The Llano Yellowjackets played in one of the most exciting games in the history of Jacket football Friday night. In the 2020 Homecoming Game, the Jackets played one of the top 3-AAA Div. II schools in the State. Ranked # 4 in the State, the Armadillos came in the contest having won 16 of their last 17 games. Harris Polling had put the “Dillos as a 4 point favorite.
If going down to the wire has any meaning, maybe this game is the poster child. With 2:27 left in the fourth quarter, San Saba had marched down to the Jacket 4 yard line, and kicked the field goal to go ahead 31 to 21.
On the kick-off Llano got the ball on the 40 yard line. Junior quarterback Maddox Green completed a pass for 6 yards to senior Trevor Cowan putting the Jackets with a fourth and 4 decision. Case Kuykendall came into the backfield, and ran for 16 yards and a first down. Then junior quarterback Maddox hit senior Quincy Prince for a 10 yard gain to the 28 yard line. Green again to Prince into the end zone and a catch that will be in every highlight film. 28 yard TD !! Interference by San Saba did not matter. Quincy came down with the football. Diego Perez kicked his fourth extra point of the game and the score was 31-28, San Saba.
Now…what to do….few choices. On side kick. 1:16 left in the game. Diego lined up. It had to be perfect. And perfect happens seldomly. On side kicks are practiced by everyone. Every team. So few times it works. Kick has to go 10 yards , but then not to be covered by the receiving team. The ball has to take a slow two bouncer, then it bounces high. Very high. About the 10 yard marker. That is when the opportunity comes when the kicking team can rush down and cover the ball before the receiving team pounces. Diego kicks…one bounce…two bounces…the the ball goes head high to all. And senior safety Aiden Cuthbertson comes flying down the field and up he goes and catches the ball and secures it for Llano. Perfect.
Llano’s ball on the 45 yard line. Case moves out wide. Two defenders move over to cover the player San Saba believes to be the one Maddox will go to. The Safety too takes a few steps over to Case’s side of the field. Maddox throws incomplete on first down. Second down, Maddox to senior Jared Beasley on a great sliding catch just pass the first down marker and out of bounds. Clock stops. Llano now has the ball on the 34 yard line. Maddox to Quincy for 10 more. First down on the 24.
Maddox scrambles, but with his eyes down field. Case is covered. But Quincy with one cornerback to get by goes to the middle of the field and Maddox fires. Quincy catches and drives pass defenders into the end zone. Touchdown!!! Diego kicks good. 35-31 score, with 44 seconds to play.
Llano kicks a scrib kick, and San Saba covers on the 30. But on first down, senior Lance Pierce breaks the Armadillos’ heart, as he steps in front of the San Saba receiver and intercepts to end threat with 4 seconds left. Llano is now 4-0. San Saba 3-1.
Llano’s win was a team effort if there ever was one. The offensive line blocked well enough (not perfect yet) to give Case and Maddox time to throw. Both quarterbacks ended the night 8 of 18 each. Case and Maddox have 15 TD passes between them for the season. Pretty good line blocking.
I think Llano coaches figured early two things. San Saba could do two things. They could run the football, and they could stop the run. Except for Cases’ runs of 16, 25 and 39 yard runs, Llano generated only 10 more yards running by Austin Hulon, Abel Prince, Bode Gann and Maddox, with 7 runs generating minus yards. Besides that, Hulon and Abel were needed badly on defense. Could not wear them out running against a very strong defense line.
San Saba had a tremendous running attack, with Sears and Shahan pounding the football. Both very large backs. Austin and Aiden from the safety positions were the last resort many times, and pulling these large ball carriers down was yeoman’s work…every play. Luke Keller and Abel at cornerbacks had just as hard a game. The line and linebackers had their hardest and maybe best games, but fighting the ‘Dillos offensive lineman too, was work against the big and strong ‘Dillos. San Saba had a great running attack Over 250 rushing for San Saba.
Senior middle linebacker Mason Baker, Guillermo, Cade, Lance, Hayden Manahan, Jackson Rhea, Hulon, Michael Silva, Ricky de la Torre, Trevor, Dillon Milum, and Zane Toney-Fielding played their hearts out. Tremendous effort, and everyone played their parts. But maybe no one more than Aiden Cuthbertson. This senior showed up to play.
No easy task against 14th ranked Ballinger this week at Jacket Stadium. Llano is 3-3 all time against the Bearcats. Ballinger was in Llano’s district a few years back. 1966 and 1967!! Just tough old West Texas kids. They are 4-0, and will also, give the Jackets all they can handle. No one said this was going to be easy. But the Jackets proved this week they could play with anyone. Proved it to themselves. The most important people in the room.