The loss to Bandera was a real kick in the stomach. Llano was picked to win. Llano should have won, and this is one where Llano just beat Llano. Being unable to stop Bandera in situations where just pretty good play would have worked, the Jackets managed to kick the can down the street and just hope for the best. The best never came, and the Jackets were beat with 35 seconds left in the game 35-33.
Had the Jackets played the second and third quarters like the first quarter, all scoring records would have been broken. Even after Bandera’s senior do everything player, Colby Stewart, ran the opening kick0ff back for 80 yards and a 7-0 lead, Llano proceeded to score three touchdowns in the quarter on a total of 7 offensive plays over a period of 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Junior quarterback Rhett Brooks ran 7 times for 28 yards, threw four completions of to junior Storey Tatsch, 34 yard TD catch by sophomore Isacc Hutto, and 15 yards to junior Matt Center. 10 running plays, four passing plays, and topped off by a 49 yard touchdown run by junior Wil Siegenthaler. Llano was playing at its best in 2011.
At the same time, the Jackets limited the Bulldogs to 32 yards rushing, and 28 yards passing, and the score was 20-14, Llano. What Llano was not able to do was stop the big play, and to hang on to the football. Two crucial turnovers, and 11 plays that averaged 18 yards and game over. Llano played the other 44 plays with stops being under two yards a try. The Jacket defense now has allowed 34 points a game in three games, and this race track scoring has got to stop. Llano in three games have scored 27 points a game. 27 points a game of offense will usually win most games Llano plays in.
First, the positive. I really like the play of junior center Taylor Stewart. He misses blocks, but I do not see any give up in this first year starter. Zach Morgan is averaging about 40 yards per punt. His 55 yarder in the first part of the Bandera game put the Bulldogs on their 11 yardline, and put Llano in a place to score three quick TDs’ all on field position. His leg alone can be a difference maker for this team that needs several more to step up. #52 Allan Lucas, a junior plays hard every down at linebacker. Junior Ryan Williams is also doing very well at linebacker. But with Llano playing a 3-4 defense, linebackers become fair game for lineman with time to get up speed. Linebackers are blocked as if they were lineman. Cole Barrett in the middle of that line causes some disruption, and needs to do more. His effort is there every play. I still like the play of cornerback Mason Ladd, a sophomore. Vance Bauer is making a hand on both sides of the football, and senior Clay Tarter’s interception in the fourth quarter set up the Jackets’ final TD with 3:25 to play. Jordan Johnson is playing at a level well above the rest. He just has to have more help, and better tackeling from his teammates. The three man Jacket front gets little push back on the front line. More blitzes would help on all fronts, and especially in the secondary. Bandera’s quarterback had lots of time Friday night.
Junior quarterback Rhett Brooks again carried the football 30 times. 25 times after the first quarter, out of 38 running plays. The one -play Llano offense is worrisome to me. Siegenthaler, Tarter, Tatsch, and Bauer all have rushing averages near 5 yards per carry, yet are used sparingly. Brooks’ throwing was right on, hitting 10 of 15 passes, using 6 different receivers, with Center catching 3 for 57 yards, and Isaac , Bauer, Tarter, Tatsch and Taylor Sorenson close behind. All have good hands. My worry is simple. Brooks goes down, down goes the quarterback, the passing game, and the rushing attack. Llano must do more different things on offense. There is no tight end play. There are few lead blocks for a tailback type attack. No slot-t offense here. I’m sure it is just me, but I think the Jacket offense is still trying to find its identity. I just hope its found so we can get ready for district play. And for once, other than powerful Lampasas, District 25-3 AAA looks like there might be a level playing field.
Llano kicked off to a known quality last Friday night in Colby Stewart. He ran one kickoff back for 80 yards and a TD, and then had run backs of 28, 26, and 27 yards. Llano for the past two years kicks off on a high short kick. The longest one to the 20 last week, and the shortest about the 33 yardline. For two years it gives the Jacket’s opponents very good field advantage, by average of 15 yards. Against Bandera, the Bulldogs set up on the 44, 42( our 42 yardline) , and 39 yardline, plus the TD. Llano did recover one of the short kicks for a turnover. I guess the Jackets have no one that can kick high or knuckelball kick to the 10 yardline. Whatever the reason, it puts Llano in the hole, and for what I see, no reason.
There is no kidding anyone, Brownwood will be a beast for Llano this week. But, in these games, many times players that are not afraid of this challenge will come out better prepared and better players for playing hard on every play, and making steps of improvement where least expected. Llano must get better this week, regardless of how the game ends up. Llano can get better, and playing the best will help the Jackets gain confidence that they can play with anyone….be competitive with anyone, and prove that Jacket Pride is more than just a slogan on a banner.