Much Needed Victory Confidence Builder

The 2-4 2015 Yellow Jackets worked real hard to get such an ugly victory.  But a win is a win is a win.  No  one needed this one more.  The much maligned offense worked when it had to, and that is all that matters.  The defense gave up too much, but any defense that gets 3 interceptions is playing with their head in the game.  And Cody Miller’s catch and recovery of a kick-off fumble was special heads up play.  There may be  much to not be happy with in a game in which Llano was picked to win by 13, but the Jackets brought the gun that produced a 3 point come from behind victory.  Allowing the Salado Eagles to remain in the game after the first Jacket score was the big mistake.  But as one very loyal Jacket fan said to me after the game, ” we still have to learn how to win”.  Well said.

And learning how to win is mostly, all mental.  When getting a lesser team on the ropes, you keep them there.  No let up.  No coasting.  Pouring on the coals really has meaning.  And you give any team, any team a spark of hope to come back and win, that can of worms is very hard to put back in the can.  Salado showed that they wanted so much to win, and still even with a 10 point lead late in the third quarter, Llano too wanted this game.  Llano’s comeback showed resolve and determination.  A great needed win and great for the Jackets to zero in on district.

The defense gave up 325 yards, but most came on 6 plays of 162 yards.  Big plays still plague the Jackets.  Senior Wyatt Bauman, sophomore Ray Dixon and junior Brent Greenwood were spectacular.  Miller and Mat Agee, along with sophomore Ian Fletcher are getting solid in the secondary.  Robert Alcala and senior Darian Green had good games.  Junior Blake Dillard had a sack and plays hard every play.  Senior John Heflin still surprises as he makes a great play every game.  Love his energy.  And while most of us sleep, special team players like Jason Gann, Christian Martinez and Matt Cohn play hard and no one notices.  But the take a ways will get Llano to the play-offs.  Few things more important than playing with your head up and your head in the game.

The offense is in a learning curve.  Sophomore quarterback Ben Walling is learning how much faster the game is at the varsity level, and running sideways is not productive when looking for receivers.  His command on the field looked strong.  And it was no little feat to guild the offense on two touchdown drives of 48 and 56 yards to win.  Walling is 1-0 as starting QB, and nothing else matters.

I think the offensive line is better.  Some plays I know.  Other times I do not.  But they blocked well enough for sophomore Mason Greenwood to get 169 yards on 26 carries. Best game of his young career.  Mason had 168 yards against Bangs.  Blocked well enough for Ben to throw for 88 yards.  Still, this week, we need more from each of them.

Another thought, and I think it came from the Pittsburg Steelers great Coach Mike Tomlin, and that being the 2 point try.  The Steelers think the odds are good to go for two after each TD.  I like that.  Mason could be good for three yards on most sweeps.  Just a Monday morning observation.

Llano is 6-12 all time against Wimberley.  Lost 52 -20 last year.  The most deceiving picture you will ever see is thinking the 0-6 Texans will be easy pickings in Llano next Friday night.  Their schedule has been brutal.  Their confidence against Llano on the top shelf.  This will be a game in which the one that wants to win the most.  The hardest working team.  The smartest team.  The most determined team.  And the team that has the most to prove.  Colton Center, Bauman, Heflin, Wyatt Casey, Valentine, Dalton Dewveall, Airon, William Oliver, Lukje Snitkin, Juan, Cameron Hall, Jose, Leo, Stratt, Cohen, Dorian, Christian Rodriquez, Mat and Cody…you have 4 games left in your football lives.  You have never beat the Texans.  Nothing should be more important.  You are 2-1 on your new home field.  Make it 3-1 and send the Texans home 0-7.  It will be a lifetime memory.

Llano 22, Texans 18

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Defense Can’t Carry entire Load- Chiefs Win 28-14

The Llano Yellowjackets went into half-time against the 5-A Lakeview Chiefs tied 7-7.  The defense was strong for Llano.  32 plays and allowed only 119 yards.  A 3.7 yard average per play.  Very winning football.   47 of those yards came on 3 plays.  That means the defense held the Chiefs to 2.5 yards a snap on the other 29 plays.  The defense forced a fumble ( Sophomore Ray Dixon and senior linebacker Wyatt Bauman) and recovered by Hunter Roemer.  Held on fourth down, 3 times, and Llano got the ball back.  And junior Brent Greenwood got an interception and gave Llano the ball on the 37 yard line in which the Jackets marched 63 yards and scored.  Sophomore Mason Greenwood had a 29 yard run as well a 17 yard gain on a screen pass from senior quarterback Wyatt Casey.

The offense had a two fumbles in the first quarter, which killed the attack.  Total of 93 yards of offense kept the defense on the field.  7-7 at halftime.  The Jackets were in OK position to win this game.

I honestly have no explanation other than lack of more depth for the Jackets.  That may be a factor later in the games, but the Chiefs came out and scored in 4 plays after the half.  Lakeview had three plays of over 10 yard gains in the first half.  They had that many in the first series after the half in which they went 80 yards and scored.  The defense allowed 9 plays of over 10 yards in the second half.  Averaged 18 yards on those 9 plays.  The Jackets held the Chiefs on one fourth down try, and other than an interception by Cody Miller in the third quarter, the defense stayed on the field.  Lead by Bauman and Dixon, excellent play on defense by sophomore Ian Fletcher at cornerback with 10 tackles, junior Jaden Napolez with 10 more, and senior defensive back John Heflin in on 10 more.  Gang tackling was lead by junior Blake Dillard, Roemer, Fletcher, Cameron Hall and Roberto Alcala.  Over all, the defense did their job.  The long gains are still a problem.

The offense must find a way.  Senior quarterback Casey completes over 50% of his passes, but does miss some.  Receivers seem to drop 2 passes every game.  Mason is averaging over 5 yards a carry, as is Brent, William Oliver, Casey,  Heflin and Roemer.

There still is little time to drop back to pass.  Llano must play two halves.  If they had, today they would be at least 3-2 rather than 1-4.  Making the play-offs is still a very viable goal.  Both Wimberley and Hondo are 0-5.  Both can be beat by Llano.  Beating Salado this week in our Homecoming game is a must, but it must be a complete game win. Llano needs the confidence builder of how to win.

A few extra notes.  Love the hustle every week of special team players Matt Cohen, Stratt Stiles and Roemer, Airon Layton, Jason Gann.  I think strongly that senior Colton Center should continue to do two things.  Kick off and even when it goes out of bounds, it gives Llano a good place for the defense to start play.  And play more defense.  Good job from the four year starter for Llano……Llano plays two halves…Jackets 34   Salado 7.

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Two Halves, Two Yellowjackets, Disappointing End

The two faces of the Llano Yellowjackets showed itself Friday night playing the Fredericksburg Billies.  You had the hustling, gang tackling Jackets, and you had the laid back wait and see if someone else will do the job and maybe I won’t have to do much Jackets.

As I sat through the first half, there was hope.  There was a spark.  Certainly mainly on defense of all things, but this team showed up to play.  For the first time in maybe years, the Llano defense forced 5 punts in the first half.  The passing game of senior Billies’ quarterback  Kyle Reeh was on its heels.  Only 3 of 13 and 38 yards in the first half.  I thought Cody Miller, John Heflin, Ian Fletcher, Valentine Hernandez played very good.  Then the pass rush, the hard nose at the point of attack was the best in two years.  Lead by senior linebacker Wyatt Bauman and sophomore Ray Dixon, this defense was spot on.  Great play by Brent Greenwood , Dorian Green, Jaden Napolez, and Hunter Roemer.  Blake Dillard is showing is genes.  Mat Agee coming off injury was pitching in.  Matt Cohen was in on several stops.  And when junior Roberto Alcala is playing in the Billies backfield, he makes things happen.  Dixon too had QB sacks.  It just looked like everyone was on the same page.  Fredericksburg had minus yards in 14 carries!  Goodness sakes alive, where did this defense come from?

All I can say is it looked like that team got back on the bus and the Brady Yellowjacket team played the second half.  The 27-0 final score was kind.  The Jackets had no offense.  44 yards in the second half.  A run by senior quarterback Wyatt Casey of 17 yards and one completion to Mason Greenwood for 9 yards, and that was it.  Senior Airon Layton had three catches in the game.  Casey had no time to throw, Mason ended the game with 18 carries and 19 yards.

Most important issues.  Senior leadership.  It takes everyone to win a football game.  Guys that play little, must buy into the team concept.  Not just the stars on a team.  Everyone.  Seniors can make this happen.  Meet together.  Talk.  Understand this is your last stand.  And please see the big picture.  You still can win.  You are good enough to still beat 5 of the 6 remaining teams on the schedule.  You really can.  You proved it to yourselves in the first half.  Can you dream about playing defense for 48 minutes every game, rather than just 24.  Do you know the results?  I do.  You will give yourself a chance to win every game.  That is all we as fans want for you.  That is what your family and moms and dads want for you.  And that is what each Coach wants for you.  Believe in yourself first.  This season is not lost, unless you seniors say it is lost.  Go to Lakeview and play your guts out every play.  Every play.  Do it just once so you will know how it feels.  You will not be disappointed in yourself.

Now I am going to talk about a young player that I have learned to respect.  In 43 years of writing about the Llano Fighting Yellowjackets, I do not think I have gone here.  But it keeps going thru my mind, so that I will say this.  Llano in the 43 years I have been covering the Jackets have had only two truly speed burning running backs.  Jason Moore in 1997 (Averaged 6.98 yards per carry) , and Curtis Hartman in 1990 ( 2,764 yards junior and senior years, 3rd all-time rusher, holds school record with 327 yards in single game against Gatesville.)  Both were blazers.  Yet, they had few football moves. But both were very smart football players.  They knew God had given them a talent, and they knew they had to cash in on that talent.  Speed.  And as they both progressed in their football careers, someone I can only guess showed them that speed was more important than anything.  Anything.  Juke moves ? Nothing.  Outrun folks to the sidelines? Never happens.  Run over the defensive end?  Rarely seen. Speed.  The first step.  Straight ahead flash.  By the time you get two steps past the last player on the end of the offensive line, you cut it up and go.  Not one moment of hesitation. No more running to the sidelines.  Curtis and Jason turned it up.  Both are in the record books, with Curtis having 1,500 yards his senior year.  They used their one great talent, and both were great Llano running backs in a very long tradition of greats.  They did not try to be something they weren’t.  They played smart.

Mason Greenwood looks to me to have that kind of speed.  His running lanes are not to get to the sidelines.  The lanes are there, 2-3 steps outside the ends.  Only for mini-seconds.  A blink of an eye, the lanes are there.  Offensive lineman can block hard for 1-2 seconds.  Hard to get 3-5 seconds out of those guys.  So as a team, you are working on tenths of a second.  My prayer is Mason starts running smart.  What a talent you have.  Speed.  Use it wisely.  Same goes for running between the tackles.  Speed.  When no hesitation is in the run, speed will be by many linebackers before they see you.  Take a page from the past and run like Curtis and Jason.   Llano 20  Lakeview 0


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Unexplained Let Down in Brady

When it looked like the Llano Yellowjackets were going to bring forth a consistent offense, a defense that did not allow the big play, and special teams that stayed disciplined, all fell apart in Brady Texas last Friday night.  To say, “these things happen” is letting everyone off the hook.

I know not where to start.  How do seniors still jump off sides?  Where was the gang tackling?  It was nearly a dream, but when we all woke up, the nightmare was real.  This was one game I had no explanation for.  And as I write two days later, and look at the stats, still have no clue to everything falling apart in one game.

And since I have no idea, you get up, dust off the britches, and get mad.  Get ready to play again.  No one quit.  There was good effort.  There were good plays.  And while I never kept stats on plays over 10 yards, a yardstick even used by colleges and pros, this is one look at what happens on both sides of the ball and gives some insight.  Llano had 7 such plays, 4 in the first quarter.  4 were passes to three different receivers.  Brady on the other hand had 12, 7 running plays for 176 yards.  The second effort of chasing is usually the key to this kind of stat.

I hope the Yellowjackets recognize the great heads-up play of junior Jaden Napolez.  His hustle down field on a Llano punt in the 3rd quarter and keeping his head in the game gave Llano the ball at midfield off his recovered fumble.  Just good effort.  Then when all is lost, and Llano is down 34-0, his effort produced an interception/fumble recovery and he ran the ball in for Llano’s only points.  As a very old timer, I want to thank Jaden for not letting Brady shut out the Jackets.  Good game.

The Jackets get no time to lick their wounds.  A very strong Fredericksburg team comes to Llano this Friday night.  Burnet just beat the Billies Friday night.  Fredericksburg thinks they have their best team in 20 years.  This is where the Jackets decide about this season.  Maybe some will retreat.  But others will step up.  If you have a strong senior class, this is where they had better recognize the urgency of getting the cob-webs out of the helmet and get serious.  Fredericksburg will be picked over Llano by 30 points, and their ranking deserves that edge.  But, Llano has a history…Llano has played the heck out of Fredericksburg when the Billies expected it the least.  This Friday night could  be one of those times.  Llano makes no stupid mistakes.  Llano covers on kick-offs and punts.  No turnovers.  None.  Play like it is the last game you will  ever play.  And Llano, when you do that, you will walk off that new Jacket Stadium turf with your pride and integrity all in hand.  You can do it.  But you must believe.  Believe in everything you have worked for since the 7th grade.  This week will take that kind of effort.

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First Win On New Turf Brings Good Times

The 2015 Llano Yellowjackets found success at home last Friday night beating the Bangs Dragons 41-12 while playing the first game on the new artificial turf.  The beautiful new field was just the backdrop of a Jacket team that was hitting on all cylinders…playing strong defense that held the Dragons to 98 total yards while the offense ran and passed for 395 yards.

After playing a pretty good game  last week against state ranked Wall, the Jackets came back strong Friday night.  One of the most glaring examples is the secondary players were not the leading tacklers.  But they did lead in interceptions.  One by senior linebacker Wyatt Bauman, and then senior cornerback Mat Agee early in the second quarter picked one off and went 33 yards for a Jacket score.  And all senior cornerback Cody Miller could do was pick off two passes  while making 6 tackles  in the game.  The yardage improvement this season is a difference maker.  Long plays have killed the Jackets in the past seasons.  Friday night, Bangs on first play got off a 17 yard run.  Bangs had only one more play the remainder of the game of over 10 yards.  Sound sound defense.

Can’t say enough about the aggressiveness of sophomore Ray Dixon.  14 tackles with help.  Bauman too in on 14.  Junior Blake Dillard with 10.  Brent Greenwood played a great game on both sides of the ball, and in on 12 tackles.  Really like the play of junior Kegan Greenhaw on the defensive line.  In on 10 tackles.  Gang tackeling is starting to make a difference.   Dorian Green does that.  It prevents the second effort of a running back and stops those long runs.  Great improvement by the defense.  Defense must really step up this week.  We play Brady in Brady.  They scored 41 against their chief rival Ballinger Friday night.  Good test for this defense.

The offensive line was better this week.  Junior Cameron Hall had a very good game.  As did Cameron Brumley.  Juan Mungia  had his best game, as did senior Jose Arrendondo.  Improve every game.  That is the key.  Senior Colton Center shows his experience of being a four year starter.  Dixon was great.  And ends Jason Gann and Luke Snitkin blocked with good effort out in the secondary.  Gann also caught a Casey pass .  Good to see Roberto Alcala getting better.  This junior could come on strong with more confidence.  The off-side penalties must end.  Real deal killers on any drive.  Concentrate, concentrate.

If the line is wondering about confidence, think no more.  It is showing up in the confidence of your running backs.  Running as hard as they can on the first step and then the hole opens up.  Mason Greenwood had 168 yards on 14 carries.  Brent and 4 carries, William Oliver, Hunter Roemer, John Heflin, Dorian Green, Sterling Rogers, and Christian Rodriquez all showed they have talent carrying the football.  Good depth at running back.  And who would have thought that the longest run of the season comes from senior quarterback Wyatt Casey ?  Made an 82 yard TD run look easy.  Outran everyone.

Back in the old days, Brady was the Jackets oldest and most hated rival.  And it was mutual.  Brady had no use for Llano.  Last season Brady beat Llano in Llano 20-17.  Really was a season changer.  Llano never recovered from the very close loss.  The Jackets success in Brady over the years has been a bright star.  Seems even old rivals keep being passed down.  Nothing could help Llano get that bit of extra confidence needed to go forward than beating Brady in Brady.  For many of us old timers sitting in the stands nothing is more important.  Nothing.  Llano needs this win very badly.  That extra effort on every single play could be the one play that counts.  Llano 17   Brady 12.

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#5 Ranked Wall Still Tough

Playing the #5 ranked 3AAA team in the state on their home field was to be no easy task.  The Jackets were not fooled into thinking it would be, especially after the 54-21 beat down at Jacket Stadium in 2014, and the Hawks going on to a strong 11-2 season. So being prepared was good advice.   The 28-13 final score in Wall Friday night proved all of the above correct.  Wall’s ranking is accurate.  Playing at Wall with game officials certainly more familiar with the green and white.  And Llano was prepared.  Take away 5 plays and the score could have been reversed.  The Jackets are a different team from 2014, and only good things will happen over the next few weeks.

This team has one hard task, and that is to get to the point where it trusts itself.  The offensive line considered the Jackets strongest unit coming into this season, played good…not great.  What they must learn in the trust department is knowing if they hold a block just for a 1/10 of a second longer, that sophomore Mason Greenwood will hit the opening and make yardage. ( 17 carries and 93 yards) There is nothing that makes an offensive lineman get better every play than knowing he is blocking for a running back that can actually score on any play.  That is the reason not one play in a game can be used for a resting play.  Mason has that quickness that gives hope on every play.  The balance of running by senior John Heflin can do nearly the same.  Dorian Green, Wyatt Bauman, and Brent Greenwood bring different talents.  The 4.3 yards per try was good, not great.

The offensive line will form a bond.  A brothership.  Lead by four year starter Colton Center, along with seniors Jose Arredondo, Garrett Carlson, Cameron Brumley, Juan Mungia and # 90, Luke Snitkin. Juniors Roberto Alcala, Keegan Greenhaw, Cameron Hall. and Jason Gann.  And two way starter sophomore Ray Dixon.  This group can be very good.  Learn to trust each other.  Every play you will get stronger.

The defense played pretty good.  Forced a key fumble.  Held twice on fourth down.  Allowed only 34 passing yards on 2 of 7 attempts by Wall.  Still not real strong against the Wall triple option.  I wanted to say something , but during the game, when a Yellow Jacket fan screamed out that why did not the Jackets stop the Wall offense, because they “had run the same play 3 times in a row”!  I was more concerned that the Llano fan could only count to 3, as the 49 other plays that Wall ran….were also the same play…it’s the triple option, or the old time veer, but….it is all the same play!!!

Sure don’t like to see defensive backs Matt Agee, John Heflin, Cody Miller, Dalton Dewveall, and Blake Dillard make so many tackles past the line of scrimmage.  But easily Hunter Roemer and Wyatt Bauman had very good games.  Brent Greenwood played well.  as did Dixon, Dorian Green and Jaden Napolez.  Jaden was in on 10 tackles.  Keep up the gang tackleing.  Play hard every single play.  Try to get more turnovers.  And set yourselves a goal of shutting out Bangs.

Have not said anything yet about senior Wyatt Casey.  Loved his first game as a starter.  Wyatt was 9 of 16 passing for 108 yards.  Managed the game well.  Confidence is all that needs adding, and that will come.  Threw one bad pass…forced it in when he should have tucked and ran.  Still, quarterback is in good hands.  Could see the confidence build as Wyatt threw and connected to senior Airon Layton 4 times for 78 yards.  This connection will produce more yards and more points when Wyatt connects on about 15 passes a game.  More first down passes…then Mason really cuts loose.  This could be an exciting offense.  Beating Bangs in Llano this Friday night will help all the confidence builders.

Llano 35   Bangs 0

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2015 Season of Optimism

The football season begins this next Friday night with an inner confidence.  So many new players.  So many veterans with great experience.  Some new coaches with lots of energy. Few will predict the number of wins…but all feel confident it will be unlike 2013 and 2014.

We travel to Wall Friday night.  Revenge would help, as the Hawks beat Llano in Llano last year 54-21.  Wall was an 11-2 team last season, going into the play-offs and losing in the regional quarterfinals.  The Hawks are picked to win their 3-3A DI district, with Brady and Bangs as common foes this year.  Their confidence will be strong.  But what an opening game opportunity for Llano.  Beating Wall in this opening game would be big.

The Jackets prepare with a new quarterback, senior to be Wyatt Casey.  The 6’2 tassel headed Wyatt has looked very good in two scrimmages.  Confidence looks great.  Love his demeanor on the sidelines.  Wyatt could surprise.  And he will have great skill people help.  Love everything John Heflin does.  Yes, all 135 pounds of him.  John became a starter last season as a sophomore in the secondary.  He can run.  Look for more help from the Greenwood brothers, Mason and Brent.  Both are fast.  Wyatt Bauman, and Cody Miller, both veterans will see much time on the field.  And 6’2 #90 Luke Snitkin at end needs to be the next best tight end for the Jackets. He can be a very good senior.

Coach Craig Slaughter says this offensive line will be his best going into his fourth year in Llano.  You start with center senior Colton Center.  Should Colton stay well,  he can be very special.  He leads a group of experienced lineman, with no one better right now than junior to be Ray Dixon.  Tremendous motor…plays hard every play.  Watch the Cameron boys, Hall and Brumley.  Old hand Jose Arredondo at times last year as a junior was the Jackets best blocker. Juan Mungia is very strong and consistent.  There will be others.  But give me a very good offensive line, and you will get good play out of the skill guys.

Last season, the defense was not good.  So I will wait until we have a feel for this seasons players.  6 of the top defensive players from last season return.  All will be better.  But they must be much better.  Llano plays 8 teams that made the playoffs last year.  There will be no easy games.  But you play them one at a time.  Right now, Wall is the only team on the schedule.

So let’s all saddle up and head west.  Beating a good Wall team on their home field will be tough, but the assignment not impossible.  Llano 21   Wall 18 ..

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