The blessing of being able to cover the Llano Yellow Jackets the past 44 years is an unmeasured treat. The many coaches that were so strong and concerned for our young men is and has been sometimes just chilling. And with just a couple of exceptions, Llano players play with more heart than most teams we face. Since the 1964 season when Coach Weldon Seeliger came to Llano, Jacket pride became something that meant something. Every team felt it and breathed it. Players, many players were part of something that was bigger than themselves for the first time. And as a player, you wanted to keep that prideful feeling. If you really have orange and black running in your veins, you never wanted to lose that feeling of self confidence, self pride, and accomplishment that comes when everyone pulls together for the same goal. And the same good. Being a Llano Yellow Jackets is a lifetime endeavor.
So many players over the past four decades have returned to Llano and many have told me that pride never goes away. For many it has carried them thru good times and tough times. When times in our lives things look the darkest, one can pull from those August days of 100 plus degrees knowing that living through that, hard times can seem easy. Nothing is over. And there is always a fourth quarter in our lives. Being a Llano Yellow Jacket has helped many of us know that you can live to play another day. It gets in your veins.
Several years ago I wrote an article about the enrollments of schools and how it affected their season records. For all the nice things about being from Llano, and being in such a great locations for many things, high school enrollments have usually found Llano with not much to brag about. I went back 10 years, and one can easily see Llano has been either the smallest school in the district, or when Salado was in our district, the second smallest. These are not excuses. In fact, it has been something to think about, and be proud of. Beating schools with larger enrollments is a “thing” the Jackets have repeatedly done in the past. When you know that in 2010 Lampasas, Burnet, Taylor, and Liberty Hill came into our district. Wimberley came in the next season. Llano beat Fredericksburg and Brownwood. And never forget that Llano has a 7-0 record against Lake Travis. Yes, that Lake Travis. All of these schools usually had about 250-300 more kids in high school than the Jackets.
While in 2007 Llano had 523 enrolled, today we have 493 enrolled according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, a 5% decline. These numbers are provided to the UIL by each school. Many years Liberty Hill and Burnet were able to stay in Llano’s 3AAA classification by only 1-2 kids. But the Jackets managed. From 2005 thru 2010 the Jackets played in 10 play0ff games with a 5-5 record. Highlighted in 2007 playing in the Alamodome on November 24, 2007, beating Devine 40-6 in the Area playoff game. Llano went 9-4 in 2007. Not very long ago.
Short story. In 2007 Ty Thurman was Llano’s top running back. A guy named Lance Dickey was the “other” back. Hard to get better than those two…ever. In the last game of the season, Ty went down with a bad leg injury, and out for the season. Ty had 1,334 yards and 23 Tds’ in 10 games. A little known senior with 76 carries in two seasons as Ty’s backup, Austin Freeman was expected to take Tys place. Many of us thought we were domed going into the playoffs. No one ever doubted for a second that Austin would not do his best. Do everything he could with all 160 pounds to “replace Ty”… In three playoff games, Austin ran 47 times for 347 yards….a 7.38 average per carry….in the playoffs. Austin did not know he was not Ty Thurman. Someone forgot to tell him. But Austin knew what he expected of himself, and what his teammates expected of him. To quote my favorite radio announcer…”man oh man”…what a YellowJacket.
Next week we will go thru the schedule…see if we can win a game or two….and talk more about “being a YellowJacket”.