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Ten Highland Lakes Sports Insights

CAPTION: The Faith Academy Flames and senior Will Lewis have much to be proud of during the 2022 football season. Photo by Stennis Shotts

Welcome to this weekly column where readers will find a summary of sports across the region and the impressions left on this writer.

The first week of the Texas high school playoffs is complete. And the Highland Lakes went 1-1 with a third team taking a bye and will make its postseason debut Friday, Nov. 18. Meanwhile, a runner signs to compete for his dream school and the basketball teams are playing like dream teams. So let’s get the opening drive going.

  1. The Faith Academy of Marble Falls football team’s season ended in a 46-0 mercy-ruled loss to Conroe Covenant, an opponent that absolutely wanted to play the Flames. The Cougars (10-2, 5-1) snapped a two-game losing skid to Faith that finished their season in 2020 and 2021. While losing isn’t fun for anyone, this 2022 Flames team deserves credit for winning another undefeated district championship and, most importantly, for having tough conversations following the 50-6 loss to Austin Veritas Sept. 23 that righted the ship and ignited a four-game winning streak that led to that district title. There’s no question the Flames were at a crossroads and had the choice between going through the motions and mentally quitting on the season or deciding to go all-in and giving maximum effort with the goal of winning out. It’s great to see the Flames chose to go all-in, which is a life lesson that will help these players after their playing days are over.
  2. The Llano Yellow Jackets football team made a statement in their 44-0 win against Cotulla Nov. 10. The Jackets rolled to a 30-0 half-time lead and they displayed an important characteristic — each unit wanting to make positive plays and looked as if each player took it upon himself to give energy to his teammates. In other words, when the offense was still trying to find its rhythm, the Llano punt team put pressure on the Cowboys that forced the deep snapper to snap the ball high over the punter’s head that resulted in a 2-0 advantage. That ignited the offense as the Jackets scored a touchdown on the next four drives and left no doubt which was the better team. At the same time, the Llano defense never dropped its intensity and desire to post a shutout. The Jackets now prepare for Goliad at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, in the area round of the playoffs at Comal Pieper Ranch High School, 1400 Kinder Parkway in San Antonio.
  3. The Smoking For Jesus football team has an opponent to begin the playoffs of the Texas Association of Independent Athletic Organizations. The Eagles will welcome Johnson County at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at a location in the city of Burnet. We’ll preview this contest later in the week.
  4. Game ball to Llano senior linebacker Hayden Manahan, who had 11 tackles during the win against Cotulla. Manahan gives the defensive plays and is one of the most animated players in the region. Manahan also gets a game ball because of his face paint.
  5. Though the Burnet volleyball team didn’t advance to the Class 4A Region III tournament, the Lady Dawgs did perform the way I thought they would in earning their undefeated district championship at 10-0. They did drop nine sets in district play, which surprised me. Look I didn’t do head coach Crystal Shipley or the Lady Dawgs any favors by predicting they wouldn’t drop a set in district play. That motivated the other district opponents even more when they faced Burnet. Still, praise these Lady Dawgs for playing like the favorite and taking everybody’s best shot and still prevailing in the final outcome. It’s not unusual to write about teams that wilt under the pressure of expectation and mentally quit early in ball games. That wasn’t the case with this squad. And that’s what puts these Lady Dawgs in a category by themselves.
  6. Congratulations to Burnet senior runner Hudson Bennett for signing this National Letter of Intent to run for the Texas Longhorns. Bennett threw me off when asked where he was in the recruiting process. He mentioned loving Baylor and visiting Alabama and that he planned on taking the remainder of his official visits. Less than a week later, the Burnet High auditorium had tons of burnt orange and even his Aggie daddy David was wearing a Texas shirt. Had word leaked to me that it was Texas, my wardrobe choice would have reflected it. Bennett did tell me it always was Texas and when the conversation turned very serious after his bronze-medal run at the Class 4A cross country state meet, the decision was very easy. Bennett is the third Highland Lakes track and field athlete to recently sign onto a Division I program. The other two are Marble Falls graduates Kason O’Riley, who is an Arkansas high jumper, and Bailey Goggans, a sprinter at Texas A&M. When Texas joins the SEC, these meets will become a lot more fun. Of course, Bennett is following in the footsteps of another Marble Falls and Texas graduate, Leonel “The Lion” Manzano, and there’s every reason to believe the Bulldog will have a very similar career.
  7. Congratulations to the Marble Falls boys basketball team for beating Lockhart 55-47 Nov. 12. Take out the forfeits by Cedar Park and Liberty Hill in February 2021 and the Mustangs were on a 36-game losing streak enter the Lockhart contest. And they did that by outscoring the Lions 36-22 in the second half. More on this game will be written. But make no mistake, of all the Mustang victories that have been written about, no team appreciated a win more than this program.
  8. Best conversation of the week was with the Burnet girls basketball team before Bennett signed his NLI. Most of the Lady Dawgs sat together on a row by themselves hours after beating Lake Belton 59-51. Burnet, which is the defending district champion, is choosing to let its play do the talking. And while the Lady Dawgs lost to Stephenville 43-23 Nov. 12, fans are advised not to read anything into this. That’s because this team is as confident as any at Burnet High. Like the Mustangs, more will be written on the Lady Dawgs in the coming days now that the volleyball season has wrapped up.
  9. Another team that also is making statements is the Marble Falls girls basketball squad. Simply the Lady Mustangs look like a team that’s on a mission with a strong commitment to defense and a rotation that makes every player a scoring threat. As has been previously written, District 24-4A features members that all made the playoffs a year ago while competing in others districts and classifications. The depth and talent in this district is something to behold. But I’m stopping short of predicting the regional tournament will feature two teams from this district. That’s because District 24 is in Region III, which is the Houston region many call BEast Texas. Let’s let this one play out.
  10. The Llano basketball teams picked up wins Nov. 12. The Lady Jackets beat Cherokee 42-37 to give new head coach Jay Parker his first win in orange and black and the Jackets crushed Mineral Wells 60-40 with a roster that’s still waiting on some football players. Head coach Rich Powers couldn’t say enough about his Jackets and this one has the elements to have a season that mirrors the football team.

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