Welcome to this weekly column where readers will find a summary of sports across the region and the impressions left on this writer.
- We’re hours away from the first football scrimmages for Highland Lakes teams and revelations will be witnessed. Let’s start with the Marble Falls Mustangs, who welcome Leander Glenn at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12. Make no mistake, the Grizzlies will come to Mustang Stadium with talent and depth. These Mustangs will learn plenty about themselves, especially in the two groups that will feature brand new starters: the offensive line and the secondary. Head coach Brian Herman told me the most valuable part of going through the playbook Aug. 6 was getting it on video so coaches can show the players the little things that are invaluable in every play. The Mustangs will get even more visuals after this scrimmage against the Grizzlies.
- The Burnet Bulldogs also feature some new starters on the offensive line in front of new starting senior quarterback Tanner O’Hair. What is the constant is junior running back Dash Denton, who has gotten faster and stronger during the offseason. No player wants the ball more than Denton, who has the confidence in his ability and the players upfront to open holes for him. Thanks to 7-on-7, fans have an idea of the chemistry between O’Hair and his receivers and the Burnet secondary. The Bulldogs’ ability to run the ball will be big in 2022. They’ll get a good test when they travel to Lago Vista for a scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12.
- Faith Academy has many players making their debut for the Flames this season, and some are learning new positions, new plays and new terminology. Their ability to learn quickly will play a factor during the pre-district schedule. The Flames’ most important figure — head coach Stephen Shipley — is back on the sideline. Known for his ability to quickly analyze what’s happening on the field and how to take advantage of it, Shipley also has a knack for simplifying and explaining it to his players. Those traits will be imperative as Faith faces opponents who will challenge them next few weeks. They welcome Bulverde Bracken for a scrimmage at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12.
- The biggest challenge for Smoking For Jesus is not unveiling the tweaks and new parts of the playbook; it’s making sure the Eagles don’t do too much too quick. The Eagles are eager, according to head coach Charles Frazier, Sr., to show they are the real deal when it comes to six-man football powerhouses. There’s confidence because Smoking For Jesus already has experienced winning state titles as members of the Texas Christian Athletic League. The motivation is coming from changing to the Texas Association of Independent Athletic Organizations, and the Eagles see it as a chance to prove they can continue to have much success. They’ll slowly show the new parts of the playbook and won’t be in much hurry to do until they’re playing in the games that matter most. They’re traveling to play the Stephenville Knights at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13.
- The Llano High School football team has very few questions that require an answer. The Yellow Jackets are exhibiting all the traits head coach Matt Green has been saying for months: talented veterans in multiple positions who are going against each other in practice and are making one another better. One important quality on this Llano roster is the players are competing for jobs; they know coaches aren’t giving anything to anyone. And the athletes are embracing that, which is a life lesson that will serve them well long after their eligibility expires. Credit this coaching staff for emphasizing players must win their positions and the athletes for embracing the work it’s taking to do it. Llano is traveling to face Mason at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12.
- Volleyball season started Aug. 9. Numerous Highland Lakes photographers were scattered in various gyms catching the action. I was eager to see these Lady Mustangs after hearing the players asked for more complexity to their schemes. And they showed it thanks to scoring points in a variety of ways from all sorts of players during the loss to Kyle Lehman. Dumps, directional tips, hitting the ball off blocks, and good old-fashioned spikes from different positions proved Marble Falls has used the offseason to examine how it can be better in 2022. The biggest question here is who is the Lady Mustangs’ go-to player? Who is the Lady Mustang who says “set me the ball” when a crucial point is needed? When that player steps up or is found, Marble Falls will be very tough to beat.
- In some ways, the Llano High School volleyball team has the same questions as the Lady Mustangs. But the Lady Jackets may have found more answers after going 3-0 to win their pool at the Comanche Tournament Aug. 11. Llano’s front row players average 5 feet 10 inches, which is outstanding for a Class 3A program. The Lady Jackets took some positive steps during the tournament. Now let’s see if they can take a leap by remaining in the winner’s bracket of the Comanche Tournament Saturday, Aug. 13. They begin play against the Zephyr junior varsity at 11:15 a.m.
- At The Doghouse, Burnet showed the grit and determination of a champion in turning back a motivated Blanco squad Aug. 9 to win in five sets. The Lady Dawgs fought off four set points in the decisive final set to win 16-14. Credit the Lady Panthers for competing like they had nothing to lose and the Lady Dawgs for showing they weren’t going to be denied a victory in the season opener at home. The difference between Burnet and many of the other Highland Lakes program is the history of success. Granted the Lady Dawgs have players with natural talent who are strong and can leap. But most importantly, when Burnet needs a point, the Lady Dawgs rally and find ways to get it thanks to their depth. And that’s why I believe Burnet will go undefeated during the District 24-4A season and won’t drop a set.
- The Burnet High School boys cross country team is poised for another district championship, even with being moved to a new district that includes new competition. That’s because senior Hudson Bennett remains the best runner until someone else proves otherwise. The Bulldogs have depth and experience thanks to success during the middle-distance races of the track season in the spring. Burnet head coach Roy Kiser knows it’s possible to win as a team without its top runner winning the race. But that won’t be the case with Bennett. He’ll be favored to come in first in every race he enters.
- I’ve noted before that part of Bennett’s brilliance is his ability to help his teammates get better. In short he helps them elevate their talent, and they feel challenged to try to stay with him during a race. Here’s another important part of Bennett’s brilliance – he doesn’t rest on his accomplishments and remains challenged by what he still wants to win before he graduates. That is truly the trait of a champion and why Bennett is the best runner in the district.
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