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Burnet football beats Llano for first win in 2023

CAPTION: Burnet head coach Bryan Wood (standing, center) congratulates the Bulldogs on their win against Llano, their first of the 2023 season. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

The Burnet High School football team defeated Llano 47-12 Sept. 1 in the Bulldogs’ home opener.

The Bulldogs (1-1, District 13-4A Division I) now turn their attention to Brownwood (2-0). Llano welcomes Austin Crockett. Both games will be played at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8.

The game turned in Burnet’s favor immediately. The Bulldogs won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. The defense got a three-and-out and lined up for the punt. Senior linebacker Will Johnson ran toward the punter as soon as the ball was snapped, blocked it, picked it up and ran to paydirt for the score.

The Bulldogs led 6-0 18 seconds into the contest and never looked back.

“We thought all week we could get one,” head coach Bryan Wood said. “That’s huge. That’s a six-spot. You get to let go for the good stuff to happen. We were going fast. I think we found our way through.”

“We started as well as you could,” defensive coordinator Ben Speer said. “We discussed blocking the punt. We were like, ‘OK, go get it.’ The kids didn’t flinch.”

That 6-0 lead held until 3:50 remained in the opening quarter. Burnet took over at the Llano 40-yard line. Senior running back Dash Denton ended the five-play drive with a 21-yard scamper paydirt. Junior quarterback Rhett Murray found Johnson on the two-point pass for a 14-0 lead. The drive took 1:44 to complete.

The teams exchanged possessions until 6:33 remained in the half. Burnet needed seven plays to go 51 yards in 3:28 on a drive that ended with a one-yard plunge by junior running back Khris Kassner for a 20-14 lead.

A Llano interception on the next play gave the Bulldogs the ball on their own-yard line. Denton needed one play and a hole up the middle to outrun everyone to the end zone on a 76-yard gallop. The two-point pass failed, but Burnet let 26-0 at the half.

Wood said he walked into the locker room, and the vibe felt different and realized the players have to learn to play with a lead.

“Nobody has been there,” he said. “We have to experience how to do that. I loved the team’s attitude coming out.”

On the first offensive play, Murray found senior Grant Jones on a short pass the receiver turned into a 73-yard foot race to paydirt seven seconds into the third quarter for a 33-0 advantage.

“Rhett changed the play,” Wood said. “He changed it into something better. Rhett looked up and liked it. “

Llano scored on a nine-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Alex Kachura in the back right corner from junior quarterback Colton Bailey to cut into the deficit to 33-6.

Denton got the touchdown right back on the next drive, completing a three-play, 45-yard drive in 86 seconds when he plunged into the end zone from a yard out for a 40-6 lead.

Another interception set up Burnet on its 30-yard line. Kassner ran 61 yards for the touchdown and the 47-6 advantage with 6:26 remaining in the game.

The Jackets went 67 yards in nine plays capped by a one-yard run by junior running back Trey Mote to complete the scoring.

Denton finished the game with 10 rushes for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Kassner had three carries for 64 yards two scores.

Murray completed seven of 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Jones had the touchdown catch of 73 yards.

In all Burnet had 365 yards of total offense to Llano’s 289. Bailey completed 18 of 23 passes for 148 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions and had 10 rushes for 37 yards. Senior running back Fitz Kennedy had 16 rushes for 65 yards, while Mote had 12 carries for 36 yards and a score. Junior receiver R.J. Coplin caught eight passes for 90 yards, while senior Alex Kachura had five receptions for 44 yards and a score.

Wood was pleased with Johnson’s play in every phase of the contest. He finished with eight solo tackles and six tackles for loss en route to a total of 10 for the game. Senior linebacker Trenton Park had nine solo tackles with two for loss for a total of 12. Linebacker Denton had nine tackles.

“I thought Will was all over the field,” the coach said. “I couldn’t count the tackles. We think Will has a chance to be explosive.”

Junior defensive back Colt Stanford caught two interceptions, and senior defensive back Jacob Atkinson had the other. Junior defensive back Lew Laidler, who had 13 tackles with seven solo, recovered the fumble caused by Denton.

Going into the game, Wood thought the match-ups were going to be the Burnet offense against the Llano defense. The Bulldogs had eight explosive plays to Llano’s six. But the explosive plays — Denton’s 76-yard touchdown run and the Murray-to-Jones 73-yard touchdown pass — happened on Burnet’s last drive of the first half and its first possession of the second half. Kassner’s 61 yard scoring run happened on the Bulldogs’ second-to-last drive of the contest.

“If they’re going to take the pass away, you have to run it and turn them loose,” Wood said. “We like our wide receivers against anybody. They play every down on offense and defense.”

Speer noted the seniors have played in his defensive system for three years, and that experience is showing. And he acknowledged his unit was highly motivated to face a long-time rival and show the loss to La Vernia wasn’t going to turn into a streak.

“You don’t have to challenge them,” he said. “It’s their senior year. They know what to do. What talked about what needed to be eliminated and reach those standards. We fixed a lot of stuff. I thought our kids were really tuned in this week. Playing Llano, the kids were excited, they were motivated.”

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