4-7 Jacket Season Big Disappointment

The Llano Yellow Jackets season ended with a big disappointment November 10th in the 22-18 loss to Crystal City in the Bi- District Game.  There is little to say that will heal the hurt.  Dreams came to an end.  Yet life will go on.  The seniors will be fine.  But they will never forget their senior season, and they can be proud of many things.  Effort being one of those.  There was no let down by this strong group of seniors.  And their tremendous effort in beating Hondo was the highlight of the season.  Beating Hondo 48-21 was a great team victory. Then winning at Bandera the following week to secure a third place finish in the District race was special.  Many wonderful seniors and great memories.  I will miss you all.

Seniors of the 2016 Yellow Jackets

Travis Wright           Jason Gann         Taylor Smith        Kegan Greenhaw       Roberto Alcala

Thomas Westermann     Christian Conway      Jordan Monroy    John Keeney   John Heflin

Stephen Sanderson    Bradley Dyess    Shane Flint     Brent Greenwood      Blake Dillard

Jaden Napolez        Kyle Cooper       Hunter Roemer          Neil Blackmon   Cameron Hall

Each of these seniors had a role to play.  Sometimes, it is just as a  cheerleader.  Sometimes it is throwing a great block (Alcala, Hall, Gann,  Westermann, Monroy).  Sometimes it is the extra effort it takes to go chase down kick offs and punt returns (Sanderson, Conway, Keeney, Flint, Dyess).  Making that key tackle ( Dillard, Greenhaw, Smith, Naploez, Cooper, Roemer, Blackmon),.  That great run- Heflin, or those turnovers and interceptions- Greenwood. This large senior class had some wonderful moments.  Those special moments will always be remembered.

Looking  toward 2017, we can see hope for better results.  Returning Llano will have players that made a great impact on 2016.  I look at the offensive line as the key.  Dakoda Trull, Tyler Lindell, Hayden Cowert, Lane Ward, Dalton Bauman, Kendall Downey, Austin Humphrey, Alex Smith, Luke Williams, Mason Brooks, Ethan Tisdale or Bailey Hoy could all be in the mix.  Senior to be Ray Dixon will be a beast.  These players must get stronger.  Get quicker.  Get into better shape.  These lineman either on offense or defense can make 2017 a great season.  But they must get better.  These lineman will  have the excitement of blocking for very good backs running the football.  Returning to name only a few will be Gage Cox, Ben Walling, Josh Soliz, Cade Fly, Drew Cooper, Luis Coronado, Tyler Gann, Pressley Lynch, and Dalton Moore.  Aaron Brown could become special.  Nolan Keller, after finding his position, could be a key to a successful passing game, as his 33 yard catch in the Bi District game showed.  Gann, Quint Pincelli, Thomas Adams, along with returning leading receiver of 2016 Anthony Watson could be very good.  All must improve.  All can.

Ian Flecther has a chance to be so good.  He already is in so many respects.  Leadership, maturity and experience should make for a great 2017.  Ray Dixon will continue to dominate on both sides of the line.  You have to watch him on every play. Ray will be a senior, as will Ian and Josh.  And returning for his senior year is running back Mason Greenwood.  2,360 yards in two seasons.  Mason, with a lot of help from the offensive line, could….could approach 4,000 yards for a career.  Former Yellow Jacket great, Kevin Fain is in second place all-time, with 3,226.  The great former Yellow  Jacket James Grantham is  the number one career rusher of all-time with  5,663 yards.  Those  are great numbers to shoot for.  But only a team effort can those dreams come true.

The Jackets of 2017 must get their heads on straight.  Winning 4 or 5 games a season is not reaching high enough.  I truly thought Llano could have won 7 games this season.  I really believe Llano should have beaten Wimberley.  2017 …every game is winnable.  Every game.  You think about it over the next 9 months.  You watch film. You make winning every game next season a reality.  You believe it.  You work at it.  You watch more film.  And you accept nothing less.  Because when you do, you will accept less.

I think the school record book is updated now, but please call me out when you see mistakes.  Both Yellow Jacket Records and Win/ Loss records are update.  Had several entries from the 2016 team.  Spoke with IT guru Jim Beasley with Llano ISD and he will see about placing a link on the school web-site so that finding this information will be easier.  If you type in “Play To Win by Mikel Virdell”, it should be there.  Records can be clicked on in top headline area.   I am already looking forward to 2017.  See you at Jacket Stadium when we play Smithville in the first game of 2017.

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Empty Feeling After Bi District Loss

I guess I never had a thought that the Llano Yellow Jackets season would be over when we all left Edgewood Veteran Stadium last Thursday night.  But the score showed that Crystal City had beaten the Jackets 22-18.  I kept thinking we would get the ball back one more time.  But we never did, and thus the close to the 4-7 season that had so much hope had now ended.

The Yellow Jackets really played well the first half.  Crystal City scored first, and made the 2 point extra point , after the Jackets drove to the 5 yard line and failed to score.  8-0.  Llano took the kick-off and in 6 plays scored, with the final 21 yards coming on a pass from quarterback Ben Walling to sophomore Anthony Watson.  Score 6-8.  The Jacket defense held on three plays and got the football back.  3 plays later, Mason Greenwood scored.  This after senior John Heflin ‘s 34 yard run.  Score 12-8 Llano.

Crystal City took the kick-off, drove to the 13 yard line, where Llano’s defense held.  Then after Llano drove out to the 34 yard line.  Llano punted, and our special teams laid an egg. Punt returned for a touchdown.  Crystal City goes for two, gets it, and leads 16-12..  Llano came right back. drove 8 plays and Llano takes the 18-16 lead into halftime.  Sounds good up to this point.

But the second half was a fast blur.  Crystal City took the opening kick off and ran 13 plays and scored.  There was 4:02 left in the quarter, and Llano had not seen the football.  Llano ran 7 plays and ran out of downs.  Quarter over!!!.  In the fourth quarter Llano’s defense forced 2 punts.  Crystal City forced Llano to punt, its only punt of the game.  Llano got the ball back one more time, drove to the 19 yard line and was stopped on a fourth and one.  Game over.

This one will be hard to get over.  I’m still thinking about it.  Maybe opportunities lost.  Twice in the red zone and no points,  Only 4 penalties by the Jackets, for 20 yards, but two of those stopped drives.  No turnovers.  No take-aways.  Llano had more total yardage, 346 to 316.  Llano averaged over 5 yards per carry in the running game.  3 first downs on pass plays.  I might have accepted that before the game, thinking those numbers would win.  But they didn’t.  This game will haunt the seniors for a long time.  It will be long remembered, not in a good way.  My heart breaks for the seniors.  They deserved better than this quiet loss.  The seniors played proud, and will go on.  But it will take a long time to forget this last game.

I will write the final article of the year within a few days.  Hard to say good bye.  This one was not expected.

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Crystal City Picked to Beat Jackets

Alert to all:  Want a motive to go to San Antonio to see Game?  According to the Harris Poll, Crystal City will beat the Llano Yellow Jackets by 3 points.  Read previous article written Monday)  I picked the Jackets by 16…see you at Edgewood Stadium  in San Antonio Thursday nite, 7:30 PM.

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Crystal City in Bi-District- Thursday @ 7:30 PM

The bad taste in the Llano Yellow Jackets mouth from playing at Edgewood Veterans Stadium in San Antonio last year  can be cleansed this Thursday night when the Jackets return.  But this time the Jackets play last year’s Bi District foe, the Crystal City Javelinas.  Llano beat Crystal City  last season while playing at Bandera Stadium.  The game is on Thursday evening.  If you show up on Friday, you will see the Wimberley game.

The 4-6 Jackets play a repeat of the game from last season.  The Javelinas are 7-3 this season.  Going by statistics on their web-site, they are a running team.  They average throwing the ball about 7 times a game and producing 58 yards per game.  But the Javelinas average about 165 yards a game running the football.  Just as last year’s contest, they will just line up at you and try to get you to stop it.  Last year, the Jackets best game was against the Javelinas.  The defense played worthy.  The offense was better. The 16 point win last season was highlighted with Mason Greenwood and John Heflin rushing 25 times for 174 yards.  Also, Brent Greenwood and Ben Walling rushed 10 more times for 60 yards.  All Jackets are back for this contest.  Missing this season will be the pass play by then senior Cody Miller for a 68 yard scoring toss. Otherwise, most all Jackets return for Thursday night.

Since no one has asked, I will give you my idea of what needs to happen.  Run the football.  And when in doubt, run the football.  And when there is a real head scratcher, run the football.  If we did pass,  throwing over the middle behind the linebackers, or throwing to a tight end, or a streaking Anthony Watson beating a safety.  But only when even I would not suspect it was coming!!  This Jacket team has found a formula.  It looks to me the offensive line feels very comfortable in run blocking.  Lead by seniors Robert Alcala, Cameron Hall, and good effort from seniors Jason Gann and Travis Wright blocking downfield.  I feel that that senior Christian Conway will play hard as he has all season.  When the possibilities of this being ones last football game, Brent Greenwood will leave it all on the field.  Same with Blake Dillard, Hunter Roemer, John Keeney and Jaden Napolez.  All folks that should get credit for this much improved Yellow Jacket defense.  Continued great play from senior Kyle Cooper and Kegan Greenhaw.  And back ups  that has not disappointed in Jordan Monroy, Shane Flint and Taylor Smith.  Thomas Westermann has played strong his senior year.  So too for Bradley Dyess, and Neil Blackman.  And no one plays harder on special teams than senior Stephen Sanderson.  He with junior Luis Coronado dominate special teams play.  I having a funny feeling, but I think senior John Heflin will show up.  This is a game for the seniors.  Go play your hearts out.

Llano 46   Crystal City 20

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Bandera Victory Nets Jackets 3rd Place Finish in District

It was not pretty, nor assured, but the Llano Yellow Jackets wore down a weak Bandera team at Bandera Friday night to claim third place in District 13 4AAAA Div. II.  The win puts the Jackets into the State Playoffs for the second year in a row and the third time in Coach Craig Slaughters five years in Llano.  The 4-6 Jackets have the final week of the season as their “OPEN” date, and will take this week to mend and prepare.

In a nutshell, Llano played sluggish…I guess.  The Jackets opened by taking the opening kick-off from the 44 yard line after Bandera did an on side kick to open the game.  Senior Travis Wright secured the kick and Llano began an 8 play drive that was stopped on the Bandera 36 yard line.  But on Bandera’s first play, a fumble caused by senior Blake Dillard and junior Ray Dixon had Llano back with the ball.  Six plays later senior Brent Greenwood scored from 3 yards out.  With Mason Greenwoods’ run for two points, Llano lead 8-0.

Again, on Bandera’s first play after the kick-off, Brent Greenwood stepped in front of a pass and had his first of two interceptions for the night.  Next a Jacket fumble.  Then a Bandera score.  The second quarter may go into some kind of record book, but I have not started the “strangest things” book…yet.

Bandera on side kicked again.  This time they got the ball.  Llano held, but had a 10 yard penalty, one of 9 for the night.  Bandera took the ball for three first downs, but were forced to punt.  Llano fumbled.  Llano forced another punt.  But not after Bandera had run 7 plays, 6 for negative yards, and one incompletion.  Bandera punted again after very strong line play from Dillard, Dixon, seniors Hunter Roemer, Kegan Greenhaw and linebacker Ian Fletcher.  Llano was three and out.  Bandera then takes it down on 8 plays for a TD.  Llano had two 15 yard penalties on Bandera’ drive.  The Bulldogs lead at halftime 13-8.

Llano had run 7 plays in the quarter, 7 yards rushing, and 1 for 4 passing for minus 2 yards.  3 penalties for 40 yards.  Bandera ran the ball 17 times for a minus 3 yards.  The Bulldogs were 2 of 6 passing for 11 yards.  Total:  8 yards in the quarter, but came away with 13 points.

Only with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter was Brent able to get his second interception and Llano was able score with 1:31 left in the quarter to take the score to 14-13.  New fullback, junior Josh Soliz caught a screen pass from quarterback Ben Walling and Josh bulldozed down to the 9 yard line and a 25 yard gain.  Brent caught a 7 yard pass from Walling that put the Jackets ahead for good.

Llano dominated the fourth quarter.  Bandera managed a minus 12 yards rushing, and completed two passes for 15 yards.  Llano had over 106 yards rushing on 15 carries, and threw one incomplete pass.  Senior John Heflin scored with 3:17 left in the game on a 24 yard burst right up the middle to score.  John too added the two point after run, and Llano had 22.  John finished the game with 93 yards on 17 carries.  Mason carried 22 times  and had 113 yards rushing.

This game Llano played down to its competition.  But does not matter now.  A win is a win.  The 4-6 Jackets must start the mental conditioning of being ready in two weeks to play Bi-District.  The mental mistakes Friday night were not from lack of effort.  The 9 penalties were just horrible.  Must be corrected.  Taking two weeks off can be a killer, or a produce a big time bust of getting ready to play.  The Jackets have a second life.  It can be short lived if the next 12 days are not cashed in on.  This is a moment the seniors must take charge.  Getting win # 5 should be the most important thing you have ever done.

Must mention the offensive line and blockers.   Played pretty good.  Cameron Hall, a senior is playing at a top level.  So too is junior Austin Humphrey.  Play of Robert Alcala, Dakoda Trull, Christian Conway, Nolan Keller, Hayden Cowart, and T. Lindell, all have gotten better.  Jason Gann, Shane Flint and Anthony Watson block good downfield. Ray, and Jaden Napolez  are studs.  Great effort.  Ian Fletcher is an all district linebacker.

Our secondary is the most improved.  Tyler Gann, and Anthony Watson.  Keep it up.  Brent as the leader.  Drew Cooper.  And Kyle Cooper has really played great.  Keep getting better, and you keep playing.

We will take another look in a few days.  But new goals need to be set.  Llano can play with many teams.  Winning in Bi District is where it starts.

 

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Jacket Running Attack Mauls Hondo

Want to talk about keeping secrets?  The Llano Yellow Jackets rushing attack has come “out from the cold”.  Jacket Nation knew that Mason Greenwood was one of the best running backs in all Central Texas. But Mason brought with him to Jacket Stadium Friday night a group of 7 other backs that proved just as dangerous as himself.  The Jackets 408 yards rushing against Hondo was the best output of the season.  The 9.55 yards per carry was over the top. This game was a game changer for this 2016 team that clinched a State Playoff birth, and now sets new goals for a season that many thought was on the ropes.

Loved the new backfield look with junior Josh Soliz lining up at fullback.  The burly Soliz lead the running attack into the hole on most plays, with Mason, senior John Heflin and senior Brent Greenwood taking the ball 35 times.  Freshman Aaron Brown showed his speed with a 62 yard burst in the fourth quarter and his second TD of the night.  His first TD came when he was counting his change  and at the end of the defensive stop by Llano, the ball fell into Aarons hands.  What the heck…run for the goal line and certainly no one was catching the young speedster.  Then you have runs by Travis Wright, Ben Walling, Stephen Sanderson and Soliz and you have the best offensive output of the season for the Jackets.  Mason finished with 215 yards, while John had 91 yards on 9 carries, Brent 4 for 19 yards, and Aaron  3 carries and 73 yards.

Give some credit to the big guys.  I am beginning to believe that this offensive line may be something very special.  No, there are no all-staters in this offensive line.  But steady as you go.  That is the mentality of a very good offensive lineman. You do not run up 408 yards rushing  without very strong blocking on the line.  I thought Nolan Keller had one of his best games.  Senior Cameron Hall with  senior Robert Alcala hold this group together.  Junior Austin Humphrey at 250 pounds gets better every week.  Beginning to be a real force on the defensive line also. T. Lindell has jumped in and has made a hand.  Junior Hayden Cowart continues to improve. Junior Dakoda Trull may be the most improved.  I think players like Trull are “getting it”.  They now are seeing how their size can really produce great leverage situations.  Trull- 235 pounds, Jordan Monroy 240 pounds, Hall at 240 and Humphrey at 250.  I tend to forget, or take for granted one of the Jacket best.  Junior Ray Dixon dominates on both sides of the ball.  Played a tremendous game.  All 235 pounds.  And senior Christian Conway lining up at tight end blocks very well.  He and junior Ian Fletcher both see action there.  Solid twosome.

The Jacket defense is the most improved unit in years.  Hondo had 118 of their yards in the fourth quarter when Llano had the luxury of playing many players.  Hondo too, had a good running attack.  The Jacket defense got two fumbles, and forced 4 punts.  Ian Fletcher had , again, his best game.  Jaden Napolez, a senior, just is so steady.  Great great player.  Drew Cooper, senior John Keeney, junior Tyler Gann, Blake Dillard and Hunter Roemer all played strong.  Kyle Cooper played well.  Love the play of two juniors.  Gage Cox and Luis Coronado.  What energy.  That is how you win football games with that kind of effort.  Shane  Flint had a very good game.  Shane is a senior.  And senior Kegan Greenhaw is always solid.  The defense has allowed the offense to find itself.  Now, working together, this Jacket team can be special.

Bandera is having a down season, but do not let that fool anyone.  Going to Bandera has always been tough for Llano, going back 15 years.  Llano beats Bandera, and they place third in District.  Most likely that would set up a replay of last season, in which we would play Crystal City in Bi-District.  And a win there might give the Jackets an opportunity to get a redemption game with Sinton.  But this is not a time to rest.  Beating Bandera is a serious endeavor.  Staying mad is important.  Do not let lesser talented teams stand in your way of success.  Llano must play smart.  Stop the stupid penalties.  I had Llano with 93 yards of penalties.  Over 100 yards of offense was called back.  Do that again and you might not win.  Beat Bandera soundly and prepare for a real state playoff run.  It starts in Bandera.

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It Is Time to Get Mad

When the Llano Yellow Jackets played with the talent it has, the Jackets played toe to toe with the 14th State ranked Wimberley Texans.  When Llano tries to go outside of its talent, then we fall apart and look like a 2-6 football team.  Llano was lucky that the score was 35-16.  It could have been worse.  Or…on the other side, it could have been much better.  I still run the game over in my mind every minute.  Llano should have won the game.  Llano was just as good as the Texans when Llano does what Llano does best.

Why Llano refuses to take on this identity is beyond me.  The Llano Yellow Jackets run the football.  The Llano Yellow Jackets averaged over 7 yards per carry Friday night.  Of 35 running plays, the Jackets had only two plays for loss yardage.  Two bad plays!!!  7 Yards per try.  Mason Greenwood had 146 yards.  6.64 yards per try.  Brent Greenwood only carried the ball four times, but averaged 7.6 yards per try.  And senior John Heflin carried four times for 66 yards.  Never stopped him. 16 plus yards per run.  16 yards!!!

Yet on all but two series of plays, the Jackets insist on throwing the football.  On 12 passing plays, Llano completed 3.  One for no yards.  One for minus one yard, and one for 26 yards to senior Kyle Cooper and a first down.  The other incompletions just killed dead any chance Llano had of continuing a drive.  In my opinion, had Llano used those 12 plays to run the football, we would have had another 50 yards in offense.  And two more touchdowns.  If only we would do what we are very capable of doing. Running the football.

The old argument is that you must throw the football to loosen up the defense.  That is bunk.  You do not get the linebackers on defense off the line of scrimmage when you only throw long and down the sidelines.  Cornerbacks cover those guys.  Not linebackers.  Llano does not throw over the middle where linebackers would be covering  a back coming out of the backfield or even a tight end.  Llano has rarely thrown over the middle this year.  Give credit where it might be due, but the screen passes to the Greenwoods has been a good pass for the Jackets this season.  That would be the only pass I would throw.

I have heard that Llano’s offensive lineman were not real talented.  If that is the case who has been blocking for Mason and his nearly 900 yards rushing this season.  I think junior Haden Cowart is playing pretty good.  I think seniors Cameron Hall and Robert Alcala are very steady in the run game. Juniors Austin Humphrey and Ray Dixon are at times, excellent.  I see that at times our lineman struggle at pass blocking.  But most teams either are real good at one type of block, and not so on another.  But Llano is solid at run blocking.  Ask Heflin and the Greenwoods if they agree.  Llano can run the football.  But sometimes, it takes three running plays to make a first down.  And with the talent Llano has at running back, it is a great formula for success.  Add in the speed of freshman Aaron Brown, a change of pace of quarterback Ben Walling ( Averaging over 6 yards per carry), senior Blake Dillard ( 20 plus yards on 6 carries), Stephen Sanderson, Shane Flint, and Josh Soliz all with talent at running the football.  Give sophomore Anthony Watson an end around a few times a game, and you have the makings of a running attack.

The Jackets do not need to back into the State play-offs by just beating a very weak Bandera team in the last game of the season.  Going 3-7 should be no ones’ goals.  Hondo handled Bandera easy this past Friday night.  Llano plays Hondo this Friday night in Llano.  Hondo will actually be picked to beat the Jackets according to the Harris poll.  Llano, especially the seniors, need to get mad about everything.  Get mad about my silly comments here today.  Get mad at your girlfriend, or your dog.  But get mad.  But most of all, do not take what Hondo has to offer.  Llano is better than that.  Llano can be a good team.  And going 4-6 for the season is the least of what you should expect of yourselves.  Get mad at Hondo for being in your path to placing third in District play.  But get mad, and play mad.  Beat Hondo like they beat you last year.  And getting mad may be the easiest path by winning out this season.

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