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Ten Highland Lakes Sports Insights

CAPTION: The 2023 Marble Falls High School boys golf team is the Class 4A Region III runner-up, adding that finish to their runner-up finish at the District 24-4A tournament. Courtesy photo

The previous seven days were filled with celebrations, disappointments and educational opportunities. Burnet and Llano county fans witnessed their teams and athletes advance to the next round of the playoffs, clinch championships and become better prepared for what’s ahead. They also faced the brutality of disappointment.

  1. Let’s start with golf. Regional tournaments happened last week. While one team is celebrating advancing to the state tournament, another is facing the end of its season. The Marble Falls High School boys golf team shot a 339-322-661 to finish second at the Class 4A Region III tournament and punch its ticket to the state tournament that is happening in its backyard — the Legends Golf Course in Kingsland May 22-23. The scary part is that head coach Ricky Blackington indicated the Mustangs had chances to shoot better scores after each round where they were eight strokes behind after the first round and six strokes after the second day behind Bullard. That’s astonishing when dreaming of the what might have been. Here’s hoping the Mustangs aren’t satisfied with their showing at the regional tournament and spend the next month learning the ins and outs of Legends with the aim of writing their own inscriptions in the program’s album. Along with the boys’ accomplishments, Lady Mustang senior Madison Deberard shot a two-day total of 169 to finish seventh overall at the girls Class 4A Region III tournament to be first team all-region and miss advancing to the state tournament by two strokes. And Burnet freshman Avery Gowin shot a 112-110–212. Congrats to both on a fantastic golf season in representing their programs.
  2. While south Burnet County celebrated, Llano County is facing the aftermath of moving into a different region. Weeks earlier the Llano High School boys golf team was celebrating an incredible feat when both squads were evenly split in half in pursuit of winning the top two spots at the District 5-3A tournament. And the Yellow Jackets accomplished that. And privately, those in the know recognized the enormity of the next task: Llano advancing to the state tournament out of the same regional tournament, Class 3A Region I, as two-time defending state champion Brock.In previous years, the Jackets advanced to the state tournament out of Region IV. Combine the change in region to the location and the inability to replicate the constant wind in Abilene’s Diamondback Golf Club, and it proved too much for the Jackets. Still the ending doesn’t take away from the incredible seasons these seniors have assembled. Their achievements are the stuff of legends and will be talked about by golf enthusiasts and those who follow for years to come.
  3. Let’s head to the diamonds where a pair of Burnet County teams won District 24-4A titles. And we’ll start with the Burnet Lady Dawgs who made quick work of the Marble Falls Lady Mustangs to claim the district crown with another stellar performance from pitcher Kyleigh Mott. It’s been an incredible year for the Lady Dawgs who haven’t forgotten missing the postseason all together in 2022 after losing to Georgetown Gateway in a play-in game. They’ve channeled that disappointment, turning it into fuel for this season to ensure they don’t feel that way again. Head coach Hailey Wooten said what drives her team is a desire to be the best softball squad Burnet has ever had, and that means winning at least two rounds in the playoffs beginning with the bi-district series against Gatesville. Game one is set for Bulldog Diamonds Thursday, April 27, with game two at Gatesville Friday, April 28. Both contests start at 7 p.m.
  4. The Marble Falls baseball team beat Burnet April 18 and 21 to win its fourth series in district play and capture the championship with an 11-2 record. While the Mustangs were impressive at Scearce Field behind the pitching of senior Bryce Atkinson, there are no words to describe what they did at Bulldog Diamonds. So let’s let the stats do the talking: 21 runs off 18 hits including a three-run homer by lead-off batter Evan Nickowski that all added up Burnet using four pitchers and then only allowing the Bulldogs to score three runs in their final five innings at the plate. Even the three Mustang errors did little to slow Marble Falls. Following Friday’s game, all I heard from Burnet attendees was the word “studs” to describe the Mustangs. Marble Falls has one more district series left before turning its attention to the postseason. The Mustangs are at Jarrell Tuesday, April 25, then welcome the Cougars Friday, April 28. Both games start at 7 p.m.
  5. Though the Bulldogs lost last week, their season is far from over. Burnet had already clinched a playoff spot with an 8-5 record that ties them for second in the district standings with Jarrell. The outcome against their county rival wasn’t what they wanted, but that doesn’t take away what they accomplished. They finished the first round of district play undefeated and have lost only two series in district: against Marble Falls and Jarrell. The other district loss was to Lampasas. The Bulldogs have the fire power to stay with teams and that will be important as they turn their attention tto Lago Vista, which is one game ahead of Georgetown Gateway for fourth place in the district standings. Looks like a very interesting week of baseball in District 24-4A.
  6. The Llano High School baseball team is set to finish no worse than second in District 5-3A after taking care of Comfort 8-0 April 21. The Yellow Jackets still have a shot at being co-district champions if Brady can beat Blanco in a contest that was moved to Monday, April 24, because of rain. Head coach Todd Doucet said the district was as competitive as ever. Even with Lago Vista moving up to Class 4A, Ingram sophomore pitcher Maddox Delgado leads a talented class that will have the Warriors contending for the next two seasons. And Blanco is always solid. The Jackets have a very important element though — the best pitching staff in the district. They’ll need that as they turn their attention to the Class 3A playoffs.
  7. The Llano Lady Jackets are set to start the Class 3A playoffs this week after using last week to rest and heal some bruises. Pitchers Madison Kloepper and Skylar Brown are hitting their strides and lead-off batter Gwyn Burnett looks like she is in her championship form. Burnett’s ability to get on base and work her way around the bases is as important to the Lady Jackets as Nickowski is to the Mustangs. I’m eager to see what they can do as they begin the playoffs.
  8. Area track was an incredible challenge for schools in both Burnet and Llano counties because of the companion districts. Let’s start with the Yellow Jackets and Lady Jackets whose District 5-3A’s companion district is No. 6. To say it was tough is an understatement. And make no mistake. The athletes who survived area have a great chance to qualify for the state meet from the Class 3A Region I meet. Boys head coach Ryan Priem noted his athletes had their best marks of the year and some still had their seasons ended. That’s the depth of the competition at the meet. Still, Llano has seven Jackets advancing to regionals and one Lady Jacket — Gwyn Burnett — in the long jump, 100 meters and 300-meter hurdles, her signature event. She was the Class 3A state silver medalist in that event in 2022.
  9. The Marble Falls Lady Mustang track and field program also had one Class 4A Region III qualifier — discus thrower Kylie Roberts, who won gold at the District 23 and 24-4A area meet. Like District 6-3A, District 23-4A is equally competitive thanks to China Spring and Gatesville. The Burnet Lady Dawgs have three regional qualifiers in discus thrower Mott, who almost advanced in the shot put, too, triple jumper Grace Cullison, and middle-distance runner Asah Roy, who advanced in the mile and two-mile races.
  10. The Burnet Bulldog pole vaulters restored order at the area meet when Brayden Hill and Brady Rygaard each finished first and second. Head coach Ben Speer thought the two would use the disappointment of what happened at the district meet to fuel them for the area meet. And he was right. Meanwhile, Victor Aviles is showing the Bulldogs’ depth in the middle-distance races where he advanced to regionals in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Hudson Bennett also advanced in both events. And Grant Jones is headed to regionals as a long jumper. Congrats to all of them.

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