The 1o Llano seniors will be playing in their final game wearing the very proud Black and Orange. Vance Bauer, Conner Barrett, Cole Barrett, Garrett Milby, Justin Oestreich, Jordan Johnson, Wes Haverlah, Ryan Williams, Zach Baker and Clay Tarter will put on that uniform for the last time. This week alone, so many former players have reminded me how impressionable that last time is. For whatever reason it is that playing for the Yellowjackets leaves such a strong impression. That impression stays forever. A former Jacket(Graduated in 1950) was in Llano today (Tuesday) and he too told of his days playing for Llano. For too many of us, it still is one of the most important and rewarding times of our lives.
Regardless of the wins and losses, the bond created will have a hard time in being replicated. Few relationships in these young mens futures will rival the ties of playing next to friends that in many cases have been together since the first grade. The fun of the dressing room can only be understood if you were there. The heartbreak of losing a game and seeing the raw emotions of players that are seen in the dark shadows of the metal lockers. The smell in the locker room to most observers would be classified as putried, but when you are there, there is a comfort not known anywhere else. Players know it is not just sweat and tears and blood, but also heart and soul. There is no better place to be after a winning football game than the locker room. That feeling alone becomes a place with its own pedistal. That smell, unforgettable.
The 2011 Jackets are playing for that feeling, one more time. Clay wants to run one more kick-off back for a toucdown. Vance wants one more interception. Conner wants to make one more stick in the hole and know how good it feels when he does. Cole wants one more time to split the blockers and be in the backfield at the time of the handoff. Zach wants one more shot at that tight end coming across to try and catch a pass in front of his big number 33. Wes wants to drive one more big ‘ole lineman off the line of scrimmage so Zach could make a first down. Justin wants to cram down the inside, and stop that running back for a loss, one more time. And Ryan wants once more, to make that perfect tackle in open field and be able to pop right back up with that one time feeling of mission accomplished. Garrett wants one more chance to block that extra point or field goal. And Jordan wants just one more game after this. Just one more.
These Yellowjacket seniors gave their all. Their experience after Llano football will make everyone of them a better person, and have a better understanding of the world they face. It will be filled with as many heartbreaks as there are parade days. Maybe more. But they will know themselves better. All better, because of being a Llano Yellowjacket.
Llano plays a very good Salado team this Friday night in Jacket Stadium. The Jackets will be about 25 point underdogs. But playing the game is about making the Salado team, prove it. It is about making a showing, and being proud of the moment. These Jackets have nothing to prove to me, or their girl friends, or their families. We all know what grit they have, and the many mountains they have climbed this season. Friday nights game is only about self pride. These Jackets get to play for themselves. These 10 seniors have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, not by winning or losing, but by proving to themselves that being a Llano Yelowjacket may prove to be one of the best pieces of their entire lives. Beating a good Salado will only make for one more wonderful memory, wearing the Black and Orange.