Lake Travis High School, located on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, is on the verge of state history.
Never before has an 11-man football team in the state of Texas won five consecutive state championships. Last year, the Cavaliers became the first 4A or larger team (Texas has five classes, each split into two divisions when the playoffs roll around) to win four consecutive titles.
This year, the Cavaliers will attempt the unthinkable, and if they do, it's likely that senior Colin Lagasse will have played the biggest role of all.
There are greater college prospects in the state of Texas, players that are bigger, faster, stronger and louder than Lagasse. At 5-10 and 190 pounds, he's hardly cutting an imposing figure when he steps on the field. And he's about as soft spoken and humble as high school players come. But what Lagasse lacks in physical presence, he makes up for by being ever-present on the field. He does everything for Lake Travis, and he does it all well.
As a sophomore in 2009, he earned 4A honorable mention all-state honors as a safety, collecting 103 tackles, averaging just under seven per game. It was anything but a modest start to his football career.
Last season, he went from role player to heartbeat overnight. When quarterback Michael Brewer, who is now suiting up for Texas Tech, went down with a shoulder injury in the second week of the season, Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter tabbed Lagasse to take the reins in the all-state quarterback’s absence. Having never taken a varsity snap at quarterback before, Lagasse went 2-1 as a starter, losing to state No. 2 (and eventual 4A DII state champion) Aledo and Texas commit running back Jonathan Gray (also snapping a 48-game winning streak for Lake Travis), but beating Kerrville Tivy and Texas A&M commit, 4A Player of the Year and quarterback Johnny Manziel. In the 37-33 win over Tivy, Lagasse threw for 221 yards, ran for 85 yards and intercepted a fourth down pass in the end zone in the final minute to win the game.
For the entire season, he was always influential, scoring 20 touchdowns and tallying up 1,465 yards of offense. He also had 110 yards of offense, scored a touchdown and set up another in a 27-7 state championship win over Denton Ryan. He also found time to intercept three passes on defense. The 2010 Cavaliers endured the most injuries of their four state championship teams, and definitely weren’t the strongest of the bunch. But Lagasse was a constant force, the emergency chute that opened when Lake Travis had exhausted its other options in freefall.
Players that fill in at so many positions are far more typical at lower levels of high school, where numbers make specialization a near impossibility. At the 4A and 5A levels in Texas, though, it's very rare to see a player have such an impact at so many spots. Let alone one that’s easily overlooked when sizing up Lake Travis.
This year, he holds the keys to the machine that is favored to charge to another state title.
"It's definitely big playmaking ability on offense," Lagasse says. "You never know when an 80-yard run is going to be scored with this team. The kids that we have all have the opportunity to make a play. I'm really impressed with our defense, they’re a solid group with most of the guys coming back, and it only makes us better to go against them every day."
Lagasse will play the majority of his downs at quarterback. That’s no small task at Lake Travis, as he'll follow in the footsteps of three straight Big 12 quarterbacks (Kansas' Todd Reesing, Texas' Garrett Gilbert and the aforementioned Brewer.)
But he’s much different than those three, and almost unorthodox in a state that produces cookie cutter quarterbacks for an entire nation. He’ll also line up as a running back, and as a receiver, and maybe as a punt returner, and maybe as a safety in big situations. His game is a blend of speed (4.5 40) and incredible balance, staying low to the ground as he runs. His shoulders teeter and bob in the same way that old school running backs like Gale Sayers and Jim Brown’s did.
And he can flip the ball around a bit, too, despite not having that prototypical quarterback size or leverage. In the three starts at quarterback in 2010, he totaled 522 yards with a .662 completion percentage. His coach is certainly excited about what he saw from Lagasse in spring practice.
"This spring has been a little different for us," Carter said. "Colin has been playing a lot of quarterback and a little running back, and he’s been explosive in both positions. He can put his foot in the grass and change direction in a way that a lot of kids can't."
Lagasse has always had something to play for and obstacles to overcome, as his older brother Bryant was a linebacker on the first state championship squad in 2007, just a year after the family relocated to Austin from New Orleans, where they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina, moved to Baton Rouge, then back to New Orleans before deciding to head west. The road has never been easy for the SMU commit, but he’s always gone down it full speed with his head lowered and legs churning.
Opponents in 2011 will have a choice: Try to contain him, or watch him lead his team up an unconquered mountain in Texas lore.
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