The Llano Yellowjackets defeated the Blanco Panthers Friday night 35-0 in a game that secured the District Crown for the Jackets for the second year in a row. Llano plays Lulling at Jacket Stadium this Friday, and a victory there gives the Crown to Llano out right.
This will be only the second time in school history that Llano has won two district championships in a row. In 1975 and 1976 Llano won back to back Championships. The 1975 team, Coached by legendary Coach Ken Gray won the Championship for the second time in three years. The Jackets lost in Bi-District and finished with an 8-3 record. Those seniors had a 14-1 District record over three years.
The 1976 team was Coached by John Baskin. Baskin had been head coach at San Saba for many years. He left San Saba to become offensive coordinator in Llano with his old college teammate Ken Gray, where both played at Howard Payne. Llano played Rockdale in Bi-District, and lost 10-9 on a field goal with :37 seconds left in the game. The Jackets finished the season with a 7-4 record.
Rockdale went on to win the State Championship in 1976. At the end of the season, the Head Coach at Rockdale was interviewed by the Austin American Statesman newspaper. Asked which team in the playoffs was Rockdales’ toughest opponent? The Coach did not hesitate. “Llano. Llano was the toughest, we played.”
Of further interest to some, Llano’s quarterback was Shelby Wright. Shelby was All-District at safety his junior year. His senior year he was All District at quarterback. Shelby went on the play football at Tarleton State,. His sophomore year he lead Tarleton to the championship in the TAII Division, and Shelby was named National Player of the Year. Shelby was inducted into the LHS Hall of Fame in 2019 posthumously.
In 1970, and 1971 the Jackets each Won the District, but the 1970 team, which finished 9-0-1 tied with Brady, and Brady got the nod to go to the play offs, as the Bulldogs won the 21-21 game on penetrations. The 1970 team is still regarded as one of the best in school history. 7 players from that team had the opportunity to go on and play college football. It was not until the mid 1970s that two schools in a District went to the play offs.
Back to reality! Blanco was ranked ahead of Llano before our game Friday night. Plus, Blanco picked the Jackets for their Homecoming. What had we gotten our selves into? What ever it was, the Jackets knew the formula for getting the job done. The Jackets 35-0 win was complete.
The defense faced the Panthers on 10 series of plays. The Jackets defense twice held on fourth down. Five times the Panthers were forced to punt. Llano got two fumbles, and one interception. Blanco was held to about 140 yards of offense. Jacket linebackers lead by junior Aiden Hendrickson, and Fitz Kennedy were deadly. Ricky de la Torre and Hayden Manahan unblockable. The reason those linebackers are so good is Jaxon Rhea, Zack Watson, Matthew Whitley, Daniel Sandoval, River Smith, Cole Franklin and Kaden Raborn stuffed the running game trying to make yardage thru the line. It became a rough night for the Panthers. Parker Parish had a great night. As did Brock Fly and Hudson Godfrey….all playing their roles….and this bunch can claim a special number…so far only 10 points allowed in District play…109 for the season! Talk about winning numbers. This defense will keep Llano in any game going forward.
Not to forget the secondary. Caden Bauman continues to lead team in interceptions and another one Friday night. Sophomore Briggs Green is such a sure tackler. With Sam Sueltenfuss and Jenin Bastyens, Isaiah Bush, Aiden Guido, and Ryan Turner this is a tough group to have a passing game against. Super play by all.
The offense had a great, complete game, and I think senior quarterback Maddox Green had his best game as a Jacket. 16 of 21 passing for 168 Yards. 2 Td passes. 32 yards rushing, plus caught a 9 yard pass for a touchdown. The rushing game was spot on. Carson Kuykendall had 11 rushes and made 5 first downs. Miguel Hernandez carried 15 times and produced 4 first downs.
c Green completed 16 passes to 5 receivers. Jackson Dillard the longest with a 41 yard catch. Ross Prokop with the most, with 5 catches. Coy Kelso with 4 catches, 37 yards and another great catch deep in the end zone for a TD catch…Carson 3 catches and 23 yards. And leading Jacket receiver for the season, Sam Sueltenfuss 3 for 45 yards and a TD catch. This is a strong receiving group, and they each make the other better.
Extra applauds to Ricky, Isaiah, Guido, Briggs, Brock, Dillard, Parker and River Smith…all special effort on special teams. Love Miguel’s punting. Not bad…not bad at all!!
Our offensive line is just pretty darn good. Center Jaxon Lange is outstanding. Senior Zack Watson a beast. Senior Matthew Whitley so tough and solid. Juniors Ross Edwards and Daniel making few mistakes…Others like Donavan Simmons and Dylan Kennedy playing like veterans. And Jaxon Rhea coming in to block is a mismatch for most. Tanner Howell is already good and getting better. These guys protect Maddox and make the run game go. And Ulisses Martinez has shown to be a good blocker downfield…good effort.
Lulling will play their hearts out to beat Llano. Their record shows it has been a long season, but Lulling played Blanco hard and close two weeks ago. Can expect the same at Jacket Stadium Friday night. But Llano must keep improving, and not look ahead. Playing hard is important also, as the Jackets’ “bye” week is following week. The Jackets do not need to take two weeks off. Work hard, practice hard, get to 7-2 record, and win that District Crown with back to backs…for the first time in 45 years. That is special.