October 11, 2011

   The loss to the Taylor Ducks could be devastating to the Yellow Jackets district hopes.  The final 31-20 score was not really the story.  Yet, we cannot get away from the uphill battle our Jackets have as they face four very tough district teams, that all will be heavily favored to beat the Jackets.

   The Jackets opened with good solid defense, allowing 11 net yards on the first 5 plays before senior Conner Barret interecepted a Duck pass and the Jackets put new Jacket quarterback, sophomore Layton Rabb under center to begin a TD scoring drive.  Former starting QB, junior Rhett Brooks ran for four yards from the tailback position, caught a Rabb pass for 7 yards, ran for 6 more yards on three carries, before Rabb hit senior Vance Bauer for a 36 yard scoring pass to put the Jackets up 6-0.  The Jackets looked like a confident team with a purpose.

   Yet, on the next Duck drive, so did the home team.  Running their slot-t offense, 8 running plays, ending with an 25 yard TD run to take the early lead, 7-6.  Brooks, senior linebacker Barrett, senior Clay Tarter, linebacker Cole Barrett, and junior Matt Center made key stops along the way, but the homecoming crowd and the Ducks pressed on.

   The Jackets responded.  Two yards by Brooks, a 16 yard completion to sophomore Issac Hutto, five more yards running from Rabb, and then the big strike, a 67 yard completion from Rabb to junior Justin Wyatt.  Justin’s return to the lineup for the first time this season was loud and impressive.  The Jackets lead 12-7 at the end of the first quarter.  The first quarter was impressive for Llano.  Linebacker Ryan Williams was in on every tackle, and the secondary with Taylor Sorensen, Mason Ladd, Tarter, Wil, and Vance was coming up good on the runnning game of the Ducks. 

   The second quarter was much different.  The Jacket defense forced a punt, after Wil Siegenthaler, sophomore Tristan Sabrsula, and senior Jordan Johnson held the Ducks, after a Johnson sack.  But, the Jackets’ offense went dark.  Five plays in the quarter neted a minus 6 yards.  While the Ducks kicked a field goal, and scored on a short field to take a 17-12 half-time lead.  The Ducks ran 22 plays in the quarter, and had 66 yards of offense.  Best of the stats, Llano’ defense only allowed two plays of over 10 yards in the quarter, a far cry from previous Jacket games.  Despite a fumble, Llano was still very much in this game at half-time.

   Senior Clay Tarter returned the kick-off to the 30 yardline.  What happened next was what you expect from such a competitior as Brooks.  7o Yards down the sidelines and a TD and the Jackets were in the lead again.  Brooks, with good speed went nearly untouched.  Returning from an injury, junior center Taylor Stewart, senior Wes Haverlah, junior Jacob Beasley and senior Cole Barrett made blocks that sprung the 190 pound Brooks.

   And the defense came to play in the third.  Two series of forced punts, and Llano was looking like a team on a roll in the first district game of 2011.  Defensive plays by Wil, Matthew, Conner, junior Nick Bornholdt and junior Cooper Hill  had the Jackets in position to take control. And even when Llano was stopped on its next possession, junior punter Zach Morgan came in and booted a 43 yard punt.  But the Jackets failed to cover, and a return of 67 yards put the Ducks on Llano’s 13 yardline, and then they took the lead with a  score that  made it 24-20. 

   From here, Llano should have won the game.  The Jackets recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.  The Jackets threw the football 16 times in the final quarter, completing 8.  An interception and a 59 yard TD run by the Ducks ended the Jackets hopes of a district win.  It was if the game was not suppose to end.  Yet, it did, and Llano must recover.

   I think the defense played better.  Allowing over 7 yards per carry must improve to beat the Badgers of Lampasas this week.  The Jackets again travel, this time to the Badgers home field, where the 5-1 host will take on 1-5 Llano.  Big plays have killed Llano this season.  Lampasas will run the ball, and run the ball, and run he ball.  Llano will have to play its best football to have a chance in beating the pre-district favorite.  And while Llano has not stopped a foe this season for less than 31 points, maybe the Jackets’ offense can save the season.  One noted point of interest.  Justin Wyatt returned this week, and the young junior receiver caught 4 passes for 106 yards and a TD.  The 106 yards goes into the record books as a top receiving game , likely in the top 20.  Matt Center leads the team in receiving with 12 catches.

   I’m about to write about something I know little about.  Yet, over 39 years of playing Monday morning quarterback, I do alot of this.  Only, a few times have I written about individual players and their circumstances such as this.  But, here goes.

   Sophomore Layton Rabb started at quarterback against Taylor, replacing junior Rhett Brooks.  Brook’s injured his throwing arm in the Fredericksburg game.  Rhett felt strongly that he could still play quarterback, but since he is the Jackets’ best running back, it seemed natural to actually move him to that position.  Rhett carried the football over 20 times in each of the first 5 games, and twice had 30 carries.  There is no Jacket more determined, and more intense than Rhett.  Rhett’s 113 yards rushing against Taylor on only 11 carries showed why he needs the football in his hands as often as the Jacket coaches and get it to him.  At the quarterback position, he had that opportunity every play.  Rhett has played quarterback since the 7th grade.  Last season, he was second team all-district at running back, as a sophomore.

   Layton Rabb, was the starting quarterback on the JV team just two weeks ago.  He was moved up due to Rhett’s injury.  Layton responded by starting at quarterback in mid season of his sophomore season, and throwing for 272 yards, hitting 16 of 29 passes, two were TD tosses, and one intereception.  The 272 yards goes into the record book as a top ten game of all times.  And while Layton had some bad moments, he had a good command on the field, and not since Dennis Raesener in 1965, has a sophomore had a better start.  Raesener is in the the LHS Hall of Fame, and still holds the record for most starts ever for an LHS quarterback.  Layton has a long way to go t0 meet that high bar.

   I love Rhett’s passion, and his will to win.  I do think the Coaches felt that with Layton at quarterback, Llano was being given the best chance to win.  For all I know, Rhett may be back at quarterback.  I rarely ever talk to a Llano coach.  For, if I did, this column would be tainted and bias.  My bias lies in one thing, and that is winning.  Llano players learn the ways of life in winning, and I do believe, that is the only thing that really matters to Rhett and Layton.  These two great young athletes have a lot on their minds this week as they prepare for Lampasas, regardless of where they line up Friday night.  Beating Lampasas will tell a new story for next week.  Beating Lampasas will solve a lot of issues.

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