The come from behind victory Friday night against long time rival Lampasas was a season changer. The Jackets winning their third road game this season, as well as winning for the third time at someone elses Homecoming is even sweeter. The Jackets have faced many challenges this season, but nothing more bleaker as half-time rolled around Friday night in Lampasas. But, that is why they play two halves.
Llano made one major change this week against the Badgers. Llano played the first part of the football game. Taking the opening kick-off was junior Mason Ladd who returned the football 20 yards to the 32 yard line. From there senior Rhett Brooks gained 10 yards on two carries over blocks by junior Eli Tiffin and senior center, Taylor Stewart. Junior quarterback Layton Rabb hit senior Matt Center for a 27 yard gain down to the Badgers 36 yard line. 10 more yards by Layton, with blocking from junior receiver Kralen Dickerson, and senior Kassity Pitcox. 12 more yards from senior running back Allen Lucas. Five more yards from Rhett, with help from junior Gilberto Arredondo and senior Jacob Beasley, and on fourth down Llano went for the TD with Rabb sneaking in for a 6-0 Llano lead. Just like you draw it up on the blackboard.
But now, Llano’s defense had to show up. Lampasas began on their 22 yard line, and ran every play. 12 running plays, two Llano 15 yard penalties, and the Badgers matched the score at 6-6. But the Jackets were stepping up, and not making it easy for Lampasas. Mason Ladd from the secondary was there. Carter Tatsch also. Junior linebacker Caleb Penny had a big night, as did Rhett, Matt, and Zach Morgan at defensive end. The defense slowed down the attack.
There was an exchange of punts, and things changed little, until Morgan punted and the ball was killed on the 3 yardline. This looked good for the Jackets. But it backfired, as the Badgers ran off 5 running plays before the Badgers Cody Jandreau galloped 66 yards for the TD and a 13-6 lead that stood until halftime. Disheartening was Llano’s last effort before the half ended with the Jackets only completing 3 passes out of 10 and ending with an interception before half. Rabb was off, receivers dropped passes, and another penalty. This looked again like another long halftime conversation may be needed.
Llano defense started the tone of the second half. Two holds, one on fourth down ended with Llano partially blocking the punt, and again the Badgers punted putting Llano in a good field spot at the 40 yard line.
Carter carried twice for 20 yards. Rabb hit senior Devin Mayne for a big 22 yard gain, down to the 18 yard line.. Then Rabb hit Matt on a post patern for the final 16 yards and the TD. Score 13-13. The line was blocking, lead by Beasley, Russell Webb, Gilberto, Tiffin and senior Cooper Hill. The third quarter ended and the defense had given up 53 yards on 16 plays. The worm turned!
Lovers of Jacket football remember these kind of days. Long, long ago. Mason Ladd helped kick-off the fourth quarter with an interception. Llano cashed in. Lucas for 2 yards. Rhett for 15. Then Rabb hit Rhett for a 29 yard pass reception down to the one. Brooks carried it in on the next play, and senior Pedro Perez kicked true for a 20-13 Jacket lead. Freshman lineman Colton Center, Tiiffin, Stewart, Hill, Gilberto, Webb, Mayne, Pitcox, and Sawyer Stiles had made this a perfect drive with no mistakes.
Now the hard part. Could Llano hold on with over 8 minutes to play? The Jacket’s defense faced the Badgers on the 32 yardline. 7 yards, 5 yards and a first down. Penny, Wil Siegenthaler, sophomores Jalen Bauman, Lance Reven and Hill were in on stops. But four downs later, Llano held on fourth down. Back to Llano, but the offense had to punt, and Morgan got off a 40 yarder, with good coverage from Dickerson and Center.
On the 34 headline, here came the Badgers. 9 yards, two yards, and then an 18 pass completion…only the second one of the night. 9 more, 4 more, all while Brooks, Stewart, Tristan Sabrsula, and Ryan West were playing their hearts out. 7 more and the Badgers were on the 8 yard line. Then 6 more down to the two. Second down and Matt Center gets a tackle in the backfield. Third down on the three. A mix up and the Badgers make it back to the line. Fourth down on the three. Quarterback rolls out, looks like he will walk in, but from his defensive end position, Morgan pulls the quarterback down from behind. “Llano wins, Llano wins” according to Art and Lance in the booth!
A great victory by all. The 3-4 Jackets now play a tough Gatesville team, at home. The short rivalry with Gatesville stands at 2-4. Gatesville will be undefeated entering Jacket Stadium. Llano is in great shape to pull off this win. The low flying Jackets will not be a serious worry for the visitors. It will now be, the most important game for the Jackets. Llano by 4.