Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Lake Travis' early ouster creates huge opportunity for area 5A teams
The silent “P” at the start of Pflugerville leads to some misspellings of the city and high school’s name. But a lot of people were stunned when they heard that there was also a “W” in Pflugerville on Friday night.
A very loud “W” — as in a win — against Lake Travis. Pflugerville, which finished third in its district, knocked off the five-time state champion that hadn’t lost a playoff game since 2006.
What a stunner. And what an opportunity for other teams in the Class 5A Division II Region II bracket, including Plano West (7-4) and South Garland (7-4). The winner of that game Friday will advance to the third round, where it could’ve met Lake Travis.
Without Lake Travis in there, the region appears wide open.
“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” South Garland coach Mark Cox said. “We’re just happy to get invited to the dance, and we’d like to keep our tie on for a while and keep dancing.”
That seems more likely with Lake Travis out, but I understand why Cox and Plano West coach Mike Hughes aren’t taking long looks at the rounds to come. The playoffs are about survival.
“We take it week to week,” Hughes said. “If we’re focused, we can beat anyone we play. If we’re not focused and we turn over the ball, we can lose to anyone.”
That holds true for a lot of teams. But there’s no doubt that the path to a state semifinal looks clearer after Lake Travis’ 23-20 loss to Pflugerville. I’m sure it also raised some eyebrows among the favorites in Region I, including Abilene (11-0), Waco Midway (11-0) and Colleyville Heritage (10-1), who could’ve met Lake Travis for a spot in the 5A Division II title game.
Lake Travis moved up to 5A this season, but a mystique surrounded it after its unmatched success in 4A. Lake Travis won a state-record 30 straight playoff games, including title showdowns with undefeated Denton Ryan in 2010 and Highland Park in 2007. It always seemed to find a way to pull out the close ones.
Instead of a matchup with Lake Travis, the South Garland-Plano West winner will get Lufkin (8-3) or Pflugerville (8-3). Both are quality teams, and there are other tough outs in the region, including Longview (8-3), Austin Westlake (7-4) and A&M Consolidated (9-2), which beat Lake Travis early in the season.
Lake Travis wasn’t at its best this year, but the departure of a five-time defending champ could hasten the arrival of a local team looking for a breakthrough. South Garland hasn’t been past the second round since 2009, and the last time Plano West was in the second round was in 2004. Jesuit (9-2), the other local team in Region II, also earned its first playoff win in eight years last week.
The Lake Travis loss surprised Jesuit coach Brandon Hickman, whose team takes on Longview on Saturday. But once you’re in the playoffs, he said, anything can happen — whether a team is a five-time defending champ or a playoff newcomer.
“We tell the players, ‘We’re not asking you to beat a team five times, we’re asking you to play well and beat them once,’” Hickman said. “You take them one game at a time, and that’s been our motto: 1-0 this week.”
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.