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Ten Highland Lakes Sports Insights

Welcome to this weekly column where readers will find a summary of sports across the region and the impressions left on this writer.

Training camps start for fall sports on Monday, Aug. 1. Here are questions each team will answer in the next few weeks.

  1. Listening to a couple of the Marble Falls Mustangs talk about their new District 13-4A Division I opponents tells me they understand this district will be much more challenging than the one they were in the last two years. With so many new faces starting for the Mustangs, fans are advised to be patient to allow the players to learn and adjust during the pre-district schedule.
  2. The Marble Falls volleyball team also is in a new district, 24-4A. My belief is other than the clear-cut favorite, it’s a wide-open race for the other three playoff spots. So the challenge for the Lady Mustangs is simple — do they have enough self-confidence and belief in themselves to earn one of those spots? Coaches say the talent is there. And players need to believe it, too. They’ll have a few weeks before the start of district play, which will reveal plenty about this team.
  3. The Burnet High School football team’s offensive identity is worth keeping an eye on. With the number of experienced linemen returning coupled with the speed and strength of junior running back Dash Denton, don’t be surprised to see the Bulldogs call for more run plays. Head coach Bryan Wood hired a quarterbacks coach this summer, Colton Brewer, who is working with senior quarterback Tanner O’Hair. The play at quarterback also will be interesting to watch in 2022.
  4. Listening to Burnet head volleyball coach Crystal Shipley, it’s clear the Lady Dawgs really do believe they are reloading for 2022. After a historical march that ended at the Class 4A Region III tournament a year ago coupled with a share of the district title, look for the Lady Dawgs to repeat as district champs in 2022. It wouldn’t surprise me if Burnet not only goes undefeated but doesn’t lose a set in district play. That’s how talented and deep that roster is and how well the players are coached. The only opponents who can stop the Lady Dawgs are themselves.
  5. The Llano Yellow Jackets will name a starting quarterback in a race that ends with either junior Briggs Green or senior Bryce Mize under center. It is the Jackets’ only new starter this season. The player who doesn’t get the nod as the starter will still play and contribute in other ways. That’s because Llano won’t have 70 players on the roster. Therefore, every member will have the opportunity to help this team achieve every goal for 2022.
  6. The Llano volleyball team will have a new setter this season. The setter is an extension of the coach and typically has a workout that is unique to her revolving around footwork, hands and other on-court drills. Setters also have to be smart in lining up hitters to blockers. Shortening the learning curve for this position is near the top of the list for the Lady Jacket coaching staff.
  7. While Burnet and Marble Falls are competing in the same District 24-4A in cross country, one constant remains. The No. 1 runner is Burnet senior Hudson Bennett, who should win another district title to go with the ones he’s already captured throughout his high school career. But what makes Bennett so great is his ability to inspire his teammates to compete at the high level he does. Their achievements at each meet symbolize that. In that sense, Bennett is a champion who has no equal.
  8. When it comes to even playing fields, one sport symbolizes this more than others — team tennis. In Classes 4-6A, team tennis is played in the fall. Now that Marble Falls is a member of District 19-4A, the Mustangs and Lady Mustangs will face opponents closer to their size, practice schedule and perhaps experience. In District 25-5A, Marble Falls faced opponents that brought between 35-55 players each. That’s unlikely in Class 4A. Another plus? The team tennis matches are played on Thursdays and most teams have to share players with other programs, which limits everyone’ practice time on the courts. That was not in the case in Class 5A. One hurdle Marble Falls will have is the reliance on true freshmen on the varsity. Still, it will be fun to watch this sport play out.
  9. The Faith Academy of Marble Falls football team also will rely on some new faces. But one certainty exists — tradition never graduates. The Flames still have head coach Stephen Shipley’s lethal spread offense that has shown a great ability to generate yards either on the ground or in the air. In that sense, the Flames will be very prepared every week to wow their fans.
  10. The Smoking For Jesus football players aren’t resting on what they’ve already accomplished. They are eyeing their third consecutive state title. But this one will have to be earned in a different organization — the Texas Association of Independent Athletic Associations. Can the Eagles continue their dominance while facing teams they haven’t faced before? We’ll see. But fans should never underestimate a motivated squad that will play like it has something to prove every time it’s on the field.

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