Wakefield shifts into backfield in bid to boost Lake Travis offense

A little noticed aspect of Lake Travis’ victory over San Antonio O’Connor last week could play a pivotal part of the Cavaliers’ state semifinal matchup against Katy on Saturday.

In the Cavaliers’ 38-17 triumph over O’Connor at the Alamodome, junior wide receiver Garrett Wilson made headlines by scoring three touchdowns, and as usual, Lake Travis quarterback Matthew Baldwin drew plenty of postgame attention after the Class 6A, Division I state quarterfinal.

But Cavaliers senior Kyle Wakefield, the football equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, made his way to the locker room free of any fanfare.

With one bruising run after another, though, Wakefield churned out 102 yards on 20 carries — both career highs — and became the first non-quarterback to rush for 100 yards in a game for the Cavaliers this season.

“Our offensive line opened up gaps and let me run through them,” said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Wakefield, who opened this football season at tight end before moving to running back. “With (O’Connor’s) defense having to worry about the phenomenal athletes we have outside (in Wilson and fellow receiver Hudson Card), we were able to run all over them.”

Said Cavaliers coach Hank Carter, who guided Lake Travis to the 6A, Division I championship last season: “I love the way that Kyle ran the ball last Saturday and I love the way our offensive line played. We need more of that this week.”

Wakefield knows Lake Travis must establish a running game to keep Katy from focusing solely on stopping Wilson and Card. He also knows that running the ball against the state’s stingiest defense will be a tall task. Katy will enter the semifinal round with a 12-0 record and a No. 5 ranking in the latest USA Today Super 25 national poll after allowing just 6.0 points per game.

Two years ago, Katy rolled past Lake Travis 34-7 to claim a 6A, Division II state title, its eighth UIL football championship.

“They have a lot of really big guys who are going to play Division I (football),” Wakefield said Wednesday. “Their nose tackle (Moro Ojomo) is 6-3, 275. The defensive end (Michael Matus) who picked off Charlie (Brewer) in 2015 is still there. He’s a great player, too.

“They are big guys and they are going to bring it. We need to be ready.”

While the Lake Travis passing attack, which included Wakefield catching six touchdown passes in his first four games, thrived early in the 2017 season, the running game struggled. Rock bottom came when the Cavaliers totaled negative rushing yardage in a 21-14 loss to Westlake, prompting Carter and offensive coordinator Mike Wall to change directions.

“The next Monday at our scouting report meeting, they told me they wanted to try me out at running back to see how I do,” Wakefield recalled. “I guess I did pretty well because they’ve kept me there.”

When Wakefield shifted into the backfield, senior Carson Cross (6-2, 190) moved into the starting lineup at tight end. Undersized sophomore Nick Villareal (5-10, 175) followed Wakefield’s example and switched from running back to linebacker.

“Kyle is uniquely gifted at catching the ball, and after the catch he’s shown that he’s a very physical runner,” Carter said. “It’s just about who’s going to give us the best opportunity to play more physically.”

Since the move, Wakefield’s rushed for a modest 400 yards and seven touchdowns. He still ranks fourth on the team with 35 catches and he’s even thrown a touchdown pass.

The versatile Wakefield also makes occasional appearances at defensive end, and he’s the holder on extra-point and field-goal attempts for Texas-bound kicker Cameron Dicker.

“I don’t even know if I have a natural position any more,” Wakefield said. “Whatever position (coach Carter) wants me to play, that’s what I’ll play.”

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