped 62 on them, and Stephenville scored 47 against the Bearcats' defense in Zero Week. It's still early, but Aledo will have to tighten up on defense before I can consider them a serious state championship contender. That being said, never count out a team with Johnathan Gray.
The game turned out exactly how I wanted it to go. Johnathan Gray had a huge night, and Lake Travis won.
A little housekeeping news: 2013 Kennedale MLB Brett Wade visited the 40 for the BYU Game. The visit went well. Wade's head coach told Hook Em 247 that Texas is after Wade "hard." Coach Chambers went by Kennedale in the spring to check on Wade. If Wade isn't scared off by GoHornGo's man crush, I think Texas has excellent shot to land the Kennedale product. TAMU is also chasing after Wade's signature.
In a timely tribute to the Gilbert Family, I'll leave you with Griffin Gilbert's junior film:
Lake Travis HS - Griffin Gilbert Junior Year Highlights 2010.mp4 (via vrs77n)