In every Llano Yellowjackets’ mind at the beginning of each season, “are we ready”? Are we Better? Has all of the very very hard work and long long hours paid off? We will see soon.
Pre-season scrimmages are just the pits. Then you get rained out. Then you question yourself even more as the first real game gets closer. Are we ready?
Llano plays Smithville in the season opener this coming Friday Night. The Jackets hold a 2-0 advantage over Smithville in the only two games of record, both played nearly 15 years ago. Smithville has a history of many ups and downs. Last season a 1-9 record was a down year. Not many years ago an old friend was Head Coach there, Joey McQueen.. He produced two winning seasons and playoff victories. Maybe Smithville Coach Cyril Adkins is the next McQueen. Ready to take this 2016 team on a great run and a state playoff game. And…are the Tigers ready for Llano?
The Jackets are coming off a 4-8 record from 2015. A Playoff victory. And best of all, a large group of returning starters. To me, it will start on defense. Llano allowed 27 points a game last season. An improvement from the year before of about 6 points a game. Llano really needs to take that next step up. An improvement of 5 points this season from the defense is realistic. Keep the opponents around 22 points and Llano should win. High on my list of returning veterans are Hunter Roemer. He has moved to defensive end at last report. 238 pound junior Ray Dixon could be the best two technique (for old timers, defensive guard) in years. I expect him to dominate. Senior Blake Dillard got better every game last season. I expect that to continue, and for Blake to be a real force. Look for Jose Solice to be even better than last season. He now weighs in around 220 pounds. I expect Brent Greenwood to lead in tackles…again and to be even better. His 4 interceptions are a beginning of holding teams to 22 points. My favorite in the secondary will be senior John Heflin. What a smart athlete. And give me junior Ian Fletcher anywhere. He was a great sophomore, and what a playmaker. Watch every play for # 14. There are others that will step up. There are others not mentioned here, but give me time. I will get to know you all very shortly. But what a great opportunity this unit has. A real chance, with really good players to bring back a very strong Jacket tradition of having great defenses. This unit could be one of those.
If the defense does what I expect, then the offense will follow. Returning quarterback Ben Walling had games like you might expect from a sophomore. Sometimes not so good, but others very good. His 154 yards passing against Hondo was very good. Getting his completion rate up over 60%, and keeping the turnovers to a minimum will give the Jackets every reason to have high expectations from Ben. Receiver Jason Gann could be special, and as a senior needs to be a real leader for the offense. Surprise last year was tight end Jaden Napolez. The senior needs to catch 20 passes this year for the offense to roll. Look for veteran Cameron Hall to be a beast on the offensive line at 240 pounds. Roberto Alcala was good last season on the offensive line. He will be better in 2016.
One player already special is 1,057 yards rushing running back, junior to be, Mason Greenwood. Mason will run behind a prideful offensive line. Ben throws a few short passes to Jaden to keep the linebackers honest, and Mason will run for 1,500 yards in 2016. A combination of all above will put the Jackets back where they want to be.
The Jackets play 5 teams that made the playoffs in 2015. Llano should be competitive in every game. And Llano should line up and expect to win in 7. Three games will be hard, but Llano can win hard games. Llano needs to beat Burnet. After two decades of not beating the Bulldogs, lets start this streak back the other way. This team can do that. And Llano then will be prepared mentally to give Wimberley and Navarro all they can handle. This game is mental. I am not worried about the Jackets being physically ready. Getting mentally ready takes one game at a time. The first building block starts Friday night in Smithville. Llano 35 Smithville 6