When Lehman football coach Todd Raymond led the team at McCallum, he occasionally saw an energetic middle-schooler named Tyler Henderson bouncing around high school track meets. The burgeoning young athlete was accompanied by his mother, Sheila Henderson, an assistant athletic director for the Austin school district who oversaw the track and field programs.
Half a decade later, Raymond’s in his fifth season as Lehman’s coach, and Sheila Henderson is the athletic director for the Lockhart school district.
And young Tyler? He’s now a 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound jack-of-all-trades senior who takes on a variety of offensive roles for the Lobos, who open their District 25-6A football schedule Friday against Vista Ridge.
“Sheila and I had a close relationship in Austin,” said Raymond, McCallum’s football coach from 2009 to 2011 who also led the Knights’ track and field team. “I’ve known Tyler and his family forever. He’s a great kid, and we have a great relationship. It’s almost like a big brother-little brother thing.”
Tyler Henderson, whose father, Orlando, works at Lehman as an instructional aide, agrees about the familial feel around campus.
“I feel like I can tell (Raymond) anything and he can tell me anything,” Henderson said. “It’s almost like a father-son relationship. There’s nothing we can’t talk about.”
There’s been plenty to talk about this season at Lehman. With victories over Akins and San Antonio Jay in their final two nondistrict games, the Lobos (2-2) snapped an 18-game losing streak and posted back-to-back wins for the first time under Raymond. And during the summer, Henderson became the first player in Lehman’s 10-year history to commit to an FBS school when he pledged to Navy as a wide receiver.
Now, Henderson and his teammates want to add to their historic firsts this season. Lehman has yet to reach the playoffs in 10 varsity seasons and has never beaten neighborhood rival Hays, a fact that nags at Lobos past and present.
“There are obviously the two big dogs in our district,” said Raymond, referring to state-ranked powerhouses Lake Travis and Westlake, “but then there’s a wad of everybody else. We’re playing better than people thought we would, and no one has really separated themselves in nondistrict (for those last two playoff spots).
“The way we look at it, it’s a tossup to get to the playoffs at this point.”
A postseason berth and a much-desired victory over Hays on Oct. 7 will depend on Lehman’s ability to continue running the ball successfully. In the past two weeks, Lobos tailback Bryan Mendoza has rushed for 349 total yards and four touchdowns while Henderson — who sometimes directs a Wildcat formation for Lehman — has added three TDs, one a 57-yard run against Jay. Not coincidentally, Lehman has outscored its past two foes by a combined 71-21.
Such success can be felt in the school’s hallways as well as in the Lobos’ locker room, Mendoza said.
“You can tell the energy has changed, big time,” Mendoza said. “The school spirit is up, and everyone is getting excited. We’re even getting a fan bus for road games, and that hasn’t happened in the past.
“ I think everyone realizes that we have a chance to beat Hays, get to the playoffs and make history.”
And yet, Henderson cautions his teammates to be wary of a Vista Ridge team that has lost three consecutive games but advanced to a Class 5A, Division I state semifinal last season.
“It’s a new experience for some of the guys, and we just have to keep our head in the right place,” Henderson said. “Let’s keep it going every day and keep surprising people.”
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