CAPTION: Marble Falls junior quarterback Jamie Castillo looks for a running lane as Brownwood junior Jake Jetton prepares to close it during the Lions’ 55-16 win against the Mustangs Sept. 2. Photo by Juan Gonzales/Visual Concepts Sports Photography
Welcome to this weekly column where readers will find a summary of sports across the region and the impressions left on this writer.
The second week of Texas high school football is complete and we’re learning more of each the Highland Lakes teams. Let me share what stayed with me.
- Let’s go to what was the region’s game of the week — Burnet at Llano. The Bulldogs (1-1, District 13-4A Division I) faced what has the potential to be one of the best Yellow Jackets teams in the history of the program and came within a missed pass where the ball went through the receiver’s fingers in the end zone to go incomplete for the needed touchdown to possibly send the game into overtime. That led to a 29-21 setback to Llano (2-0, District 13-3A Division I). I spoke to a Burnet alum who laughed that his old program lost to Llano since he and his teammates “never lost to” to the Jackets. My favorite part of the conversation? Once this alum said his peace, he walked away and never gave me the opportunity to explain. So here’s the explanation. Llano is two-deep in every position with quality starters and reserves. Head coach Matt Green has one-way starters on each side of the ball and has spent all six years of his time wearing the orange and black creating this type of depth for positive results year-end and year-out. In short, it’s known as reloading. While some Burnet fans may laugh at losing to Llano, plenty of teams will lose to the Yellow Jackets this season. Meanwhile, Green picked up his 42nd win as the Jackets head coach and will break the all-time record very quickly to become the coach with the most wins in program history. He is 42-20 at the Llano helm, and his teams have won 23 of their last 27 games. And yes, the win against Burnet snaps a 13-game losing streak to the Bulldogs, the Jackets’ first since 1998. Here’s what Green told his players to get them ready for the Bulldogs, “You can either be another Llano team that loses to Burnet or you can be remembered as the team that beat Burnet.” That about sums up the contest.
- Meanwhile, the Bulldogs also showed their never-die-and-accept-a-loss attitude. They continue to fight through adversity that tests their depth and players’ ability to move to different positions in a pinch. They survived two passing touchdowns by Llano junior quarterback Briggs Green, a first-year starter, in the first quarter and kept pressure on the Jackets to continue to make plays throughout the contest. So far these Bulldogs are showing what I believe will be the story line in District 13-4A Division I for Burnet, Lampasas, Marble Falls and Taylor: every game is winnable and every game is losable. That’s how close the programs are in parity and talent. Burnet will get another tough test this week when they welcome Brownwood (1-1, District 2-4A Division I).
- Speaking of the Brownwood Lions, let’s review their win against the Marble Falls Mustangs Sept. 2. It wasn’t so much that the Lions won 55-16; it was how they did it. Defensively, their front seven controlled the line of scrimmage by overpowering the Marble Falls offensive line and never let the slot-T offense get into a rhythm until late in the contest. And even then, when it looked like the Marble Falls offense was on its way to completing a drive, a fumble on fourth-and-one was picked up by the Lions where they went about 73 yards the other way for a touchdown. That play might have been the cruelest play of the game. That defense was as good as the San Antonio Alamo Heights defense that gave up only seven points to Marble Falls in the third round playoff win that ended the Mustangs’ 2021 season. This Brownwood loss illustrates what I’ve been saying for weeks. Mustang fans must be patient as new starters and new players are learning what it means to start on the varsity level or how to play under the spotlight that is the Friday night lights in Texas. Look, I’ve covered sports throughout the southwest, and they all think playing on Friday nights in those states is the same as playing under the Friday night lights here. And they’re wrong. There is no beam brighter than the one in Texas. While that notoriety is fantastic for fans and addicting to players, it also takes some getting used for those who are experiencing it for the first time. We’ll continue to learn more about these Mustangs when they welcome Killeen Chaparral (0-2, District 11-5A Division II), which has lost to Killeen Shoemaker 52-0 Sept. 2 and Killeen High 42-6 Aug. 26.
- Faith Academy of Marble Falls earned its first win of the 2022 season in a decisive manner, a 55-8 win against McDade, a University Interscholastic League member. The Flames scoring a touchdown on the opening kickoff set the tone of the contest on the first play. It was the kind of play head coach Stephen Shipley wanted to see — an immediate statement and a strong message that week two was going to be different from week one. This game ended after three quarters because of the 45-point rule. The Flames will have another test at home when they welcome the Smoking For Jesus Eagles, located in Burnet County and winners of the last two state titles of the Texas Christian Athletic League.
- But those Eagles teams featured different players who’ve graduated. This year’s Eagles are playing in a schedule that is challenging them in ways the other schedules did not. That’s apparent in how Smoking For Jesus is still looking for their first win of the 2022 season. In week one, they lost to Cherokee 59-14 in a game that ended before the fourth quarter ended. They traveled to Austin Veritas and lost 56-52 Sept. 2. Senior quarterback Isaac Legier continues to put up impressive numbers in rushing and passing. He has completed 25 of 42 passes for 332 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception and 20 rushes for 239 yards and 4 scores. Defenses will key on him, betting there is a gap between him and his teammates. It’s a critical week for the Eagles who are in unfamiliar territory. But they’ll get it figured out.
- That’s why I believe this week’s game of the week is at Britton Field on the Faith Academy campus, 3151 RR 1431 East, at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. This contest is one that I hope is the first of many between the two programs that will bring out the best in one another. The Smoking For Jesus campus to Faith is roughly the same drive time as Burnet and Marble Falls. It’s a great match-up and I commend both head coaches for agreeing to play.
- Time for some game balls. To Llano senior Miguel Hernandez and his offensive line. The Llano offensive line of seniors Ross Edwards, Hudson Godfrey, Jaxon “Juice” Lange and Branen Green and junior Dylan Kennedy have ensured big rushing yards the last two games. The Jackets have 123 carries for 870 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging a whopping 7 yards a carry. Hernandez had 18 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown against Burnet as part of the Jackets’ 425 yards on 60 carries against the Bulldogs.
- To Faith Academy junior Kade Shaw. The all-around athlete ensured everyone knew week two was going to be different from week one when he ran 76 yards for the touchdown on the opening kickoff against McDade. And the field in six-man football is a total of 80 yards. Shaw’s talent gives his coach what they all want — countless options on how to use him to benefit the team. Shaw has the opportunity to be an all-state player in every sport he plays.
- Five Burnet defenders had double-digit tackles during the loss to Llano, but only one had double-digit solo tackles. He is junior linebacker Trenton Park. Park had 10 solo tackles for a total of 14 including a tackle for loss and a quarterback pressure.
- Let’s stay in north Burnet County to highlight another awesome athlete — Burnet senior runner Hudson Bennett. Bennett finished third in 15 minutes at the San Antonio FEAST meet Sept. 2 where he competed in the Class 5A and 6A Elite race. The state champion is on a mission and is making runners across the state take notice. The safe bet is to not bet against Bennett. Few things in sports are more dangerous than a talented athlete who prepares as if he’s always fighting for his roster spot. To say Bennett’s work ethic is unique is an understatement. Fans are encouraged to enjoy and appreciate Bennett before he graduates because he is in a class that few are in.
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