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Burnet, Llano renew rivalry in anticipated match-up

Photo by Briley Mitchell/DustDevilDiver Photography

The Burnet High School football team welcomes Llano, a long-time rival, to Bulldog Field at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1.

It’s the Yellow Jackets’ (1-0, District 13-3A Division I) first visit to Burnet since the 31-21 Bulldog win in 2017. Llano won its week one game 28-13 against Jarrell Aug. 25. The Bulldogs (0-1, District 13-4A Division I) lost to La Vernia 49-27 Aug. 25.

Burnet head coach Bryan Wood said plenty has stood out during his film study about the Yellow Jackets.

“How hard they play,” he said. “They create an expectation there with the success they’ve had. Those kids want to live up to the tradition.”

Llano is led by a senior class that only knows achievement. Last year, the Yellow Jackets reached the fourth round of the playoffs. Senior Fitz Kennedy anchors the defense as the linebacker, though classmates Hunter Brown, Frank Machuga and Parker Parrish strive to control the line of scrimmage as the defensive linemen. Senior defensive back Charlie White ties the back end together as the veteran.

Wood, who comes from the offensive side of the ball, has spent time studying the Jackets’ defense and commended the staff, led by defensive coordinator Matt Anastasio, on putting their players in position to succeed.

“I’m impressed with them because they’re so sound,” Wood said. “They changed their scheme to fit their kids. That means you have a good staff. I think they coach them up really well. Jarrell has some explosiveness. They held them in check.”

The Bulldogs will counter with seniors Grant Jones, Trenton Park and Will Johnson, who also play on both sides of the ball. Llano head coach Matt Green said the trio are talented and explosive.

“Johnson has been a three-year starter, Park is a really good player, and Jones is back,” Green said. “You’re dealing with three receivers who are very talented and experienced, too. Their skill guys are the strength of their team.”

Against La Vernia, Jones had seven receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder to paydirt. Park had four catches for 61 yards, and Johnson had seven tackles.

Wood said Burnet junior quarterback Rhett Murray, who completed 12 of 15 passes for 132 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against La Vernia, will get the majority of the minutes against Llano. But don’t be surprised to see Jones used in a variety of ways.

“We’re going to give Rhett more reps,” Wood said. “We’re confident in what he offers in this part of the game plan. Grant is going to take a few snaps.”

Llano has a new starting quarterback, junior Colton Bailey, who takes over after senior Briggs Green, who was the starter a season ago, suffered a season-ending injury. During the win against Jarrell, the Jackets had 43 rushes for 255 yards led by sophomore running back Brayton Shaw, who had 15 rushes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Senior receiver Alex Kachura caught four passes for 91 yards and a score.

“I think they’re solid everywhere,” Wood said.

Burnet will counter with senior linebacker Dash Denton, senior defensive back Gilbert Valdez and juniors Khris Kassner and Lew Laidler. Kassner and Laidler each had a sack against La Vernia.

Wood noted the defense is eager to step back on the field.

“Things cranked up Monday morning,” he said. “We fixed what needed to be fixed. It ought to be a great game.”

The Jackets are an average of a 12-point favorite. Wood said he knows why.

“They were a 13-1 playoff team last year,” he said. “They’re going to get the respect. We’re getting to where we want that, too. I like the underdog role. I think we’ll respond amazingly.”

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