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Ten Highland Lakes Sports Insights

CAPTION: The Burnet Bulldogs, including Sammy Jones (72), Casyn Taylor (54), Jace Haberer (2), Andrew Milum (25), and Khris Kassner (20) sing the school song after beating Somerset for a bi-district championship Nov. 9. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography

Today’s word is endings. Because that’s what the region experienced thanks to two unexpected conclusions. But we won’t start there. Let’s begin with the one team that’s still playing and continues to perform beautifully.

  1. That squad is the Burnet Bulldog football team. No surprise the Bulldogs beat Somerset 42-17. My surprise is that they scored that many points in pouring down rain. The Bulldogs were balanced on offense with almost an equal number of rushing yards (179) and passing yards (172). The team has had spectacular plays made by incredible athletes and it also has had ordinary plays look extraordinary throughout the season. Much respect for these players and coaches for continuing to find ways, to fight through the challenges set before them and, most importantly, for not having reasons why it couldn’t get done. That’s the difference between good programs and great programs. That’s written because the task gets tougher each week. Next up is Port Lavaca Calhoun in the area round of the playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at Bastrop Memorial Stadium.
  2. Let’s start with the first ending that has south Burnet County talking. The only element of Brian Herman resigning his position as athletic director and football head coach at Marble Falls Independent School District that was shocking was the timing. It happened four days after the Mustangs finished a 1-9 season. In five years, Herman’s teams compiled a 22-33 record. Still, his time will be remembered for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, when the Mustangs finished 17-8 with back-to-back bi-district championships and winning the area round playoff contest against Mission Veterans Memorial before losing to San Antonio Alamo Heights in the third round. Winning two playoff games in a season hadn’t been done since David Denney was the head coach in the 1990s.
  3. Marble Falls is a good job for a number of reasons aside from the ones mentioned by Dr. Jeff Gasaway, Marble Falls Independent School District superintendent. The first reason is because there’s a belief this year’s eighth-graders have some of the same similarities the class of 2022 had. That class was the cornerstone of the Mustang teams that had the 17-8 record. Marble Falls Middle School coach Michael McDowell said the members of the class of 2028 are “big tough kids with great leadership.” Though the eighth grade A team went 1-5, “every loss was super close and could have gone either way,” he said, pointing out the 38-32 loss to Wimberley and that the team’s only win was against Burnet. Meanwhile, the seventh grade A team was 2-4, and the losses were by fewer than a touchdown, including to Burnet on a last-second score. The Bulldogs won the district title. Coaches decided to have one B team because of academics and injuries. That team finished 3-3. Each class had about 50 players.
  4. Another reason is because of Marble Falls Youth Football and Cheer. Participation numbers indicate the community wants to play and be good at football. The organization had so many fifth- and sixth-graders, it decided to have one team in each grade. It also had two teams playing in the Junior Varsity (third- and fourth-grade) division and two freshman squads (Kindergarten-second-graders). Association leaders made the decision years ago to implement Herman’s slot-T offense. That illustrates a willingness to work with the head coach to teach his scheme. Knowing the association leaders, there’s no reason to believe they would not do the same if the next hire brings a different system.
  5. And finally, the Marble Falls Athletic Booster Club. During the 2022-23 academic year, the club raised $100,000, compelling club president Shannon Roberts to call the Marble Falls ISD community “a fund-raising machine.” Just how important is it to have a club that can raise money? The club offsets athletic department needs when the budget can’t pay for needed items that include game-day clothing, practice equipment and other necessities that helped five different teams capture district crowns last year with others advancing to the playoffs. One need was sub sandwiches thick with meat served to the football players before games. The club found a deli that worked with them on pricing to ensure the Mustangs entered each game with the energy to finish. Club leaders have shown a willingness to ask numerous individuals and businesses for donations to ensure the Mustangs and Lady Mustangs have what they need to succeed. There’s no reason to believe that will change.
  6. The Burnet volleyball team’s season ended with a regional quarterfinals lost to China Spring 20-25, 14-25, 26-28 Nov. 7. Hat’s off to the Lady Dawgs for fighting for their season and bouncing back in the third set to force the Lady Cougars (30-13, 8-2 District 23-4A runners-up) to dig deep to beat them. This year’s Burnet team looked like it had the traits to get back to the Class 4A Region III tournament. That shows the depth of talent throughout the state both on the court and on the sideline in finding ways to win. Congratulations to the Lady Dawgs on an incredible run and to head coach Crystal Shipley for helping her players embrace the standard that comes with wearing Kelly green.
  7. The Marble Falls girls basketball team earned its first win of the season, a 66-30 victory at Austin Eastside Nov. 10. Senior center Lexie Edwards had a personal milestone during the contest by pulling down her 500th career rebound. The Howard Payne University commit and the Lady Mustangs had come close to winning in the other two games but put it all together against Eastside. The Lady Mustangs return to the court for their Hill Country Classic tournament Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 16-18. They play San Antonio Warren at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, and then return to the court at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, with an opponent to be determined.
  8. The Burnet Lady Dawgs are 0-2 right now, losing to Stephenville 29-25 Nov. 10 and to Lake Belton 51-48 in the season opener. All these scores do is reinforce my belief that Burnet is the favorite to win the District 24-4A crown. I’m not sure if seniors MaeSyn Gay or Zaria Solis, the last season’s district MVP, were in the line-up against Stephenville, but they definitely weren’t there for the season opener because they were still playing volleyball. It’s going to be a fun basketball season.
  9. The Faith Academy Lady Flames are 3-0 after their latest win at New Braunfels Christian 50-33 Nov. 10. Head coach Kat Canada, who is in her fifth year with the program, said these players have been in her program for a long time and are confident in her system. And it shows as the Lady Flames haven’t left a doubt of their talent or their commitment to upholding the program’s tradition.
  10. The Llano girls basketball team bounced back with a 35-29 victory against Cherokee Nov. 11. The Lady Jackets had solid starts to each half, outscoring Cherokee 10-6 in the first period and 17-7 in the third quarter. It’s a huge win for the Lady Jackets, who have two new players this season who have the potential to do great things for the team – juniors Madi Green and Amelia Robinson. Robinson is a familiar athlete to Burnet County. Last year she was a Lago Vista student who played volleyball and basketball.
  11. The Llano Yellow Jackets’ experienced roster may be the envy of the region. The team includes eight seniors who were part of the squad that won the District 5-3A championship last year, including district MVP Weston Baker. New head coach Landry Norwood said he doesn’t have to coach effort or attitude among his experienced and motivated Jackets. This team has the ingredients to add another district title this season.

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