‘Ole Brady Haunts Yellowjackets in Two OTs

The loss to Brady in two sets of offensive overtimes was shocking and hurtful.  That is how I felt taking one on the chin from an old nemesis in our neighbors to the Northwest.  Playing toe to toe for 4 full quarters with the score at 7-7, but one small error at the end left the score at 20-17, Brady.

Haunting is the only word that comes to mind.  And I leave out the players name on the last play of the game for a simple reason, I did not catch who it was.  On the last play of the game, Llano lead 17-14.  Senior quarterback Joe Scott Pace rolled out and threw to a receiver out in the right flat.  Out of the corner of my eye, a Jacket defender was closing fast.  I knew it was a Jacket interception.  Timing looked perfect, felt perfect.  But the ball was a finger tip higher than Llano’s defender.  Going for the ball is not what Llano has seen in recent years.  Usually Llano defenders have played it safe….waited for the receiver to catch the ball, or just tried to make the tackle.  The Llano secondary now is playing the football.  And I love it.  Proof by the Jackets picking off 3 Pace passes this week, and now 8 for the season.  It has risk involved.  And maybe the last play of the game Friday night may have been different had our defender been more careful.  But for my money, give me that defender of Llano’s every play this season.  He is a warrior.  And I want him on my team.  If you are going to loss, loss by trying to win.  Play to win every play.

Overall, the defense put in a good ball game.  Allowed 348 yards, but only 288 in regulation play.  You will usually win holding a team under 300 offense.  Needless to say, junior Cody Miller had another remarkable game, picking up a loose ball and returning it nearly 50 yards for Llano’s first score, and then picking off two more passes, giving the young safety four on the season.  Senior Lance Reven at linebacker is just so solid.  Jalen Bauman, freshman Ray Dixon, and senior Trevor Penny had best games according the  stats.  Junior Juan Mungia has really stepped up his game.  Stetson Watson  is a great pass rusher. Hope to keep seeing Cody Harp keep getting better…could really be a force on defense.  And wrote down Clayton Masters’ # on several good plays.  The secondary is the most improved, with senior Aaron Moss, Tommy Yelvington, Casey Wyatt, and Dorian Green all having good games against a quarterback that was pretty good.  Pace is a senior.

The offense took a step back.  Moss found few holes in the running game, while Penny had 8 carries for 46 years.  The Jackets were unable to get the ball to Jalen in the open field.  Could not find Kasin Riley enough either.  Love the tall rangy tight end and makes a good target in the short passing game.  But only 197 yards of total offense will not get you much.  Four three and outs, and three intercepted passes made for a long night.  Don’t know if senior quarterback Holden Simpson was under more pass rush than usual, as three year starter Colton Center is out 4-6 weeks  with a broken foot.  Horrible set back for the offense.  But before this weeks game, and going back to last season, Holden is right at a 70% accuracy in passing.  Fully expect him back in the groove against Fredericksburg this week.

Must say again how comforting it is to have senior David Forrister kicking extra points, and his 27 yard field goal in over time put the Jackets up 17-14.  On special teams, Airon Layton is always close to the football.  He and center Colin Mayne work hard to get downfield…nothing but hustle and wanting to play hard.

Can’t worry about Brady.  Fredericksburg will be a big test.  The Billies were 10-2 last season and expect good things by feasting on the Yellowjackets.  Llano needs to rebound.  Another road trip usually means another Jacket win.  Llano has always like to travel for some odd reason.   Llano 28-  Billie 21.

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Bangs Sees Llano’s Best

The thunder being heard Friday night in Bangs, Texas was actually the anger of the Llano Yellowjackets.  The Jackets showed up big time.  Playing Bangs is a tough game always.  Last week Bangs beat a pretty good Ballinger team.  Llano lost in an insulting way to Wall.  All play off teams in 2013.  The 41-21 win on the road was big, but only big if it creates the right kind of confidence, and the right path this week in playing Brady, picked to take second place in their district race.  Llano had the kind of game every Coach hopes will happen coming after a loss.  Llano that got mad at itself, and proved it in the following week.

Bangs should not have kicked off to Llano.  Senior quarterback Holden Simpson took his team on a 16 play opening drive only to have it stall out at the 11 yardline.  16 plays!  Five first downs, Jalen Bauman catching 3 passes for 36 yards, Aaron Moss running 8 times for 39 yards, a catch by senior Tommy Yelvington for 5, and all this took 7:23 off the clock.

While the offense was taking control of the yardage side, the defense played maybe its best game in the Slaughter era.  Three and out on the first series for Bangs.  Lead by senior linebacker Lance Reven, the Jackets had 4, 5, and 6 players in on every tackle.  Senior Colton Ekstrom was great.  Senior Steton Watson saw  his best game as a varsity player.  Junior Dorian Green was always close to the ball. Austin Miller is getting in on more good plays each week ands improving. The secondary may be the most improved.  The guys with the shortest memories were at their best …have not taken the time to look up when Llano last had 4 interceptions, but it has not happened many times at all.  Junior Cody Miller picks off two,  sophomore John Heflin takes one, as does senior Yelvington.  While still giving up a long play here and there, these guys must get ready for the next play.  It is a mental giant issue.  Some can do it, some can’t.  Confidence in this secondary has surged for me.  Senior Moss, junior Wyatt Casey, and junior Dalton Dewveall round out a very solid group of over achieving Yellowjackets.

Llano and Bangs were tied at halftime, 14-14.  Llano held another three and out after the kickoff, and Simpson again put together a 10 play scoring drive, with Moss picking up 46 yards on five runs, Mr. Do Everything Trevor Penny carrying the football, and the final 8 yards with a Simpson to Bauman TD.  Holden’s 4 TD passes places him with several other Yellowjacket quarterbacks who stand in a tie in the record book in second place.  Some pretty good company.  Holden’s 246 yards passing  puts him in 17th most yards in a single game passing.  And Bauman’s 117 yards receiving is the 14 best game in history, but his 9 catches put him tied with others in a single game at 4th place.

Llano never let up.  But in my mind, few things happen good, unless your offensive line is doing more than just their assignment.  Holden, Moss, Penny and Simpson get the fame, the lineman get the respect in the dressing room.  Lead by seniors Cody Harp,  Colin Mayne, Harley Smith, Watson, and Clayton Masters, along with junior and three year starter Colton Center, juniors Stratt Stiles, Juan Mungia  and Jose Arrendondo and freshman Ray Dixon. Junior Luke Snitkin could really develop into a very good player.  He seems to be in the right place so many times. These young men made Friday night a success.

Am liking the special teams.  Seniors Kasin Riley is solid, and a good tackler and caught a 76 yard TD pass, along with doing the punting.   David Forrister is automatic.  And you can bet Airon Layton and Penny are the first ones downfield on kicks.  Great hustle.

Llano’s defense held Bangs to 275 yards of offense.  Great effort by all.

We play Brady this week.  At one time in history, that was all that had to be said.  I will try to put up an old article I wrote several years ago about Brady.  Maybe by end of this week

Llano 35   Brady 14


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Long Night Against Wall Hawks

The Llano Yellowjacket’s opening game of 2014 was at best, a disappointment.  The thing to remember here is that we have 9 games to make a season still successful.  Wall, ranked # 3 in the State in 3-AAA, showed why they are now 16-1 over the past 17 games.  Speed, speed, and quick.  Maybe not the best matchup for Llano, but give the green and white some deserved credit, they are very good.

The 54-21 score was a game of two halves.  Llano was not competitive in the first half, and got much better and serious in the second half. So, lets concentrate on the second half.

Senior Llano quarterback Holden Simpson began the half by completing 7 straight passes and two TD passes, before an incompletion at the end of the quarter.  Completions to Jalen Bauman, Tommy Yelvington, senior Lance Reven, junior Dorian Green and senior Kasin Riley….the offense was clicking…the offensive line of Jose Arredondo, Colton Center, senior Colin Mayne, Ray Dixon, and Cody Harp fired out on the defense, instead of waiting to be hit.  And senior Aaron Moss, with Trevor Penny running hard in the backfield.  It was all working, and then the fourth quarter was  some good, and more less good.

But what I saw, I actually liked.  Llano is not going to be a bad football team.  The seniors have pride.  The skill level is lacking, but the Jackets can pull together and make every single play a better one than the last.  And for that to happen, takes senior leadership.  Reven, Bauman, and Holden can keep this team together.  I have seen teams fall apart after a few early season losses, and by midseason, no one cares.  But the last time that happened was 15 years ago.  My memory tells me 4 seniors quit mid season.  There are no quiters on the 2014 team.  and the goal of being the first Jacket team to make the state playoffs in 4-AAAA football is still very viable.

Had Llano played the first quarter as they did the 3rd quarter, Llano would have been very proud Saturday morning when they woke up.  Now, they go back to work.

The defense knows they must cover better, although covering all everything #3 Kris Gutierrez will be tough for the best.  Llano maybe was not ready for that kind of speed and quickness in one great player.  Someone after the game said it was hard to keep up with where the football was.  No problem with that.  Just keep up with jersey #3 and you could bet the football was close.

On defense, Arredondo, and Penny played well.  Penny, all 145 pounds, plays down lineman, running back, and runs back kickoffs. Moss and Yelvington will get more confidence as the season moves on from their secondary positions.  Bauman was good.  Reven was strong, recovering a fumble. Junior Cody Miller is going to be good.  Really like freshman starter, Ray Dixon.  If he stays focused, and stays serious, he could be special.  I liked the play of Wyatt Bauman.  And really feel comfortable with senior David Forrister handling our kicking game.  And look for senior Colton Elstrom to be important to this team.

Llano…forget Wall.  Don’t let them beat you again this week too.  You will match up well with Bangs.  You can beat Bangs.  Start turning the corner now.  It is the most important game you have ever played up to this moment.

Llano 28   Bangs 12

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2014: Something New, Something Old

The excitement back in early February is one classic tale.  Be careful what you wish for.   The Llano Yellowjackets have been buried in a 3AAA district for decades that has clamed state championships by Bandera, Liberty Hill, Gatesville, Wimberley and state finalist in recent years with Burnet and Brownwood.  There were no easy weeks, yet the 2013 team made the playoffs by beating both Gatesville and Brownwood, a year 20 years from now “will go down in infamy.”  Llano as always, shows up to play.  Llano is not taken for granted on anyones schedule.  The little train that could has left powers in the dust for over 4o years.  That reputation today far exceeds any great coaching dynasties.  It is all about the character of our kids.

A quick reminder;  In 1973 the Yellowjackets beat #2 ranked Bastrop in a bi-district contest 7-0.  Llano beat West Lake the first two years they played.  Llano beat an undefeated and #1 ranked team in Central Texas, Leander in a snow storm, I think the score was 34-0.  And as recent as 2003 beat a good Wimberley team  when Llano was ended a 3-7 season.  Take the Jackets lightly, and our kids will smell blood.

The UIL has tried to rearrange the schools to make it more fair.  Llano has been playing many schools with double Llano’s enrollment.  Llano, at 496 kids in high school, move to 13-4A.  All school move up  an “A”, as now there is a 6-A.  Llano gets Hondo (592), Lytle (520), Geronimo Navarro (513), And Wimberley (673) in our district.  Navarro has given Wimberley fits the past few years.  Every team in 13-4A made the state playoffs in 2013.  Four will make the playoffs this season.

The Jacket’s pre-district schedule looks like it could have been from the 1960s’.  Brady, Lakeview, and Fredericksburg.  Throw in 15-1 from last season Wall, and Bangs and Salado.  There is not an easy team to play on Friday nights.

Llano is blessed with great young coaches.  These guys load up in the mornings and help with the junior high 7th and 8th grade teams.  The whole staff helps each other.  Few times have I seen more togetherness, and focus for what is best for all teams that right now.  Head Coach Craig Slaughter is athletic director also.  He cares for every single program, and helps in all phases when there is need.  Another reason our Jackets will be competitive in every game.

After the Sonora scrimmage this week, we will look at who plays where, and how do we beat state finalist Wall in Llano on August 29th.

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2014 Llano Varsity Football Schedule

Aug.15   Burnet Scrimmage

Aug.22   At Sonora Scrimmage

Regular Season:

August 29   Wall, here      7:30 PM

Sept. 5    @ Bangs             7:30 PM

Sept. 12      Brady here     7:30 PM

Sept. 19   @ Fredericksburg   7:30 PM

Sept. 26  S.A. Lakeview    7:30 PM

Oct. 3       @ Salado          7:30 PM

Oct.10     @ Wimberley    7:30 PM

Oct. 17th      OPEN

Oct 24         Lytle               7:30 PM

Oct. 31    @ Hondo           7:30 PM

Nov. 7     Navarro             7:30 PM


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Great Seniors Make Great Memories

Excuses are not what we usually talk about here at Play to Win.  The circumstances do make a difference, but in the long haul, wins and losses and memories is what you seniors will remember 20 years from now.  You will remember forever beating Brownwood.  And while Brownwood may not have topped the 3-A charts this 2013, do remember…they too made the State play-offs.  Llano beat three district foes with enrolments of nearly 2,800 students, to the LHS rolls showing 498.  The horrible situation set by the UIL for smaller schools like Llano over the past 4 years is criminal.  LLano had good players….Llano had competitive teams….but you can only last so long swing for the fences with a tooth pick.  Still, the Jackets prevailed.  We still are the giant killers, and in 2014, few teams will look forward to playing Llano.  The tradition has carried Llano thru tough times before, and it also did in 2013.  The seniors of 2013 had a fun run, and super memories by all will only grow as time passes.  Believe me on that.

Seniors such as Gilberto Arredondo who played a gigantic role on the team the past two seasons should see after season honors, but he was so consistant for the Jackets.  Eli Tiffin played both ways many games, and leadership was his biggest contribution.  Great player for two seasons.  Seniors Jordan Blackmon was special in many areas, but special teams was where he saw him every week.  Senior linebacker Caleb Penny will be a senior not replaced.  Hard hitter, played like a proud Yellow Jacket every single play.  Don’t know where Ryan Mansell came from, but golly, what a great defensive end.  Sacks, pressure on quarterbacks, something Llano had to have this season.  Ryan filled the need.  Lineman Jordan Webb, Andrew Stribling and Blain Steffen were little recognized, but our lineman blocked well enough to have a quarterback end his career as best passer all-time!  Someone was blocking.  Great season to you all.  Our defensice secondary was good to very good at times.  Elizar Villegas just showed up everyday for work, and did his job…so unnoticed, so good.  Kralen Dickerson  with 4 interceptions, Tyler Stiles (Starting QB when Rabb when out, 9 for 12, 117 yards TD pass….I would retire with those numbers), Tristan Lynch , Grant Jones, had sound seasons…in a pass happy era of today, some nites just get long.  But for seniors Mason Ladd and Sawyer Stiles each made long nites for others.  Two great players with great over-all careers.  Tight ends Erich Burch and Harley Shoemate  were good blockers, but added greatly to special teams.  Good tacklers.  Missed getting to see more of Baylor Jordan due to injury from the wide receiver position.  But Justin Long  was the best special team player, leading the team with 9 solo tackles and bunches of assists.  Great hard working senior.  Carter Tatsch is in the record book with one super game, and 927 yards rushing, averaging over 5 yards per carry, along with 9 TDs.  Great senior running back.  Wish we had had Chance Ware for about three more seasons…great speed, great return man, name is in the record book at several places…gosh Chance, I hardly got to know you, and will now miss you.  Issac Hutto was super.  Should be all everything, but know holds school record as best punter ever….third all-time leading pass receiver…many big games…he was it all…someday will make the LHS Hall of Fame…and Layton Rabb…holds nearly every passing record…I will not go thru everytime he is on the books, but my spell check stopped correcting me after several dozen entries of his name…22 games as starting QB over three seasons…it was fun to watch.  I hope I did not leave a senior out.  I love you all…this last Play To Win for 2013 is always the worst…knowing now you have other missions and jobs to go do.  Just go about it like you all did as Yellow Jackets…then you will love the memories.    Go to Yellow Jacket Records…should you see mistakes or omissions, please e-mail me…I keep trying to get it correct!

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2013 Ends with 5-6 Record

   Just getting over the hump was not enough Thursday night as the Llano Yellow Jackets took it on the chin in a 35-26 loss to Glen Rose in Bi-District play in Belton.  The inablity to score in the fourth quarter prevented a serious run.  Three times inside the 16 yard line produced no points.  And while Llano played very defense in the first and fourth quarters, it was the failure to stop Glen Rose in the second and third periods that spelled doom.

   In the first quarter, the Jackets’ defense held on the first three possessions, and the Llano  offense scored on their first.  On first down senior quarterback Layton Rabb set the scoring toss up by first hitting senior wide-out Issac Hutto on an 8 yard pass completion.  Then Rabb came back with a strike of 57 yards to senior Chance Ware for the 7-0 first score.  The defense forced three punts, on three, 3 and outs.  The defense lead by seniors Caleb Penny  and Ryan Mansell…the defense held Glen Rose to -2 yards rushing on 9 tries, and 69 yards passing on 4 of 9 passing.

   Sound blocking from seniors helped the Llano running game get going.  Seniors  Jordan Webb and Gilberto Arredondo helped the running game get traction…  Rabb, junior Jalen Bauman, and senior Carter Tatsch gashed the Tigers for four rushing first downs.  After Glen Rose scored early in the second quarter, Llano responded with a 9 play drive of 72 yards highlighted with a Rabb to Ware 34 yard pass and catch and Llano lead 14-7.  And then Llano spurted.  Two long drives by the Tigers sent the host to the locker room ahead 21-14.  Llano actually scored on the last play of the half, only to have the refs not recognize the score over the end zone pilon.  With the large picture display at the end zone, replays showed Carter scoring.  Very disappointing to Jackets.   Llano allowed 152 yards in the quarter on 17 plays and three scores.

   The third quarter was an exchange of touchdowns, and good plays by many.  Linebacker  Aaron Moss was good defensivley, as was Holden Simpson and Lance Reven.  All juniors.  Erich Burch and Blain Steffen had good games.  Senior Eli Tiffin came up with a fumble recovery, and played as always…tough and hard.  Still love the play of Mason Ladd and Kralen Dickerson in the secondary.  Jacket run defense was better at times…15 plays of 0 or minus yards on plays.  Big plays killed the Jackets.  Llano scored late in the fourth to make it close.  I’m not sure the Carter non-touchdown had a big negative in the minds of our players.  Many of these Jackets are 16 or 17 years old.  How do I know what was in their syc?

   Llano’s improvement under Slaughter is 100% difference.  His 8-13 record over two years is stellar….playing schools that suite up 60 players for a game is so tough.  February we make the change into new territory and new schools we will be playing.  The UIL is set to split 3-AAA, and we will benefit greatly.  No more Liberty Hills, Burnets, or Brownwoods..It was pretty neat beating Brownwood…and now we have an over-all record against the Lions of 5 wins and 4 losses!  Coach Slaughter is already wworking on the 2014 schedule.  It is going to be exciting

   Congratulations to this very special 2013 team.  Next week, I will review the seniors, and list the records that will go into the record books…there are many.  Thanks for reading Play To Win.

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