The Yellowjackets defense played its best game in maybe two years. Maybe longer. While I am not giving a pass altogether, it was still impressive. Holding the slot-t Lampasas Badgers to 266 yards rushing may be their season low. Junior running back Secody Howard is all man. Secody had 31 carries and 154 yards. But his size and power were matched by the play of senior Matthew Ratliff, juniors Cody Lang, Jordan Johnson, and senior Travis Lawrence( 3 quarterback sacks). Ratliff played his best game ever as a Yellowjacket. This defensive line has made the entire defense much better, as the pass rush has become a very important in helping the secondary. Travis and Cody and Jordan pursue with non stop engines. That intensity has made everyone better. Linebackers Davis Hill, Taylor Osbourn, Cole Barrett, and Sterling Jameson are more free to make plays. No team we play can afford to not block the front line of Llano’s, because right now, no player is taking a play off. That is the difference.
I think radio announcer Lance Center said it best after the game, in that Llano’s offense is still trying to figure out who they are. While not a running team as in the past, we can not totally say we are a passing machine. The Jackets balance is scary. 130 yards running, 129 yards passing. Senior Preston Rabb leads in most categories. Senior Justin Saverance leads in rushing, and pass catching, yet really stepped up play by sophomore Rhett Brooks at running back and catching passes out of the backfield gives Llano a real balance in its attack. Senior John McKay and sophomore Matthew Center adds good hands to Preston’s options. The Jackets still need more points. Before the final kneel down, Llano had only 13 plays the second half. Longer sustained drives will give the defense some relief. The Jackets 38 offensive plays is very low. While the Badgers had the football 69 plays. The offensive line too has a very difficult task in that a mixed offense is harder for lineman to get into a rhythm. Ratliff, Kenneth Smith, Zach Berry, Ryan Williams, Wes Haverlah, Travis, Davis, and Taylor have done a good job. Pass blocking is an art. Preston for the most part has had time to get a quick pass off. Actually that is when he is most accurate. McKay, Saverance, Center, and Sterling are all better after the catch. The shorter passes and more of them will help the running game, and keep the linebackers off the line of scrimmage. Conner Chauncy and Rhett are not the big lumbering type backs. Both quick with a burst. But neither can be expected to run over linebackers.
Quick players on defense have started to emerge. Defensive players like senior Jordan Cavness and junior Clay Tarter. Both are very quick, and lining up this week in the five man front I think is a super change for Llano. Their quickness is not fool-proof for outside runs, but it helps. Both, are learning to get off the blocks and move down the line when it looks like the play is going wide. Clay and Jordan have gotten better every week. And same again can be said for seniors Raven Herron and Michael Rusche. They are now into so many more plays from, their cornerback positions.. With the confidence level raised, so goes up the production. It too helps as the secondary has more time to adjust while chasing receivers. Vance Bauer and safety Brooks will be old veterans this time next year.
I missed the injury to senior Ian Mayne. But I knew he was not on the sidelines on the kicking game. His hustle was missed, and hope he is back this week. Injuries to Sterling, and Davis too can not be long term. The Jackets are thin…already.
Lampasas was picked to beat Llano by one point in last weeks Harris Poll. They got the one point correct!!!…Likely Libery Hill will be a two touchdown favorite over the Jackets. I hope they are. The Jackets are, and have always played better as the underdog, and when they need to play over their abilities. No one likes playing Llano. The tradition continues. Llano plays hard all night long. Playing Liberty Hill is never fun, so neither team can look forward to an easy date. The Jackets beat the Panthers last year. So the mystery no longer haunts Llano.. The Panthers can be beat, and the four point margin of victory by both Llano and Liberty Hill over Taylor shows how close and even the teams are.
Llano will beat Liberty Hill in the host’s cave for the first time in a decade, and set up the game for the district crown. Who would have thought? Llano 21, Liberty Hill 19