Only two games remain between the No. 1 ranked Bobcats and a state championship – the first since 1982 – and the cream keeps getting sweeter.
Quarterback Travis Quintanilla has evolved into the most dominant sophomore 2A quarterback in the state.
With 3,192 yards passing for 48 touchdowns, Quintanilla rarely makes a mistake, despite being Herring’s “young pup” on the team.
Soft-spoken, with a gentleman’s manners, Quintanilla says he is only one link in the Bobcat chain.
“This team will probably be the strongest group, with the best hands in my career,” Quintanilla said. “They’re all good threats, every receiver runs at least a 4.4 – and that’s real close to the NFL.”
The quarterback has utmost respect for the seniors on the team, especially those on the receiving end of his passes – Lynx Hawthorne, Shiloh Whetsel and Cory Brown.
“Lynx is a great team player and a real good, smart kid who knows how to play his game... and he’s tall,” Quintanilla said. “Shiloh, Cory and Malcolm Franklin are real quick.
The stakes are high for all the seniors who are thirsty for a championship and have only two games left in their high school careers. The quarterback doesn’t want any regrets.
“Friday night’s match against Lexington is going to be a war,” he says. “There will be no letting up and no giving up.”
Like Quintanilla in the backfield, Malcolm Franklin, Draigon Silvas and Marcus Thompson will return next year.
“I don’t want to let the team down,” he said. “This is a good, solid team and I would give up anything for them.”
The sophomore has only recorded four interceptions in the season — the last two in the quarterfinals last week against Sonora.
Lexington’s quarterback, Kogan Garrett, has something in common with Quintanilla. He began as a sophomore quarterback, as well, last year. Quintanilla watched the Lexington tapes with the team.
“He’s pretty good but I expect to beat them,” Quintanilla says.
Lexington’s offense runs and passes extremely well from the spread, whereas Sonora mainly passed the ball, Herring says. The quarterback didn’t see anything in the films too complicated for the Cats to handle.
“Lexington is by far the very best team we have played this year,” Herring says. “We are going to have to play a very focused, mistake-free game.
The sophomore began quarterbacking as a seventh-grader and completed his eighth-grade year with two perfect seasons under his belt.
As a starting quarterback, Quintanilla has never lost a game.
He’s also won every punt, pass and kick competition at the local and district level from the time he was six years old until he became ineligible to compete when he reached 12.
Two years ago, Herring and defensive coordinator coach Drew Cox, who is Herring’s right-hand man, saw Quintanilla’s potential.
“Travis may be the best quarterback we’ve ever coached,” Herring told Cox. “He’s special.”
Any concerns the coaches may have had about Travis’ maturity under pressure 12 weeks ago sank well below the cream.
The winner of Friday night’s rumble between Refugio and Lexington will play the winner of the Cisco-Corsicana Mildred match for the state championship at noon Dec. 16, in Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium.
On Friday night, the Bobcats will make its third consecutive trip to the semifinals. His uncle, Gavino Quintanilla Jr., was on the last state championship team in 1982. Travis says it’s time to bring the championship trophy a back to Refugio.
The quarterback has a request for everyone who comes to San Antonio Friday night.
“Get rowdy and keep us pumped,” Quintanilla says. “We like to hear the band playing and the crowd cheering, ‘Go Cats, go!’”
Quintanilla says he’ll stay focused and listen to music on the trip to San Antonio.
“I block everything out before a big game,” he says. “The coach brings us up as a team and we pray together.”
Then the young man offers a special prayer for his grandfather, Gavino “Cowboy” Quintanilla, who is battling cancer.
“I pray real hard for my grandpa,” he says.