Playing Very Well, but Losing Does Not Jive

For all of the great effort by the Llano Yellow Jackets Friday night against power house Geronimo Navarro, the good effort does not make us feel any better.  Navarro is a combined 42-4 over the past four seasons.  They average over 40 points per game and nearly 500 yards per game on offense.  Llano’s play in the 21-7 lose was closer than the score.  And the Panthers likely have no interest in playing Llano again. Still, disappointment could be seen on every players face and posture.

The 7-7 halftime score tells some of the story.  Navarro had about 75 yards total offense at halftime, and finished the game at about one-half of their regular production…this coming on their home field. I can easily say that this Jacket defense is the best I have seen in a decade.  Our front down lineman are relentless.  Seniors Daniel Sparks, Ray Dixon, Josh Soliz, Austin Humphrey, and a player really coming on strong, Dalton Bauman.  Our linebackers are unmatched with anyone we play.  Ian Fletcher and Luis Coronado are just great.  No other way of putting it. Add in the wonderful play of Tyler Lindell, Logan Duggar, Christian Kirby, Quint Pincelli,  Donavan Arellano, Mason Brooks, and Cameron Johnson.  The play is just so good.  And our secondary is so improved.  Tyler Gann and Aaron Brown are playing at all district levels.  Gage Cox makes play after play.  Jacob Cruz and Ethan Tisdale great role players.  Ethan had 3 tackles on one drive. Brooks too had multiple tackles.  Presley Lynch, Kendall Downey, Kaleb Dodson, and the return of Drew Cooper have helped to make this defense memorable and fun to watch.  The confidence they have  after 7 games has put this defense in a position of not being intimidated by anyone. This group is becoming hardened and tough.

Play of the offense is a finer tuned violin.  For this multiple offense to work, timing needs to be near perfect.  At many times, it is.  When the offense gets off just a bit, it becomes hard to keep a drive going.  Three Jacket drives were for 8 plays or more.  The Jacket TD was only 6 plays, but blame Cade Fly for that.  He took it to the house the final 44 yards before halftime to even the score at 7-7.  Reliable Diego Garcia kicked true, again.

A funny side note is I , and many others talk about the offense and the defense as if they were two different teams…but in many instances, these players are one and the same.  Dixon, Sparks, Brooks, Brown, Fletcher, Dakota Trull, Dodson, Keller, Thomas Adams, and Hayden Cowert have all seen playing from both sides.  It is not like you can play real hard on one side of the ball, and rest on the other.  At times Llano is carrying over 35 players on the varsity. This added depth is and will be needed.  Llano has several injuries now…all are needed back.

Other than the (L), Llano is playing hard tough football. And it gets no easier this week.  But I would think after how Llano played Navarro at Navarro, the Jackets see the Wimberley Texan game as an opportunity.  The Texans have easily beat the Jackets over the past several years.  No doubt they will not be taking Llano serious.  It should be an insult to the Jacket players not to be considered relevant.  The Texans were #6 rated in the State last week.  The Texans are coming to Jacket Stadium Friday night.  Sure would be a good time for the Jackets to show how good of a football team they have become.

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Put East Side Aside, On to Important Stuff

The Yellow Jackets game against the East Side Panthers was two teams with little interest in the finer points of football.  East Side played hard, but had little to work with.  Llano played down to their competition, and there is little to write home about.  Jackets had 5 turnovers in the first quarter.  That may be a record.  Would need to start a new category for that, but will not bother.

No team should be playing a school when it is in only its second year of varsity play.  Five others have, and I will bet that the game did little for the improvement of their teams.  I cannot even blame our Jackets for not “getting up” for this game.  We played sloppy in places, we had great plays in spots, but our minds were not in Jacket Stadium.  On to more important matters.

The game against power and 6-0 Navarro at Navarro will be a test that either becomes an opportunity or a thud.  I remember back in the mid 1990s’ when head coach Karl McCormack scheduled Abilene Wylie before district play.  The Jackets were not great.  But by playing the Bulldogs at mid season, Llano was able to see who they were.  And the Jackets played their best football in those two games against Abilene Wylie.  Their best football against State ranked teams.  The Jackets get that opportunity Friday night.  The chance to show the world, Mom and Dad, girlfriends, and Jacket Nation…we are good, and when we play our best, we are real good.

The Jackets have shown they can put up points.  Averaging 35.8 per game.  The defense can play with anyone, giving up about 23 points per game.  But this week Llano will be playing  the slot-t offense.  Navarro will run the ball, and then they will run the ball again.  And run it well. Put no lipstick on this,  Navarro was 14-1 last year, and their very good quarterback returns, as Will Eveld is starting for his third year.  The Jackets will not stop Eveld and this offense. But Llano is very capable of slowing this machine down.  The Jackets defensive line is very good.  Five to six players in and out, and all are good football players.  They must all show up in Geronimo Stadium Friday night and play their best game.  If the Jackets have their heads on straight, we can make a game of it.  No stupid mistakes.  No tempers getting in the way of ego.  Gang tackling ever play.  And go for the turnovers.

The Jacket offense plays at times… great.  12 different receivers have caught passes. Seems whoever carries the ball can average 6 yards a try.  Lineman must play under control. And everyone hold on to the ball.

I’m excited.  I cannot wait until Friday night.  This Jacket team is a real football team.  Very capable of doing some really good things.  And beating Navarro is not unimaginable. When Llano shows up Friday night with everyone on the same page, Llano could come home with its first victory ever over the Panthers.  Nothing is more important than the Jackets seeing they can beat a good team.  Now is the time for all, but the seniors can bring this team to a place that it has never been before.  See you  at Navarro.

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Stepping Back Against Burnet…Moving Forward a Plus

The 31-21 loss to the Burnet Bulldogs may look like the Jackets took a step back in their progression to being a good football team.  But my take, while losing to the Bulldogs is disappointing, is that the Jackets should come away from last Friday night knowing they can accomplish several things.

Llano should recognize that they can win even when they play bad.  Llano can win when they play better talent.  And Llano can win when they get behind in the score.

I actually thought as the game went on, that Llano was the better football team.  Never did I see the Bulldogs pull away with the score and  thought they had the game won.  And most important, Llano kept fighting.  No one slowed down.  I did not see the Jackets take plays off.  These are the things that will make the Jackets better.  “If only we had a few more minutes, we would have won”.  The Jackets will go forward now knowing they can beat good teams.  And they know they can come from behind.

The Jackets three losses have come against three teams that have a record of 14-1.

While the Jacket offense was struggling in the first half, the defense played as good as I have seen it in the past decade.  The Bulldogs had 7 possessions in the first half.  The Jackets forced 4 punts, and held the Bulldogs two times on fourth down.  While my preliminary stats may be off a little bit, looked like the Jacket defense held Burnet to about 127 yards of offense in the first half.  And only about 80 yards in the second half.  That is winning football.

Can’t say enough about the defense.  At the half-way mark in the season, this group should have all the confidence in the world.  They can rush the passer, they can knock down passes, and they can tackle with the best of them.  No standing around.. .So great when you would see 6-8 Yellow Jackets stop a ball carrier.  Our linebacker play is outstanding.  Fletcher, Brooks, Dodson, and Coronado. Our defensive line play is so relentless.  Dixon, Sparks, Soliz, Humphrey, Williams, Bauman, Keller,and Downey. And the hardest job on the field in todays kind of play…defensive backs….Ethan Tisdale, Gage Cox, Moore, Gann, Christian Kirby, Adams, Mote, and sophomore Aaron Brown.

Cade Fly stats may not have looked good, but he did.  Pretty much hit his receivers on 8 passes in the first half, and still did not have a completion.  We can work on that.  In the second half the receivers played better.  Been Walling for 11 and 5 yards, Aaron for 12, Brooks Keele for 17 yards and a TD, Aaron for 25 more, Anthony Watson for 12, and Aaron another 8 yarder.  Walling ended the game by rushing in for the TD from the 6 yard line.

When the Jackets put together a full offensive and defensive game, they can be very good .We have seen signs of it from the second game forward.  This week Llano plays a weaker team in Eastside Memorial.  This game should be about one thing.  No mistakes.  Perfect in what you do.  Block without holding.  Go down on kickoffs…under control.  Hold your tempers. Play loose but mentally intense.  Prepare for District Play.  And have fun.

 

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Jackets 2-2, and Improving

Over the past three weeks, the Yellow Jackets have played 2 1/2 games in which getting better was fun to watch.  The 51-15 win at Lago Vista Friday night can attest to that..  The Jackets have scored points, but maybe the most improved part of the Yellow Jackets looks to me is the fun of playing defense.  The second half of the Sonora game, in which All State quarterback Kaden Cordell threw the ball 19 times and completed 6.  Brady threw the football  17 times with only 7 completions.  And returning quarterback Jared Defelice of Lago Vista threw 25 times and completed 9.  Those are winning numbers and new head football coach Matt Green will take those on any given Friday.

One number Coach Green watches is offensive numbers.  He feels good when Llano can put up 400 yards in a game.   Coach Green must have really had a nice halftime against Lago.  The Jackets had 400 yards at the break.  And finished with close to 600 yards.

Someone is coaching someone.  The Brady Bulldogs  ran a screen pass.  In this play, the offensive lineman kind of fake a block, them suffle out to the side and block for the receiver when he catches the short “screen” pass.  Ray Dixon “suffled” out also, recognizing the play, and intercepted the ball and scored his first varsity TD. Friday night, #77, Daniel Sparks recognized the screen pass, and he too got an interception. Moving both into the secondary is not an option. They need to keep their day jobs.

Cannot speak enough about the effort of seniors Josh Soliz, Luis Coronado, and Ian Fletcher.  Monsters on defense.  Christian Kirby played great.  Drew Cooper was helped off the field, but was having a great game.  Need him back soon.  Gage Cox, and Kendall Downey along with senior Tyler Gann, senior Nolan Keller, and junior Charlie Mote are a tough bunch.  All played great.  Still love the hustle of big # 75, Austin Humphrey in the middle of the defensive line.  Sure makes the secondary’s job easier when we have that pass rush and that kind of effort.

Junior Quarterback Cade Fly is getting to understand  the quarterback position. After the Jackets first series of three and out, Cade lead Llano to five scoring drives in the first half.  One drive included a 99 yard drive and 15 plays. Overcame a 5 yard penalty, and two drop passes.  Still got the job done.  Mason Greenwood returned after a 5 week suspension, and his efforts and 3 TDs, lead the charge.  Brooks Keel and Anthony Watson had good games catching, and Mason Brooks, Ian, Cade and Dalton Moore running tough.  Mason nearly had a double 100 yard game.  Had 119 yards receiving, and 95 rushing.  Dalton had 10 carries and 71 yards. Mason 9 carries and 68 yards.  Tyler Lindall,  Dakota Trull, Cameron Johnson, Lane Ward, Dalton Bauman, and Luke Willams are all getting better in the offensive line. That is the key.  Every week. Better.

I have been afraid to look, but Art  Dlugach  says it was 1998 when last Llano beat Burnet. If that is 18 years, that is enough.  Our over all record against the Bulldogs is still in our favor, 39-35-2.  But win # 40 would look great.  All State receiver Sterling Gilban returns.  He had 10 TD catches last year.  Our secondary will get tested plenty.  Again, a great pass rush will help. Ray, Josh, Austin, and Daniel may need to get their track shoes on.  Chasing the Burnet quarterback and catching him will be the key to Llano winning.

Llano has played two team in which they lost.  Smithville and Sonora together are 8-0.  Playing a very high profile and solid always team like the Bulldogs gives Llano the opportunity to step out of the shadows.  This game Llano can win.  I said 5 weeks ago Llano could beat Burnet, and now the week is here.  Lets make this a team effort, and a community effort.  And bring home victory # 40 over the Bulldogs.

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Perfect Score, Improvement Ahead

The 45-0 win against the Brady Bulldogs Friday night was what Jacket fans wanted.  The 45-0 score was what the Yellow Jackets had to have. Yet there were enough mistakes and flaws that even players know work is ahead.  The schedule does not get easier.  And Llano must improve to keep this train moving in the right direction.

The Jackets did not play well in the first quarter.  Junior quarterback Cade Fly came out and had one completion and one interception in 8 passes to start the game.  That means also, receivers were not running great routes, and the offensive line was not playing to their potential, as they allowed a sack on Cade. Llano did run the ball for 68 yards on 14 carries.  Yet four of those rushes were for minus yards.  Ben Walling had four carries for 44 yards in the first quarter.  Dalton Moore had a very good night running the ball.  Finished the night with 16 carries and 85 yards. The last three quarters, the Jackets kicked it into high gear.

Important to know that five Yellow Jackets ran the football against Brady.  43 carries and 281 yards.  A healthy 6.5 yards per carry.  This week Cade threw the football only 20 times, completing 12 for 132 yards and two TDs. In the second , third and fourth quarters, Cade was 11 for 12. Good receivers, good line blocking.   Five receivers made catches, including Ben, Ethan Tisdale, Thomas Adams, Brooks Keele and junior Anthony Watson.  Watson caught 8 for 93 yards and both TD tosses.  Last week 8 receivers caught footballs from Cade.  And maybe we can see a pattern here.  The pattern being there is no real pattern..  Last week both  Keele and Aaron Brown had over 100 yards receiving.  Brady was watching Aaron closely, thus Anthony steps up.  And the running game gets going.

Llano has about 12 skill position players that are capable of being the flavor of the week.  Each with skills that can produce on any given Friday.  But for that to happen, each one must prepare like they are the anointed one each week. Prepare as if this is the last Friday night they will ever get to play.  And continue the journey of learning this offense of Head Coach Matt Green.

I am learning too.  Coach Green would love to see 400 yards a week in offense,  split evenly would be nice. But as each player finds his role, and this takes time, a system will emerge.  And 45-0 can be the result.

The shutout by the defense was special.  Brady had 40 yards of offense the first half. The defense forced 6 straight punting situations for the Bulldogs.  Luis Coronado at linebacker was great all night long.  Gage Cox, Ian Fletcher, Easton Valdez, Kaleb Dodson, Brown, Moore, Nolan Keller, Kendall Downey, Tyler Lindall (sic), and Drew Cooper all played hard.  Daniel Sparks is a steady hand.  Plays hard  both ways.  Ray Dixon so tough.  And now that he has intercepted a pass and run it in for a TD, he becomes one of those skill folks we will be looking to!!!

Three players really made top plays Friday night.  I saw Austin Humphrey from his defensive line position hustle like he was playing his last game.  Very impressed. Great effort.  I saw Tyler Gann from his cornerback position get his hands up and knock down passes.  The same way Mason Brooks did last week. And then I saw a player make a play that will be used in teaching of defensive line play….Josh Soliz in full speed came down the line from his interior linemans position just  as Brady’s running back was headed for the corner on a sweep play.  Josh was  in perfect form and position as he made a text book tackle.  Knowing how to do that, is only two things…coaching and a willing student.  Wow from me.

Diego Garcia hit his first varsity field goal.  I think Dakoda Trull had a good game at offensive center.  Cade had time to run and throw.  Lane Ward played well, as did Luke Williams on the offensive line.  And special teams had good hustle from Ian Fletcher, Quint Pincelli, Mason Allsup, and Gann. Must keep this effort up in an area of little reward.

Now, lets stop counting our change.  Lago Vista beat Llano last year in Llano 41-13.  Horrible game and effort by the Jackets.  This is a serious game.  Lago is good.  Went 8-3 last season, and their very good quarterback is back.  The Jackets defense will be challenged.  A supreme effort will be needed.  But, more important, Llano can become a good football team.  But improvement every week must happen.  Each player must take on the responsibility of making himself do more.  Working towards perfect is a tough job.

 

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Sonora Loss Will Make Jackets Better

I have always hated the good loss excuse when it comes to anything football.  Rarely have I seen that to be the correct twist on a game.  But, a 42-28 loss Friday night to the 3-AAA 6th ranked Broncos may have some of that flavor with this after taste.  Being 0-2 two weeks into the season could have a horrible meaning to a team learning a new offense, from a new coach, with a new quarterback.  After last weeks play against Smithville, you could have said “learning how to play a new game”.  Friday night against Sonora, the Jackets show the upside is everything they dreamed about back in July.

First of all, I do not ever remember such a one week improvement of a team as I saw in the Yellow Jackets. Ever.  Second, I saw a team that thought they really were going to win the football game.  And with an exception that lasted about 6 minutes at the end of the third quarter, Llano could have won.  I said this last week.  Coach Matt Green’s hardest job is coaching and teaching our Jackets how to win. You cannot take plays off.  And you must stop the “unlearned” penalties that will cause a loss even when you out play your opponent.

Llano’s offensive line could not have played better.  Thus, junior quarterback Cade Fly had time to pass.  Thus, Llano had a running game that had to be respected.  Thus, the defense was not on the field for long periods.  Daniel Sparks, Ray Dixon, Dakota Trull, Luke Williams, Dalton Bauman, Hayden Cowart, Austin Humphrey, Tyler Thompson, Lane Ward, Cameron Johnson, Tyler Lindell, battle each other every day in practice.  Many get few praises.  Few ever see their names in the record books.  But these players make the backbone of a good team.  Llano’s lineman are making very long strides.  And they will be the most important part of making Llano a good football team.

How good was the offensive line?  They did something that has never happened before.  They made it possible for Cade Fly to pass for 405 yards. Best in the history of LHS in a single game.  Cade’s 25 completions was second most ever in a game.  And receivers Brooks Keele, a junior, enters the record book with 4 catches and 106 yards, plus 2 touchdown catches.  Sophomore Aaron Brown too goes in, with 6 catches and 114 yards.  Maybe just as impressive is 8 Jackets caught passes in the new Jacket offense.  Senior Hayden Godfrey had 6 catches, and junior Anthony Watson had 3 catches for 76 yards.  Logan Duggar had three catches, with Dalton Moore, Ben Walling, and Mason Brooks making key catches.  The receivers were the most notable improved group on the field.  I heard one Jacket coach say we had two dropped passes Friday night.  That compares to last week when Jacket receivers stopped counting the number of drops.  Cade also thanks you for working harder last week in practice.  Wonderful improvement.

Special teams played better.  Good hustle by Christian Kirby.  Also Cole Schluetter and Quint Pincelli.  Ian Fletcher and Kendall Downey pushed hard to cover downfield.  These guys are only heard of when they mess up.

Llano’s defense had a tough job, and a long night.  2016 All State 3-AAA quarterback Kaden Cordell just never let up.  With the score tied at halftime, 14-14, the Jacket defense had kept it close.  But Cordell reminded us how good he was thru the third quarter.  Sparks had a great game.  Ian Fletcher at linebacker, along with Luis Coronade ,Josh Soliz, and Kaleb Dodson had really top end games.  Seniors Nolan Keller, Tyler Gann and Ray Dixon just played their hearts out.  Austin Humphrey is making a ball player.  Very important in this unit getting better.  Aaron Brown is getting better in the secondary.  And watch for Thomas Adams.  Good plays when we needed them.  Really like Ben Walling on defense. He does not get pushed around.  Looks like he is mad at someone.  Just love watching Ben.  Drew Cooper got a sac, and very good pass rusher all night.  Christian Kirby  and Gage Cox managed the secondary, along with Ethan Tisdale going against  Cordell throwing the football over 35 times.

Please forgive me here, but my memory is not what it once was.  But the play that Mason Brooks made on the goal line in the fourth quarter by his last second deflecting a long pass that was a sure TD from Cordell. At the last possible moment, Mason put his hand up and flicked it away like it was a fly.  Forgive me here, but I could not believe it, or remember it being done in years.  I thought Jacket secondary defenders had to play with their hands in their pockets.  Watch someone catch a long pass, then make the tackle.  Thank you Mason for a very memorable moment for me .  Great play. Great play.

Must mention # 51, our own Diego Garcia.  7 for 7 this season on extra points.  Been awhile since extra points could be counted on.  Keep up the great play.

All this feel good is now last week.  We are 0-2.  We travel to old menace Brady.  They hold a 26-25-2 overall record against Llano.  Playing in Brady is never easy.  Llano will likely will get a 15 yard penalty before we get out of the dressing rooms.  If they let us use dressing rooms.  I really do not like Brady.  Llano played lousy last year.  Got beat 21-7.  If we play better than last week, we will win.  This is not the time to not get better.  Every player should make himself a promise not to play “unlearned” “things”.  No penalties.  That is one way you measure your own progress.  No turnovers, and the Jackets bring home win # 1, and even the overall record with Bulldogs to 26-26-2.

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Let’s Beat Sonora

The Llano Yellow Jackets took it on the end of the nose Friday night against Smithville.  One might think for a moment that maybe the Jackets were just over confident against a team that had lost 18 of their last 19 games.  Or a team in which Llano beat last season by two touchdowns.  But I am afraid it is not as it seems.

The hardest job new head football Coach Matt Green will have this season will be teaching our Jackets how to win.  And Friday night was and will be a good teaching moment.   When the Yellow Jackets opened the game by kicking off to the Tigers, Llano was ready to play.  The Tigers started out on their 34 yard line and drove 12 plays down to the Jackets 16 yard line.  Twice on third down, the Tigers made first downs.  But inside the Jackets 20, Llano held on a run for no yards, and forced an incomplete pass.  Llano had the ball.  From the first snap, seniors Ben Walling, Ian Fletcher, Tyler Gann, Daniel Sparks, Jose Soliz,  Austin Humphrey, and Ray Dixon hustled, gang tackled, and did everything Coach Green had hoped they would do.

Llano had the ball.  Drove 84 yards, 8 running plays. 6 passes.  Big 30 yard gain when junior quarterback Cade Fly hit Kaleb Dodson for a big first down after being third down and 20.  Junior Mason Brooks ran 5 times for 32 yards.  Fly also completed a 9 yard pass to Walling and a first down, and then  ran in for the TD from 5 yards out.  Walling had 15 yards on two carries. Crisp blocking by Hayden Godfrey, Luke Williams, Sparks, Dixon, Tyler Lindell, and Dalton Bauman all had it going in the first quarter.

But the following kick-off, the tide changed.  But not on the first play.  Dalton Bauman broke threw the line and threw Tigers’ running back Nomar Rivera for a 6 yard loss. Then the back breaker.  The Tigers threw a long pass that was well defended, yet into the hands of a Tiger receiver and 90 yards later, the score was 8-7, still Llano.  I have to think something, at that moment, changed the Jackets .

That black cloud appeared, and so many things happened wrong.

A bad snap that cost Llano 19 yards. A bad punt of only 11 yards.  An interception.  16 yards rushing on 11 carries.  0-6-1 passing.  All in the second quarter.

Llano clawed back late in the third quarter when on a fullback pass from Walling to Brooks Keele for a 24 yard TD and the score was 14-28. But the mistakes did us in.  I had Llano down for 12 penalties. Three turnovers.

The teams exchanged scores in the fourth period.  Llano had a 45 yard pass completion late from Fly to sophomore Aaron Brown on a screen play.  Brooks got Llano’s last score near the end to bring the final score to 35-21.   Sparks had a good game.  Walling good on both sides of the ball.  Fly will be good when he settlers down.  This is his team now.  His gaining a big leadership roll is important. I want to see more from our good players.  Nolan Keller, Christian Kirby, Dakota Trull, and Luis Coronado.   They are good football players.  Don’t wait for someone else to make the plays. All must really take it up a notch.

Two weeks ago I said that I thought that the Sonora game was winnable.  Still do.  Our over-all record against the Broncos is 5-5.  They were 12-2 last season, and Llano did not play well last year in Sonora.  I really think with more “thinking”, the Jackets will win.  Jumping off sides is mental.  Nothing physical about it.  Getting into too much of a hurry creates more mistakes.  Slow down Llano.  Make every play count.  Take it upon yourself to not make the mistakes that kills drives or extend their drives.  Beating a good team like Sonora can make this season fun.  Settle down, play one play at a time, and beat the Broncos.

I mentioned about learning how to win.  When you are up 8-0, the only thing the team needs to be thinking is 16-0. 24-0.  32-0.  Put your foot on their neck and never let them up.  8-0 is no time to feel good.  It is the beginning.  Not the end.  Start thinking about putting folks away by pilling the points on. Put Smithville behind you. Don’t let those Tigers effect how you play this week.

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