CAPTION: Burnet senior Jose Rodriguez is one of two running backs who will be counted on to move the chains during the season. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
Turning the fortunes of the Burnet High School football team around begins against La Vernia, the Bulldogs’ season opener opponent, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, at Bulldog Field, 1400 Bulldog Stadium Drive.
La Vernia posted a 2-9 record last season and 1-3 in District 14-4A Division I to finish fourth and advance to the playoffs where the Bears lost to eventual state runner-up Austin LBJ 54-7. Burnet went 3-7, 1-4 in District 13-4A Division I.
But the Bears gained some invaluable experience last season that should propel them for a better year in 2022. That starts with senior quarterback Stratton Hayes, who completed 106 of 241 passes for 1,539 yards and 12 touchdowns. Top rusher Sebastian Sanchez, a senior, is back. He had 135 rushes for 555 yards and four scores last season. And the top receiver, junior Colten Schmid, returns after catching 36 passes for 769 yards and eight touchdowns.
La Vernia’s strength, however, might be found in the trenches. The lines are expected to be anchored by junior Konnor Berry and senior Barrett Edlemon.
The Bulldogs will counter with a slew of game stoppers that include linemen who are physical and strong and a trio of linebackers who seek contact and desire to create chaos for the offense. They are linebackers Dash Denton, Will Johnson and Trenton Park. All three started as sophomores a year ago. Sophomore Khris Kassner is penciled in as the fourth starting linebacker. Juniors Will Johnson and Trenton Park provide depth.
“Linebacker is going to be one of our strongest,” defensive coordinator Ben Speer said. “That’s exciting that you get those guys this year and next year. Quarterback and inside linebacker – you have to know so much. You’re dropping in coverage and you’re asking them to do as much as they are doing. Dash is calling all the plays. Having those three guys for the next two years is going to be a lot of fun.”
“Dash is really good at timing out stunts,” head coach Bryan Wood said. “He runs the defense. We moved Kassner to inside linebacker from outside linebacker. He’s reacted tremendously. He runs to the ball.”
The secondary features seniors Moses DeLuna, Braden Ellett-Clark and Anthony Perez, juniors Grant Jones and Gilbert Valdez, and sophomore Lew Laidler.
“(Laidler) is going to be starting for us as a sophomore – that’s exciting,” Speer said. “(The others) have a lot of experience. We’re pretty athletic out there.”
On the other side of the ball, senior quarterback Tanner O’Hair will lead the offense that includes Denton and senior Jose Rodriguez at running back and Jones, Johnson, Ellett-Clark and Park at receiver with junior Garner Krause, who came back to the football program after a two-year absence after talking to Jones, providing depth.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tyler McIntosh has a trio of seniors — Jose Lopez, Kaleb Maynard and Cameron Stires — leading the line. Junior Tyson Trim and sophomore Johnathan Ryder also are expected to start.
After the scrimmage against Jarrell Aug. 18, Wood noted the offensive play was getting better, adding the Bulldogs were able to take advantage of the defensive alignment. Burnet scored in multiple ways by giving the ball to different players and allowing them to do what they do best. That night, the line run-blocked and pass-protected equally well.
Wood is looking for the same elements during the season opener in order to get ready for District 13-4A Division I play that includes Comal Canyon Lake, Comal Davenport, Lampasas, Marble Falls and Taylor.
“I think it’s going to be really, really even,” he said.
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