Sadly, the Sam Ehlinger era of Westlake High football has come to an abrupt end.
In his injury-filled senior season, the final straw was a broken wrist he suffered a week ago in the Chaparrals’ 55-15 victory over Laredo United. X-rays taken Wednesday night confirmed that Ehlinger — Westlake’s record-setting quarterback and a Texas Longhorns pledge — had broken a bone in his right wrist.
As a result, Ehlinger said, he will be in street clothes when the first-ever postseason showdown between Westlake and Lake Travis takes place Friday night at Reeves Stadium. It’s the latest in a string of disappointing developments for Ehlinger, whose career numbers at Westlake surpassed those put up by Drew Brees and Nick Foles, former Chaparrals now playing quarterback in the NFL.
He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee after helping the Chaparrals to a season-opening victory over Katy, a defending state champion. About six weeks later, he underwent surgery on a broken right thumb, an injury he sustained Oct. 7 in a 49-7 loss to Lake Travis. Now, he says, doctors have told him that further damage to his broken wrist might set him back at UT, where he plans to enroll in January and participate in spring practices.
So the future Longhorn won’t get another crack at a state football championship, one season after Ehlinger and Chaparrals lost to Galena Park North Shore 21-14 in overtime in the Class 6A, Division I title game.
On Wednesday night, Ehlinger notified his fellow team captains — linebacker Levi Jones, guard Joe Heironimus and free safety Barrett Chambers — about the bad news. On Thursday, he spoke to the rest of the team before practice.
“I’m very disappointed I won’t get the chance to play with my brothers, contribute to another victory,” Ehlinger said.
Ehlinger was hurt on a rushing carry against Laredo United, saying his wrist was “smushed between two helmets.” He played well despite the injury, completing 16 of 22 passes for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns before exiting with Westlake leading 38-0 at halftime.
News of Ehlinger’s unexpected absence comes in advance of the most-anticipated football game in the Austin area this fall. Lake Travis (12-1) has beaten Westlake (11-2) nine straight times, but the Chaparrals have shown improvement throughout the Class 6A, Division I playoffs.
Lake Travis coach Hank Carter said he’s disappointed Ehlinger won’t play in the state-quarterfinal matchup.
“I know I’m the coach for a rival school, but I work with kids and I hate to see their careers end short like this,” Carter said. “I’m sure it’ll be disappointing for our players, too, because they enjoy playing against the very best.”
With Ehlinger out, Westlake will rely heavily on junior running back Nakia Watson, who missed his team’s earlier loss to the Cavaliers.
In games that Ehlinger played in this season, Watson averaged 16 carries for 91 yards. In games that Ehlinger missed, he averaged 20 carries for 144 yards.
Earlier this week, Ehlinger had his picture taken with his next coach, Tom Herman. They spoke about the coming 2017 season, the newly revamped Longhorns offense and Ehlinger’s possible role as a freshman.
Although Ehlinger said his heart was always been set on playing for Texas, he remembers receiving messages from Herman and Houston offensive coordinator — and former UT quarterback — Major Applewhite before his junior year. They urged him to consider playing for the Cougars if he ever wavered from his commitment to Texas.
As a junior at Westlake, Ehlinger brought back memories of Brees and Foles, piling up 71 total touchdowns — 50 passing, 20 running, one receiving — and being named the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors high school player of the year.
Despite appearing in only five games this season, Ehlinger finished with Westlake career records for passing yards (7,375), passing touchdowns (89) and total touchdowns (126).
His lasting memory as a Chaparral?
“Being coached by one of the greatest high school football coaches in the entire world,” he said. “Coach (Todd) Dodge has taught me so much. That’s what I’ll take away from Westlake, besides the brotherhood and relationships I’ve built along the way.”
THE MATCHUP BY THE NUMBERS
34.7;Points per game;51.9
14.5;Points allowed avg.;13.1
Individual statistical leaders
Westlake: Nakia Watson (223 carries, 1,540 yards, 22 TD). Lake Travis: Maleek Barkley (114-1,167-16).
Westlake: Sam Ehlinger (57 of 94, 850 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT). Lake Travis: Charlie Brewer (193 of 250-3,045-42-2). Note: Ehlinger won’t play Friday because of an injury.
Westlake: Andrew Boykin (62 receptions, 1,031 yards, 13 TD). Lake Travis: Cade Brewer (47-659-9).
Westlake: Levi Jones (100). Lake Travis: Mateo Lopez (121).
Westlake: David Neil (4½). Lake Travis: TJ Simien (13).
Westlake: Cary Andreo (5 — 4 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery). Lake Travis: Jake Foster (3 — 2 INT, 1 FR).
Despite his injury-plagued senior season, Sam Ehlinger will depart from Westlake — the alma mater of NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees and Nick Foles — with a number of notable distinctions and school records. Among them:
- First three-year varsity starter at quarterback.
- School career records for passing yards (7,375), passing touchdowns (89), total offense (9,734 yards) and total TDs (126).
- School single-season records for passing yards (3,833), passing touchdowns (50), total offense (5,257) and total TDs (71).
- Texas Associated Press Sports Editors high school football player of the year for 2015.
CLASS 6A, DIVISION I STATE QUARTERFINAL
Lake Travis (12-1) vs. Westlake (11-2)
7:30 p.m. Friday (Reeves Athletic Complex)