CAPTION: The Burnet Bulldogs have won two in a row and are showing they are a force to be reckoned with in District 13-4A Division I play. 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.
Three of the four Burnet County football teams are on byes this week and for some squads, it comes at the right time. Highland Lakes fans have watched some great effort from their teams and some can safely say they have witnessed improvement every week. Let’s take a closer look.
- The Burnet Bulldogs pulled off an unlikely victory, getting a touchdown and making a two-point conversion in the final 93 seconds to escape Early with a win and move to 3-2 on the season. More importantly, the Bulldogs have won two in a row and are discovering which of their athletes are elite. We all know of senior linemen Kaleb Maynard and Knox Ward, who were among the most talked about in their positions during the summer. The same can be said of juniors Dash Denton and Grant Jones. Give tons of credit to seniors Tanner O’Hair, the starting quarterback, and Braden Ellett-Clark, a receiver, who are key plays and forcing defenses to pick their poison. Of course it’s only poison if their teammates also take advantage of their opportunities, which they are. And most importantly, it seems each Bulldog is embracing his unique role on the team, which will be vital with the start of District 13-4A Division I Friday, Oct. 7.
- The Llano Yellow Jackets continue to roll and sent a statement to the rest of District 13-3A Division I that they better bring their A game before they suit up against the orange and black. The Jackets traveled to San Antonio Cole, an opponent that was winless this season, and did what they were supposed to in earning a 59-0 victory to start district play. Llano is the region’s most complete team with seasoned veterans in just about every position. The one new starter, junior quarterback Briggs Green, simply gets better weekly. Still, the heart of that offense remains the veteran offensive line and the senior running backs who lead a rushing attack that racked up 405 yards on 41 carries, a whopping 9.9 yards per play. Not bad for a spread team. The Jackets are at home Friday at 7 p.m. against Luling for homecoming.
- Smoking For Jesus lost to Jonesboro 58-44 in a contest Smoking For Jesus was predicted to lose by 45 points. Smoking For Jesus is showing a lot of pride and commitment while competing in a tougher schedule than what it faced a year ago. Couple that with losing some key players who provided plenty on and off the field, and the program is learning how to compete. The schedule doesn’t get any easier this week. May, a University Interscholastic League member, is ranked No. 3 in the state, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 at Wallace Riddell Park.
- My personal belief is no team is more relieved to get to the bye week than the Marble Falls Mustangs following at 23-0 loss to Fredericksburg Sept. 23. The Mustangs have two weeks to prepare for their road trip to Canyon Lake in the district opener. Both teams have identical 2-3 records and operate the slot-T offense. And both squads really want to start the district campaign correctly. Marble Falls head coach Brian Herman said coaches know their players’ abilities. Now it’s a matter of each doing his part to contribute positively. Without a doubt, the winner of this contest has taken a big step toward the postseason, especially since they both seem to be very similar in how their seasons have played out. And don’t be surprised if the outcome of this contest is used to statistically determine which team moves on in November and which one turns in its uniforms.
- Faith Academy traveled to Austin Veritas and left with a 50-6 loss, which was incredibly unexpected. Just like their counterparts in purple, the Flames will be using their bye to continue teaching positions to athletes who will be used in spots that are unfamiliar to them.
- Both Marble Falls and Faith programs are in unfamiliar territory to each head coach — playing five games and still trying to determine player availability, which is different from determining player ability. That can come down to violation of team rules, grades, injuries or the like. Both teams are mirror images of each other in that they have athletes who make plays and are great at leading by example. Most sports fans note that championship-level teams have tremendous vocal leaders. And fans can pinpoint the leaders of each position in football. Think of the 1990s Cowboys or your favorite college football team that either played for or won a national title. And not every player can be a vocal leader because that individual must have the respect of his teammates before he speaks. Plenty goes into that, too, such as players knowing that leader performs at a high level every contest, does the right things away from the field house and field, and is considered the best in their position and on the roster. Those leaders make their cases daily. Therefore, the rest of this season is even more vital because of the questions that are looking for answers. And those answers will come after the bye week.
- Let’s hand out some game balls. To Burnet senior receiver Braden Ellett-Clark, who caught 5 passes for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns during the win against Early. This is the second time the senior has surpassed 100 yards in a contest and is showing his value every single time he steps on the field. Ellett-Clark has 20 receptions for 325 yards and 5 scores so far this season.
- To Llano senior running back Carson Kuykendall who had 13 rushes for 162 yards and 5 touchdowns. Coming into the season, most of the talk centered around his teammate, senior running back Miguel Hernandez. And Kuykendall has taken advantage. He is averaging 155 yards per game and 8.3 yards per carry in five contests this season. He has 94 carries for 776 yards and 13 touchdowns.
- Let’s switch sports and talk a little volleyball since District 24-4A play started Friday. Congrats to the Burnet Lady Dawgs for earning a 3-1 win against a stubborn Lago Vista team 25-16, 24-26, 25-20, 25-18. I wrote earlier this summer that I didn’t believe Burnet would lose a set in district play. The Lady Vikings were the District 25-3A runners-up in 2021 and reached the area round of the playoffs before their season ended. So give both squads credit — the Lady Dawgs for winning on the road and Lago Vista for not getting swept at home. Burnet welcomes Lampasas to The Doghouse Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m.
- The Marble Falls Lady Mustangs lost to Jarrell in five sets. Marble Falls won the first set, lost the second and third games, won the fourth and lost the fifth and the match. Onlookers said the Lady Mustangs played hard throughout the five sets and came away pleased with the effort. Marble Falls travels to face Georgetown Gateway Prep Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and welcomes Burnet on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
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