Boy…This One Hurt

In 1976, Llano went to Georgetown to play in Bi-District.  Llano was coached by the great John Baskin.  Rockdale was 10-0, and ranked #1 in the State.  Llano was behind late in the fourth quarter, when Llano great Shelby Wright at quarterback marched the Jackets to about the 25 yard line.  Fourth down. The score was 7-6, Rockdale.  In came little Joe Ratliff to try for the go ahead field goal.

The story told to me so many times, and in simple language, Wright went over to Ratliff, put is finger in his face, and told him in the plainest of words, that he had better make the field goal.  Joe Ratliff kicked the field goal, and without going back deep into the record book, there was about a minute left in the game.  Llano was ahead 9-7.

Llano kicked off, Rockdale had a good run back, but the Jackets got a 15 yard penalty.  Rockdale threw a complete pass.  Then another incomplete, but a pass interference call put Rockdale on about the 25 yard line.  Rockdale kicked the field goal and won 10-9, with less than 20 seconds in the game.

Rockdale went on to win the State Championship.  Several months later in an interview with the Head Coach of Rockdale, he was asked the question, “who was the best team you played all season’?  “Llano was the best”.

Just for the record, Joe Ratliff passed away about 1o years later, after taking on his family ranch duties.  Shelby Wright went on to play at Tarleton University.  His senior year, they won the NAIA National Championship.  Shelby was NAIA Offensive Player of the Year.  Shelby is still in the Llano record books, including most TD passes in a season.

The gut wrenching loss by the Yellow Jackets Friday night will take a long time to forget.  Many will never forget.  Llano played so hard. The seniors did everything they had to do to win.  But sometimes, in sports and life, winning does not show up on the scoreboard.  Llano, in my opinion played well enough to win.  But that wasn’t enough.

I could go through the each play in the game, but I will leave that for next week. This week I think we all need time to reflect.  We need time to heal. We need time to get past this disappointment.  All in order so we can move forward.  Move forward in a positive way.  Knowing that we do live to fight another day.  To know, be it sports, or be it your next life, that over coming disappointment is a must for a successful life.  The Jacket players will hurt for a long time. The seniors will get their focus back, and when they do, all will move forward to the next game.  Their games of life begin now.  And with the way they played this 2017 season, all have so much to look forward to.  Lessons have been learned.  May not seem that way today.  But the hard losses in life make you better.  Make you tougher.  Make you better prepared.  The loss to Crystal City was a killer.  But try to remember what Ratliff and Wright were able to do.  Their lives had only begun after that loss to Rockdale.

 

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8-2 Crystal City Again in Bi District

The 5-5 Llano Yellow Jackets will play the 8-2 Crystal City Javelinas  for the third year in a row in the first round of the State Play offs.  Crystal City from District 14-4A Div. II, placed second in their district, going 4-1.  The Jackets were 2-2 in District 13-4A Div. II, placing third. in 2015, the Jackets won.  In 2016, the Javelinas won.  Both games were played in San Antonio.

This Friday night, Llano will meet Crystal City on the playing field of Incarnate Word in San Antonio.  The game will feature a Javelina team that had a record of 8-4 last season after beating the Jackets 22-18, and this season stand at 8-2 over all. The Javelinas run the football most of the time.  Two running backs, Austin Sanchez and David Patino average over 100 yards rushing per game.  Sanchez also was an All State safety last season.

I will say that I do believe that Llano played about as uninspired football against Crystal City in last years game that I had ever seen.  No energy.  And opportunity after opportunity left on the field. That will not be the case this Friday night.

The seniors on this years team not only are winners, but want to win.  It showed up game after game when maybe it was not to be.  Playing so hard against Sonora and Navarro showed me a Jacket team that could play with anyone.  And while Llano lost to Burnet, I think the Jackets surprised themselves with hard play and a very close game. (Burnet has nearly 1,000 students in high school).  The Jackets should relish the opportunity to win this rubber match with Crystal City.  And winning game number 6 would match the victory total that the 2010 team put up in a 6-5 season.  11 years ago, Llano won 7 games.

But, as I do every year at this time, I place the burden on the seniors.  This is their game.  This is their reward.  And I believe this is their season to own.  Lead by seniors Ian Fletcher, Ray Dixon and Tyler Gann.  These are football players.  And Josh Soliz and Luis Coronado have been our best surprises. So much energy and aggressiveness.  How lucky can you get when a Daniel Sparks moves to your team for his senior year.  Great football player.  Don’t remember anyone improving as much over 10 games as Dalton Bauman.  Got better every week. Few more consistent than Dakota Trull in the offensive line for two seasons.  Gage Cox, Lane Ward and Kaleb Dodson talented defensive players.  Great surprise in Austin Humphrey on both sides of the ball.  Real force inside.  Folks like Tyler Thompson, and Hayden Cowart makes the coaches job easier with people that can play anywhere and do a good job.  Hayden Godfrey continues to come up with big plays.  And look how much Nolan Keller has come in with great plays and consistent blocking.  And where was Diego Garcia last season.  Consistent, and now in the record book.  Great senior year.  Always playing hard and especially on special teams, Quint Pincelli makes plays every Friday night.  And the job Ben Walling has done from a running back position. Wow.  Hurts alot of folks when he carries the ball.  And with a disjointed season, Mason Greenwood has had wonderful moments playing for Llano.  Ranked high in the record book in rushing.  Just one more injury free, great game from Mason is needed.

You play, maybe your last game, as if it were the last game you will ever be in.  You savor every moment.  Every play has no regrets.  Every play could be the one that makes the difference.  You practice this week like there is no next week.  You want to go out with the biggest bang you possibly can.  And you make every second a memorable  one. And you walk off the field Friday night with no regrets. Beat Crystal City.

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Jackets Bounce Bandera, Week to Think About Bi District

The Yellow Jackets 54-20 victory over Bandera Friday night secured a third place finish in District 13-4A, Div.11.  The 5-5 Jackets , and 2-2 in District play ends the regular season for Llano, with this week being their “OPEN” week.  Llano will not know its Bi District foe until this Friday night with games being played in District 14-4A, ( Devine, Crystal City, Pearsall, Carrizo Springs, Poteet, and Lytle).

While Llano dominated most of the game, pesky Bandera managed to stay close for the first quarter.  Llano scored first with carries from Ben Walling and Ian Fletcher.  A 39 yard run by Mason Brooks put the Jackets close when Mr. Automatic, senior Jose Soliz  carried in from the 3 and with Diego Garcia extra point, LLano lead 7-0.

LLano kick-off to Bandera was covered well by Presley Lynch.  Starting at the 40 yard line, Bandera marched 13 plays and 60 yards to score.  I think the 13 play drive may be the longest against the Jackets this season.  Longest run was 20 yards. But four times the Jackets threw the Bulldogs for losses.  Lead by linebacker Fletcher, in on 6 tackles, Drew Cooper too was active and had strong play.  Ray Dixon, Daniel Sparks, Soliz, and sophomore Aaron Brown continue to shine on defense.  Bandera threw but one pass, for the TD.

Mason Greenwood returned with good health, and began the end of the first quarter  with 3runs of 27 yards.  Walling picked up 14 more on two carries, and Soliz and Cade Fly added 8 more.  On the four yard line Cade threw to Fletcher for the TD and Llano   lead 14- 7.

One of the reasons Llano is playing better, and smarter football is the play of Presley Lynch.  Llano kicked off to Bandera, but a lateral, and then a throw back looked like Llano might be asleep.  Not Presley, who “stayed at home”or better said, stayed in his pursuit lane and made the tackle on the 21 yard line.  Great heads up play.  Ray Dixon then recovered a fumble after a Fletcher tackle for a loss.  Llano had the ball on the 26 yard line.  A 16 yard run by Cade, and then an 11 yard TD reception from Cade to Aaron Brown put the Jackets up 20-7.

The Jackets  took control of the game. Dalton Bauman plays better every week.  Brooks, Dixon, Sparks, Nolan Keeler, Gage Cox, and Tyler Gann all had very strong games.  Llano knew it needed badly to beat Bandera.  The mental aspect of this final regular season game had kicked in.  Llano was hitting and tackling with a mission.  It was fun to watch.  The Jacket defense in the second quarter had 5 plays in which Bandera made 0 to minus yards.  A  total of 38 yards were made against the Jacket defense in the second quarter.

Mason Brooks scored on the first play from scrimmage midway thru the second quarter, running for 32 yards.  Next up was Greenwood with a 21 yard run.  Walling followed a few minutes later with a 22 yard run.  And with :37 seconds left in the half, Cade hit wide receiver Brooks Keel for 27 yards and Llano lead 33-7 at the half.  Pretty fair outing.

Llano ended the game with 388 total yards.  All with a little help from our friends, guys with no names but play as lineman.  A few of their names have surfaced, and again I will try not to miss anyone.  Lane Ward and Tyler Lindell have really started to contribute.  Sparks, Dakota Trull, and Hayden Cowert really shine. Dixon, Luke  Williams, and Hayden Godfrey always play hard.  Keel and Austin Humphrey are very steady.  I keep seeing Kendall Downey and while a backup quarterback, Kendall seems to play everywhere.  Great playmaker.  Kaleb Dodson too has been playing very well.  And Cameron Johnson on the line has had people asking “who is he”.  He be pretty good.

In the secondary we have steady hands in Gann and Cox.  But Christian Kirby is getting better every game .Our guys can play with anyone.  While injuries still have an effect, several should return to play in Bi District.  The great Ian Flecther went down Friday night, and keeping fingers crossed it is not his last game.  Maybe two weeks here will help.

The Jackets 5-5 record matches a win total high in the last 6 years.  Win # 6 can come on November 17th.  No reason for this veteran team to not get serious now, and start thinking of making a run in the playoffs. 8 players scored TDs against Bandera.  The Jacket  Coaches  are  doing a great job.Fans now need to continue to do our part.  Let’s plan on winning # 6.

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Jacket Charactor Prevails in Hondo Win

If getting behind 21-7 was not bad enough, the bad injury to junior wide out Anthony Watson, and 5 penalties for 55 yards, Llano’s rhythm seemed off.  Oh no, another bad game in Hondo, as if that has never happened before.  It was a perfect setting for the Jackets to call it a night by halftime.

But that is not what happened.  Junior quarterback Cade Fly returned from injury, yet I worried that he might break.  Cade sat in the pocket all night long.  Moved around very little. Still hit 22 of 34 passes, two TD passes, for 277 yards.  Let’s give Cade credit for his discipline.  Let’s give the offensive line credit for their best game as a unit.  It  had to be.  Cade’s running game taken from him and limited movement meant the Jacket lineman had to block, stay with their blocks, and hope Cade’s arm strength could prevail.  6 receivers caught passes.

Llano could have let up some.  But at the end of the second quarter, just before half, Diego Garcia kicked a 23 yard field goal with :16 seconds left.  Score 21-10.  Maybe Diego’s kick was the lift.  But Llano played its best 3rd quarter in years.  Llano took the kick-off and Aaron Brown returned it 23 yards to the 35 yard line.  Cade threw to Aaron for 5.  Junior Mason Brooks ran for 10.  Then 4 more. Aaron  another 5 yarder.  Mr. Automatic, Josh Soliz ran for 7 more and a first down.  Ben Walling carried.  And on second down and 12, Cade hit junior Brooks Keele for 36 yards and the TD. Score 21-16.  Extra point was blocked.

Time for the defense to show off.  Hondo ran three running plays.  Made 7 yards. punted.  That was the last time in the third quarter the Owls offense would be on the field.  Jacket defense was relentless.  Daniel Sparks, Josh Soliz, and Ray Dixon were just wonderful. Monsters in the trenches.  Drew Cooper, Aaron, Ian Fletcher, Dalton Bauman, Nolan Keller, Ethan Tisdale and Quint Percelli all had great games. Presley Lynch plays hard all the time. Great effort. All stayed focused is the best way I can describe what I saw.  I think, seniors Gage Cox and Tyler Gann had their best games.  Hondo was only 5 of 11 passing for 74 yards.  Junior Christian Kirby at cornerback had a good game. Llano outscored Hondo 20-3 in the second half.

I am glad you did not tell me before the game that Llano would allow a kick off to be returned for a TD.  Or Hondo would block an Austin Humphrey punt to be blocked and run in for a TD.  Or Llano would have two Garcia extra points blocked.  Or Llano would have 9 penalties for 90 yards.  Glad you didn’t tell me that before the game.

But Llano did not allow any of those things stop them from keeping their focus.  Llano knew it had to win this game.  The seniors were upset on the sidelines.  Not “drama upset”.  Just mad.  There are times in lives of all that bad things happen, and things go south.  The Jackets in Hondo refused to allow those things to take the stage.  Llano’s character….true character surfaced, and barred down harder,  took fate into their own hands and won the football game.  Llano took the lead with 11:32 in the fourth quarter 30-21 and never let go. It’s called character.

I will list the offensive lineman, and tight ends.  I hope to not miss any of you.  Let me know if I do.  You all need to be recognized.  All of us fans love you as long as we do not hear from you.  Get a holding call and we know then who to be mad at.  Being an unknown offensive lineman is tough work.  Thank you Luke Williams, Daniel Sparks, Ray Dixon, Austin Humphrey, Dalton Bauman, Hayden Cowert, Tyler Thompson, Lane Ward, Cameron Johnson, Tyler Lyndell, Dakota Trull, Hayden Godfrey (one catch, 13 yards) and Brooks Keele(4 catches 71 yards and a TD).

The Jacket offense had 455 yards total.  Hard running from Mason Brooks (17-93 yards), Josh ( 9-38 yards), and Walling (14-46 yards). Mason Greenwood was not a full speed.  Maybe with two more week to get rest, he too can get back to contributing.

Cade had 134 yards passing in the third quarter.  Pretty good.  But remember in 2002, against Smithville, quarterback Jason Smith threw for 153 yards in the first quarter.

Bandera has had a rough year.  Llano is ahead in the series 14-7. Llano has won 6 of the last 8.  But do not let that fool you.  As I said last year, they are good when least expected.  Llano last season, clearly a better team, dodged a bullet in winning only 22-13….. In 2002 Bandera was entering the last game of the season…winner of the game would secure the last spot for the playoffs.  Many recent great Jacket athletes ( if you call 15 years recent)…record breaking 800 meter relay team…Hunter Ratliff, Jason Smith, Michael White (Just look at the school record book), Nick Moratori, Jerrod Virdell.  Bandera won 39-32 in the last moments.  Bandera went on to win the State Championship.  Bandera has history.  They always play hard.

OK…this is the last point to make.  The Yellow Jackets have had our new playing field surface for two seasons.  We have only two wins on the home field.  We beat Hondo last year.  We beat Eastside this season on Homecoming.  These seniors need to help start a better tradition.  WE need to make Jacket Stadium a hard place for visiting teams to come play.  It starts Friday night.  Jackets up record to 5-5.  Llano makes the state play offs.  And Open week the following week allows Llano to get well.  It begins Friday night.

 

 

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With Wimberley in Rearview Mirror, Only One Game Now Counts

At some point in time, I expected the Jackets to take a deep breathe.  Maybe, like in the “open” week.  But it  came this past Friday when the stars were aligned to have the wheels fall off.  The 45-7 loss to the Texans gets a bad game out of the way.  Llano can now aim for one thing, and that is getting better, and making sure they secure a third place finish in 13-4AAAA.   This is the time that the seniors must stand up.  Finishing what the seniors started is a very worthy goal.

The absent of three good offensive weapons may have been the start of a bad week.  Dalton Moore, Cade Fly, and Mason Greenwood watched from the sidelines in street cloths.  But injuries happen to everyone.  The Jacket offense never got untracked, unless you count one great play when quarterback Ben Walling found Hayden Godfrey for a 66 yard pass and catch.

Mason Brooks ran the ball hard. Had him for 17 carries.  Junior Aaron Brown  too looked good carrying the football.  And the lone carry by Soliz for a TD was just “want to”. The score was then 42-7 after a Garcia extra point.

The Jackets had 6 straight either 3 and outs, or three turnovers.  Llano’s Austin Humphrey punted 5 times for an average of over 37 yards.  Good average and good for Austin.  The Texans felt like they could contain the Jackets run game, and they did.  Very hard on our very good and improving offensive line.  Daniel Sparks, Devin Bertelson, Tyler Lindell, Ray Dixon, Lane Ward, Luke Williams, Dakota Trull and Dalton Bauman did most of the heavy lifting.  They did a good job fighting with a short stick.

Players that stood out with good effort were Charlie Mott on kick-offs.  Bauman on rushing the passer. Josh Soliz, Sparks, and Dixon and holding strong against the run.  Drew Cooper stepping in a making several plays after linebacker Luis Coranado went out of the game.  And linebacker Ian Flecther is the best defensive player I have seen this season.  Donaven Arellano had a good night.  As did Ethna Tisdale.  A long night for the Jackets in the secondary, but Ethan saved several long plays with key tackles.  Very glad to see Nolan Keller playing better and more every week.  Doing a good job.  Quentin Franklin,  Kendall Downey, and Kaleb Dodson were in on several stops.  No one gave up.  I was very proud of the defense.  Wimberley was just very good, and will likely do the same this Friday night against Navarro. Last week the Texans were ranked #6.

The Jackets travel to Hondo Friday night.  3-3 all-time against the Owls.  The Jackets had their best game last season in Llano against Hondo.  But the Owls are playing good.  And remember, they have 9 offensive and 9 defensive players returning from last season.  They will be looking for revenge on their home turf.  This years Hondo is not last years Hondo.  Llano needs to bring it all together this week.  Playing hard and tough against some very good teams over the past 7 weeks should now see a pay off.  The players should be confident.  If the defense will play every play up to its potential, they can keep Llano in the game.  And if the offense can maintain drives and keep the ball for some extended periods, we can score.  We have to get Brooks Keele, Brown, Anthony Watson and new comer Logan Duggar involved in the attack.  We have play makers.  This week is a must and an opportunity Llano  cannot afford to  miss.  This is where senior leadership must come forward.  Beating Hondo is where it begins.

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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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