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Ten Highland Lakes Sports Insights

CAPTION: Burnet junior Grant Jones sees his blockers and looks for a running lane to return this kickoff 95 yards for the Bulldogs’ first score against the Marble Falls Mustangs. 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.

The road to the playoffs is becoming clearer with teams continuing to separate themselves. It’s a wonderful time of year where some fall sports are wrapping up the regular season and winter sports are starting up. But we can’t move forward without looking back. So let’s start there.

  1. Both Burnet and Marble Falls football head coaches said the winner of the Oct. 14 matchup between the two teams would be led by the unit that controlled the line of scrimmage. And they were right. I spent time going over the stats, which were highlighted in the game report about how the Bulldogs won 28-14. Here are a few other stats that jumped out at me. The first is the number of explosive offensive plays. Burnet had seven running plays of 10 yards or more and three passing plays of 15 yards or more. That wasn’t surprising for those who tuned into the game. Here’s the shocker — the Mustangs didn’t have a single explosive play. In addition, of its nine offensive possessions, Marble Falls scored twice and had three punts, two interceptions, one fumble and a turnover on downs. Time of possession is worth noting. Burnet had the ball for 19 minutes and 35 seconds, while Marble Falls had it 28:25. But in the first half, when the Bulldogs led 14-6, the Mustangs had the ball for 16:42 to Burnet’s 7:18. Credit the Bulldogs defense and defensive coordinator Ben Speer for keeping Marble Falls’ slot-T offense in check. The Burnet offense’s nine possessions resulted in three touchdowns, two punts, one fumble, one turnover on downs, and the Bulldogs had the ball for the final possession of each half.
  2. Down the street, the Faith Academy of Marble Falls Flames left no doubt about which team is on the road for another district crown. The Flames crushed the Round Rock Concordia Cardinals 58-8 in a contest that ended midway through the fourth quarter. About the only negative were the number of points after kicks (since they’re worth two points in six-man football) that were missed. The Flames now have two weeks to prepare for their road trip to Round Rock Christian on Oct. 28.
  3. The Llano Yellow Jackets continue to handle a three-game stretch with the same intensity and focus that has defined their season. The Jackets did more than sting the Marion Bulldogs (4-3, 1-2) — they sent them back with a lopsided 35-7 loss, the most Marion has given up in a game all season — and continues to put the district opponents and Class 3A on notice. Llano remains the Highland Lakes’ most complete team and illustrated once that its offensive line is the area’s best by leading a ground attack that earned 260 yards and two touchdowns on 44 rushes. Next up for the Jackets is a road trip to Blanco at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21. The Panthers enjoyed a bye Oct. 14.
  4. The Smoking For Jesus Eagles (3-5) earned their second win in a row. The Eagles outlasted Austin St. Stephens 65-58 Oct. 14. When the Spartans defeated Faith Academy in the season opener, they used numerous long pass plays for touchdowns. Give the Eagles credit for finding ways to excel and putting the ball in the end zone for the win.
  5. Let’s hand out some game balls. To Burnet juniors Dash Denton and Grant Jones, who were clearly the best skilled players during the win at Marble Falls. Denton rushed 20 times for 110 yards and a touchdown while playing in all four quarters. Jones swung momentum when he returned a kick 95 yards for a touchdown to answer the Mustangs’ first scoring drive. Jones also had a rushing touchdown of 20 yards and a 53-yard pass, one of three explosive pass plays for the Bulldogs.
  6. To Faith junior Cross Sanchez, who accounted for four touchdowns during the Flames win against Round Rock Concordia. Sanchez is turning heads with his athletic ability and should be the front runner for the district’s most valuable player.
  7. To Llano senior running back Miguel Hernandez, who had 12 rushes for 127 yards and averaged almost 11 yards a carry. Hernandez showed why he is among the district’s elite ball carriers and is a valuable member of the Jackets’ running back room.
  8. Let’s switch sports and go to cross country since district meets were conducted Oct. 10. Want to highlight the individual cross country runners — Burnet senior Hudson Bennett, who won his fourth consecutive individual district title, and Llano junior Gwyn Burnett, who might be the most talented all-around female athlete in the region — for winning gold medals in their respective races. Congratulations to both in leading their teams to the podium. The Lady Jackets repeated as district champions, while the Bulldogs were the runners-up. In addition the Burnet Lady Dawgs are the varsity and junior varsity district champions and illustrated the depth of the girls athletic program at Burnet High School. But let’s go back to the boys varsity race where the Marble Falls Mustangs won the title, their first in program history. I know fans are curious about how the Mustangs won. That’s because their fourth and fifth runners beat Burnet’s fourth and fifth runners to the finish line, which is the obvious answer. But that’s not the only answer. Here’s the other. To Marble Falls, losing the district championship on its home course is the equivalent to allowing the Bulldogs to walk into Max Copeland Gym and dunking on the Mustangs. In short, Marble Falls couldn’t let that happen. The varsity teams advance to regional meets at the end of the month.
  9. The Burnet and Marble Falls team tennis season is over. The Mustangs lost to Caldwell 1-10 and Burnet lost to Cameron Yoe 9-10. Despite the outcome, both squads showed plenty of fight throughout the season, which should help in the spring and launch what looks to be a very competitive season.
  10. There’s not much I can write about the Burnet High School volleyball team, except maybe one fact. Head coach Crystal Shipley has a program built to win for seasons to come. That’s easily seen when fans consider the varsity and freshmen sit atop of the District 24-4A standings with undefeated records. The junior varsity only has one district loss. While the Lady Dawgs make success look easy, rest assured it’s not. District opponents play their best against the Lady Dawgs and force them to raise their play, too. Burnet wouldn’t want it any other way. Next up is Marble Falls with the subvarsities playing at 5 p.m. and the varsities following.

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Faith Academy of Marble Falls junior Cross Sanchez has accounted for nine touchdowns in district play, which makes him a candidate for the district’s most valuable player. Photo by Stennis Shotts

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