The loss to the Fredericksburg Billies was a near perfect storm for our neighbors to the South. While the Jackets have played well at times, the combination of several fazes of the game all came together for a very disappointing game last Friday night. But nothing was more apparent than the injuries on the sidelines. With 6 Yellow Jackets not suited up, and two more going down during the contest, Llano became outnumbered real fast. The 1-4 start has happened in the past, and Llano has recovered. Thank goodness for the open week, as the Jackets prepare of District 25-3 A play, and maybe get players well. It will take all aspects of the game and the players to be ready for what looks like an open district contest, and no one team standing out as unbeatable, as Llano discovered in 2010.
Last season the Jackets opened district play with wins over Taylor and Lampasas. Both games were in Jacket Stadium last season, and this year we travel to those two schools. Lampasas has shown to be the strongest in pre-district play with a 4-1 record. Taylor will be looking to Llano for its first win of the season. Liberty Hill was picked by Texas Football magazine to win 25-3 A, and the third week Llano will host the Panthers. We go to Burnet in the fourth week, and follow that with Salado coming to Llano in the final regular season game. No one could ever forget one of the best games to watch in Jacket history as the Jackets beat Salado last year 51 to 49 and secured the third place spot for the play0ffs. The 2010 game produced 1,245 yards of offense by both teams, and the 703 by the Jackets lands in the #2 highest yards in a single game in school history.
The mountain that Llano faces this year more than any other in my memory is the number of seniors. Going back to 1967, I can’t find a Llano team that had at least 15 seniors, that did not have a winning season. I’m sure I could have missed one, and bring it to my attention if you know of that season. But the 2011 Yellow Jackets have only 10 seniors. Not only is depth a real concern, but leadership also is spread thin. The number of players that have been in tough situations in the past falls on fewer shoulders. With 7 sophomores suited up last week, the experience factor does limit many things the coaching staff is able to accomplish. And our competition has not had that problem.
While over the past 39 years of writing about the Jackets, few other topics have caught my attention more than enrollments. And, like last season, Llano was lowest in high school enrollment in 25-3 A, with the exception of Salado. Salado’s 467 students was bettered by the Jackets with 510 students. Last season, Salado had 15 seniors, while Llano had 14.
This month of October, the UIL will redraw district alignments. Many in Llano keep thinking the Jackets could go down to Class 2A. With numbers as they appear today, that will not happen. 36 schools in 3 AAA have lower enrollments than Llano. And out of 184 schools in 3-A, 20% would have to go backwards before the Jackets dropped. The playoffs are based on 32 districts, and that is how you get 6 games in order to make it to the state finals.
Being a small, or sometimes the smallest school in the district is not new to the Jackets. We have been in and out of Fredericburgs’ district since the 1930s. Llano has had Round Rock, Georgetown, Lake Travis, and Marble Falls in the district. Now all are 4-AAAA and 5-AAAAA schools. The Jackets have competed thru it all. One past successful Jacket coach would remind his troops that the other team could only play 11 players at a time, dispite that they would bring 50 to a game. The Jacket reputation over the past 50 years as been that Llano kids were tougher, and hit harder than anyone else. Llano coaches have always been in awe of the hard working kids of the Jacketland. That part has not taken a beating. That is why Llano will still have a say in the 25-3 A starting next week.
And, to get back to those seniors. This weekend we will review those seniors and their inspired play over the past 5 weeks. While Llano may be few in numbers, their hearts are painted Orange and Black. District begins this week. The Llano seniors will be leading the way. Get well, rest up, and let’s get ready for Taylor.