CAPTION: The Marble Falls Mustangs make quick work of the Pflugerville Connally to earn another win in their season opener. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
Welcome to this weekly column where readers will find a summary of sports across the region and the impressions left on this writer.
Week one of Texas high school football is complete and has lived up to the expectations and standards of what playing on this state’s gridiron is all about. We also learned plenty about the teams located here in the Highland Lakes. Here’s what stayed with me.
- Let’s start with the Marble Falls Mustangs, who ruined Pflugerville Connally’s home opener in a 52-7 victory Aug. 25. The Mustangs (1-0, District 13-4A Division I) lived up to their ranking of No. 2 in the region by scoring 52 unanswered points offensively and not allowing another point after the Cougars scored on their opening two-play drive of the contest. The Mustangs showed two valuable traits in the win: their ability to adjust on the fly and that they aren’t easily rattled. Fans won’t know the value of those traits until they’re tested again, which is happening this week during the Mustangs’ home opener against Brownwood. The Lions (4-7, 2-3 District 5-4A Division I in 2021) lost to Abilene Wylie 30-24 after the Bulldogs raced to a 16-3 first-quarter advantage on a safety and a rushing touchdown on the ensuing punt. Wylie led 30-17 at the half. Brownwood relies on quarterback Chance Jones and running back Konlyn Anderson to make the offense go and on linebacker Dryden Anderson to lead the defense. The biggest question for the Lions is linemen. Meanwhile, the Mustangs’ linemen on both sides of the ball looked solid against the Cougars. But Marble Falls will get a better test from the Lions.
- The Burnet Bulldogs also earned a big win in the season opener against La Vernia 36-25. The Bulldogs showed two important traits in their win: their resiliency in overcoming in-game obstacles and that they don’t want to let their teammates down. Trailing 22-10 at the half, bLa Vernia scored on a long touchdown pass and recovered a fumble that was later turned into a touchdown for a 25-22 lead. With about 6 minutes left in the contest, the Bulldogs suffered a turnover on downs deep in La Vernia territory. But the Burnet defense returned the favor and got the ball back to its offense. Junior Grant Jones did the rest by scoring on a six-yard run and adding the two-point run to give the Bulldogs some much needed breathing room. The Bulldogs hit the road to face Llano.
- By all accounts, the Llano Yellow Jackets have all they need for another impressive season. Those traits were on full display in a 48-26 win at Jarrell Aug. 26. Of their 572 yards of total offense, 445 came on the ground thanks to senior running backs Miguel Hernandez and Carson Kuykendall. Hernandez had 17 carries for 149 yards, while Kuykendall had 22 rushes for 225 yards and five touchdowns. Not bad for a team that operates the spread offense.
- In my opinion, the game of the week in the Highland Lakes will be at Llano Stadium and will be decided in one place — the trenches. To me, the skill players on both squads are equally good. Both teams have mirror reflections of one another at running back and wide receiver and have assured their quarterbacks each unit has enough around him to get the job done. Therefore, the quarterbacks know they don’t have to win the game by themselves. So what will each line coach do to neutralize the other’s linemen? We’ll find out at 7 p.m. Friday.
- The Highland Lakes six-man teams had tough nights with both suffering mercy-rule losses Aug. 26. We’ll begin with the Faith Academy Flames, who welcomed an Austin St. Stephens team with 38 players on the roster and lost 66-20. That’s a great number for most 11-man squads in the region. That allowed most Spartans to start on only one side of the ball, which is a great advantage when the opponent has 19 players and must use some of the same athletes on both sides of the ball. St. Stephens’ depth and big-play ability led to the Spartans getting the win. Faith head coach Stephen Shipley showed he’s unafraid of scheduling great competition; St. Stephens finished 11-0 in 2021, and no one knew better than the Flames coach the task in scheduling the Spartans. The challenges don’t stop this week when McDade, a member of the University Interscholastic League, visits Britton Field at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs mercy-ruled Killeen Memorial Christian Academy 52-6 in their season opener.
- The Smoking For Jesus Ministry School Eagles also were mercy-ruled in a 59-14 loss to Cherokee, a UIL school. Head coach Charles Frazier, Sr. noted his schedule isn’t for the weak-of-heart either. It’s designed to challenge the Eagles to perform at their best physically and mentally. So it requires more preparation than what the Eagles may have faced in the last season or two. Frazier has no regrets about the schedule because he believes his athletes are more than capable of earning the wins they’re accustomed to. They’ll get another chance Sept. 2 when they travel to play Austin Veritas, which nabbed a 58-8 win against Williamson County Home School.
- Time to hand out game balls. The first goes to the Marble Falls defense for having a short memory after giving up the touchdown to Connally on the opening drive. The Mustangs showed their spunk and tenacity in not allowing the Cougars to come anywhere near the goal line the rest of the game. And they recovered five fumbles the Marble Falls offense turned into four touchdowns.
- To Burnet senior running back Jose Rodriguez, who had 18 carries for 74 yards in the Bulldogs’ win against La Vernia. To many, the game was won when the Bulldogs leaned on their offensive line and Rodriguez, who responded with the Bulldog fight associated with that program.
- To Llano senior running backs Hernandez and Kuykendall and their massive offensive line. Head coach Matt Green calls the Jackets’ offensive line a weapon because of the way they handle the other team’s defensive front seven. They have the chemistry and trust in each other to make the correct blocks quickly that allow the skill players to look terrific. In short, even I could run behind that offensive line. And my eligibility ran out about 30 years ago.
- Let’s end this week’s column with an intriguing volleyball matchup at The Doghouse in Burnet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug 30. That’s where the Lady Dawgs are hosting the Llano Lady Jackets. I’ve said the best volleyball team in the region wears Kelly green. But Llano has had success in two tournaments where they won it all in Comanche and won the silver division of the Gatesville tournament. Burnet, however, has earned some hardware, too. In short, both teams will be bringing out the best in each other. If the Lady Jackets can withstand the Lady Dawgs’ fire power, they will force this match into five sets. Both squads should have confidence and belief in their schemes. So I anticipate a great precursor to Friday night’s football game.
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