A year ago, Scott Lehnhoff was pacing the sideline as head football coach of the state-ranked Steele Knights.
On Friday night, Lehnhoff will face a different type of pressure when Judson and Clemens clash at the Schertz stadium named after his parents in a highly anticipated District 27-6A game.
Scott Lehnhoff resigned as Steele coach in January, a month after guiding the Knights to the Class 6A Division II state final, to become athletic director of the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD.
Lehnhoff will have his hands full coordinating game-day operations when Clemens (where his father Robert was the head coach for 23 seasons and served as athletic director) hosts Judson in a game expected to draw an overflow crowd.
Judson, No. 1 in the KENS 5 area Class 6A rankings and No. 2 in the Associated Press 6A state poll, and Clemens are both 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the 27-6A race. The Buffaloes are No. 3 in the KENS 5 rankings.
Lehnhoff had some advice early Friday for fans planning to attend the game.
“Better get there early because we don’t have a lot of parking and we don’t have a lot of seats,” he said. “We’re going to try to cram as many as we can into that little stadium, but it’s going to be a task.”
Tickets are still available and will be $8 at the gate Friday night.
With a seating capacity of a little more than 8,000, Lehnhoff Stadium is among the smallest 6A football facilities in the San Antonio area.
“It’s kind of an intimate setting,” Judson coach Sean McAuliffe said. “I know people complain sometimes about the seating arrangements but, heck, that’s part of the deal playing on the road. It’ll be a cool atmosphere.
“We enjoy playing over there. We haven’t had a lot of success over there on a consistent basis. It’s a real neat deal because our fans are right on top of us and their fans are right there on top of them, so it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Judson beat Clemens 31-24 last year and leads the series 16-10. The Rockets have won the last four meetings, including a 31-0 rout in the 2004 playoffs. The teams have met each of the past three seasons. Clemens’ last victory in the series came in 2003.
Clemens coach Jared Johnston, in his sixth season with the Buffaloes after serving on the staff at Steele, heaped praise on the 2017 Rockets.
“Judson is so talented offensively and defensively,” Johnston said. “There’s not a weak link on their team. They’re all good. They’re always talented, but since I’ve been playing them as a head coach, this is the best team Judson has had. Overall, at every position. That’s what’s impressive.”
The Buffs were expected to drop off slightly after losing prolific dual-threat quarterback Frank Harris to graduation, but they have combined a potent running game with a rugged defense for a winning combination.
McAuliffe said Clemens’ success is a testament to the stability and continuity of the program under Johnston.
“They’ve got them going really well,” McAuliffe said. “People sometimes forget that there’s life after a superstar athlete leaves. They have proven that with the Frank Harris kid gone. As good as they were with him, they might be even better without him, which is a scary thought.”
Senior running back Marshawn Brown and senior wide receiver Tommy Bush have taken up the slack for the Clemens offense this season, but it’s the defense that’s shone brightest through seven games.
Led by senior safety Darius Vandyke, Clemens has allowed an average of only 7.8 points in seven games and pitched three shutouts under the leadership of defensive coordinator Danny Lengyel.
“They’re big up front,” McAuliffe said. “They’re gap sound. I mean, it’s hard to move those guys. In all the games we’ve seen them, teams haven’t had a whole lot of consistent success running against them. They’ve got active, athletic linebackers that are cut from the mold of a DB look, not super huge, but they can run.
“In the back end, they’re real sound. It’s just a hard-playing, well-coached, fundamentally sound defense. They’re not flashy. What they do is line up and pound people up front and take the run game away. Then they force you to throw the ball into a pretty good secondary.”
The Clemens defense turned in a stellar performance in the Buffs’ 16-10 victory against previously unbeaten Smithson Valley last week, holding the Rangers to 170 total yards and 44 rushing in 26 attempts.
But the Buffs face a tougher task this week in trying to slow down an offense directed by senior quarterback Julon Williams, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the state.
Williams, who has committed to the University of Houston, has averaged 327.7 yards of total offense in six games. He has completed 58 of 97 passes, with three interceptions, for 1,333 yards and 14 TDs, and rushed for 633 yards and 11 TDs on only 59 carries (10.7 average).
Williams did not play in the Rockets’ 69-0 blowout of East Central two weeks ago after sustaining an unspecified leg injury against Steele on Sept. 29. He returned to play against Wagner but had a subpar game by his standards. Williams completed 9 of 22 passes, with two interceptions, for 158 yards and one TD, and rushed only two times for 10 yards.
If Williams is a no-go, junior running back Sincere McCormick, who subbed for him in the victory against East Central, will move to quarterback. McCormick completed 7 of 11 passes for 166 yards and three TDs against the Hornets.
The Judson offense has been a model of consistency and balance this season, averaging 500.4 yards (275.1 rushing and 225.3 passing).
Johnston said the Buffs expect Williams to start Friday night’s game.
“I can tell you right now that Julon is going to be at 100 percent when he plays us,” Johnston said. “I guarantee you that. He’s dynamic. I’m glad he’s a senior.”