Let’s Play Three- Hondo Once Again

The 2019 Llano Yellowjackets will play the Hondo Owls for the 3rd time in a 12 month period of time.  Last August Llano got beat with :04 seconds on the clock by a score of 29-26 playing in Llano.  Then the Jackets returned the favor beating Hondo in the first state playoff round in overtime on a 91 yard TD pass.  It crushed the Owls hope of a play-off win.  Llano got their first play-off win under third year coach Matt Green.

Hondo, playing at home will be tough.  They always are.  And the taste in their mouths may have stayed their since last November!   Hondo, too is loaded.  16 Starters back from last season.  Finished last season with a 6-5 record.  Experience at quarterback and running back.  Picked to win their 14-4A D 11 District.

The Jackets may have the most speed ever!  But how does that translate to Friday nights?  It should for the offense.  While our quarterback situation may not be settled, in my mind, it is a great place to be.  Senior Braxton Vickers coming off lots of experience guilding the JV last season with lots of success.  Case Kuykendall, a do it all player, and can play and line up at many positions.  Braxton can confuse, lining up at receiver.  Expecting running back Donovan Arrellano to carry a load, running behind all -district lineman Heath Godrey, and experienced Jose Villa, Luke Hicks, and Cade Ligon.   Others will develop.  I understand we will see very experienced Justin Yocum at running back, as well as playing in the secondary.  A very good player last season as a junior.  And did I say receivers?  Record holder Quincy Prince with great speed can go deep.  Averaged over 30 yards per catch as a junior.  Also expect to hear from Jared Beasley, Aaron Brown and Luke Keller.  Our quarterbacks will have receivers.

The Jackets have had great linebackers in the past.  Go back  50 years.  Lloyd Beasley, Larry Stovall.  Go back 25-30 years, Mark Joy, Rick Sturdivant.  Corby Walker, Roy Kent, Randy Reven, Ricky Napolez…all great linebackers.

This season, Llano could have the best three we have ever had.  Could.!  But last season, Mason Baker, Quentin Franklin, Logan Duggar and Ryan Warner had few peers.  Sure tacklers.  All ran to the ball and never stopped.  I felt safe when Llano was on defense.  It has been a few years since I could say that.

Guillermo Davilla has big big shoes to fill.  The last three years Llano has had monsters on the defensive line.  Davilla returns.  His only duties include sacking the other teams quarterback, chasing down running backs, and keeping blockers off our linebackers.  He can’t do it all, but help can come from returner Jacob Cruz  and Jose Villa.  With a strong pass rush, the secondary can play a little more relaxed.  And hopefully pick off a few passes.  Yocum, Brown and Keller, all with speed, could too, become special.

Last season as an extra point and field goal kicker, Diego Miguel Perez put himself into the Jacket record book in many places.  He was a sophomore.  As a junior, we hope for near the same.  Diego made his first varsity extra point last season against Hondo. Diego missed his first extra point as a varsity player last season against Hondo.  He never missed again

The fun for me is not only watching the players I knew from last season, but getting to know the players that are new.  New to the varsity.  Some new to being a Yellowjacket.  I’m fired up.  I know these players are  hungary.  I think most feel that 7 wins is in the rearview mirror.  These Jackets could be special.  And it will take a special effort to beat a good Hondo team Friday night.  I feel they will.

Posted in Play to Win | Leave a comment

10 Days to Prepare- Hondo

The 2019 season began about three weeks ago as the Jackets began working out as a team.  Last Friday night the Jackets scrimmaged Blanco.  A longtime close rival of yesteryear, but the 2019 version of the Panthers produced a fine 10-3 record in AAA.

The Jackets travel to Manor Tech this week to end the scrimmage season.  This Saturday morning, the real season begins.  Llano will play Hondo on August 30th, playing in Hondo. Second best part of this 100 plus mile trip is eating at Hermann and Sons Steak House.  The best part is playing a very good Hondo Owls team that will play Llano like it is a play-off game.  What has been in the past, a “fill-in-game”, Hondo has become somewhat of a rival game, due to most part in Llano beating the Owls in over-time in last seasons first play-off game.  The Owls beat Llano in the first game of last season 29-26.

The Jackets are loaded.  As is Hondo.  With 9 starters on offense, and 7 starters on defense back from the 2019 team, the Owls have many players that have long memories. November 2019 was a long time ago.  Hondo is picked to win their District 14-4A,Div. 11.

I too…the season begins after the Manor scrimmage.  Already began putting together article before the Hondo game.  Statistics from last season.  Players that have made a name, and new players that will be difference makers this season. And how does Llano stack up?  Loaded I said.  Yet still picked by Texas Football to be a 4th place team in 13-4A, Div. 11.  Yes, State Champion Cuero will play in Jacket Stadium this year.  We travel to Wimberley and Navarro.

Will only speak of one Jacket today.  Aiden Cuthbertson.  Brought up last season as a safety and a Sophomore.  He was a difference maker in District play.  Could have been a starter on both sides of the ball, this his junior season.  But an injury has derailed that path.  Likely out all season.  He will be missed.  But my expectations are, Aiden will have a great senior year.  See you in 2020.

The Jackets have very large jerseys to fill.  Record breaking senior quarterback Cade Fly has graduated.  Three year monster on the defensive line, Drew Cooper, too.  Last year’s stars such as Kendall Downey and two way starter Mason Brooks.  Tyler Lindell, and Presley Lynch, and receiver and record book entree, Brooks Keele…all gone.  Jason Stark, Joe Pagany and Ethan Tisdale and Christian Kirby…gone. Kaleb Dodson, Thomas Adams, Iver Godo, Alex Shaw, Ethan Eastwood,Dylan Inge…gone. But not forgotten.

To me, this is get ready mentally week.  Play hard against Manor, and come out well.  Play with few mistakes, but don’t dewell on them long.  Watch lots of film on Hondo.  Know their tendencies. Likely to be much the same as 2018.  Because being mentally ready for Hondo can set the table for this 2019 season.  Llano may be loaded.  but as Head Coach Matt Green said, it must translate out to the field on Friday night.  Being loaded doesn’t count for much if you are not prepared.


Posted in Play to Win | Leave a comment

Gearing Up For 2019 Season

It may be only August 7, but football is in the air.  Maybe not fall weather, but football weather.  Hot, and more hot.  Have seen many of the Jackets thru the summer.  Look slim and trim.  And working out at 6 AM will make them better and more disciplined. The 2019 Jackets have a great opportunity, that being a team that could break many barriers  And over the next few weeks we will talk about those barriers.

But today, if you will indulge me for a moment, will reflect on “the good old days”. I remember vividly the August two a days. In 1964-67 practice began at 8 AM.  Full pads.  Shorts and shoulder pads were a reward, like maybe at the end of the week.  Practice for both practices were 2 1/2 hours.  Two water breaks.  10 minutes.  Each player got two salt tablets and 6 ounces of water.  Go measure out 6 ounces of water!  Most had a hard time getting the salt tablets down. Many never tried, but when the coaches found you did not take them, you ran extra.  Afternoon practices began around 5 PM,and lasted at least 2 1/2 hours. Two cups of 6 ounce water, and the four salt tablets.  I know, it sounds crazy to me now too.  But then, it was what everyone did.  Our Coaches reminded us often that the Brady Bulldogs were doing the same, and likely not complaining. So there was little com-plaining in front of the Coaches.

Looking back, do not know how the Coaches  kept from killing a few players.  But no one died.  Just what everyone did.  After practice most all ran to the Burger Bar.  It had swamp cooler air conditioning.  Cool air.  Most drank cherry Dr. Peppers, but Coaches preached that we were making it hard on ourselves by drinking such poison.  Carbonated water was bad for you.  But I do not remember anyone dying from Dr. Peppers. The salt tablets could kill you.  We all knew that for sure.

My Dad, Corkey Virdell put air conditioning in our home when I was a senior.  Before that, my two brothers ( Micky and Mark) and I slept on cots in the back yard when school let out out in May and did not go back into the house to sleep until September.  We thought it was cool. It was cooler.  It was crazy, but when we got in from morning practice, friends went to each others homes to lay around until afternoon practice.  And we played football in the backyard. Between practices.  It’s what everyone did.

For some good reason, it always rained in August.  Every year I was in high school, there was a hurricane in the Gulf, and up thru Del Rio it would come.   Bringing hard rains, and at least one cancelled practice.  Players kept the Coaches informed of the most recent weather forecast. Not for sure if they appreciated it, but it was part of what we did.

My four years at Llano High School were the best times of my life.  I was with my friends, and I was around Coaches that I thought were the smartest and coolest people that I had ever known.  I knew they worked us hard to make us better. And they talked about life, and goals, and being true to oneself.  The hard work was secondary.  Life was perfect. And football practice was just what we all did.

My comments over the 47 years writing “Play To Win” have many times mentioned to the Jackets to enjoy the ride.  Absorb every minute.  It is the best time of your life.  And when it is 104 degrees and you think you cannot go on….sure you can. For 100 years Llano Yellow Jackets have been doing the same.  No one said it would be easy. But it will be life changing.  And you are with your friends, and learning from Coaches that Care about you, and want the best for you. And beating Brady and other guys that you out-worked.  Just remember, Wimberley is doing the same.  So enjoy the ride.  This is the best part of life.

Posted in Play to Win | Leave a comment

2018 All District Team Continues

While Llano had 8 Yellowjackets make the First Team All District team, maybe just as important are the 11 Yellowjackets that were listed on the second team.  The strength and depth shows why Llano has taken a very positive move in the right direction.  More and more better players, and all get noticed by opposing coaches.  Coach Green can not vote for his own players.  The teams that Llano played against in district play is how one gets that nod.  You had to impress more than just mom, dad and girlfriend.

Cade Fly made plenty of noise over the past two seasons.  Starting 22 games put Cade at fourth most at quarterback in history of Llano.  His 3,812 career yards is second all time.  His 405 yards against Sonora in 2017 is the most yards in a  game ever for a Jacket quarterback.  His 238 yards passing  this season against Hondo in Llano’s overtime win is a playoff record.  Cade had 8 games in his career of over 200 yards passing. And this season his 2,091 yards is second most ever in one season, surpassed only by Brian Edwards in 2001 with 2,164. Cade tied the season touchdown passes with 19.  Ties at the number one spot with Bryan Hill and Brian Edwards. And Cade ended his career with 35 TD passes, and number one all time.  A great player.  Many other places in the record book, and his name will live a long time there.

Kendall Downey played more quietly, but with big impact. Playing both offense  and defense, Kendall was second team all district at both tight end and defensive end.  19 catches for 203 yards.  21 solo tackles and 40 total tackles.  And a very good blocker.  Usually over looked.  Loved how he made great plays at great moments. A great senior that had a great season.

Mason Brooks was all district at Safety on defense.  And second team on offense at running back.  Not to repeat what I said the previous article, but Mason helped make the Jacket passing attack work.  585 yards rushing, averaging 4.9 yards. Tough, tough runner, and good pass blocker for the passing game.  Hard to coach what Mason brought to the game.

Quincy Prince was a catch away from breaking open every game.  His 91 yard touchdown, record breaking catch saved the Hondo Bi District game.  15 catches and 505 yards his Junior season.  His 33.66 yards per catch is a school record that has stood since 1976.  A joy to watch.  Can’t wait until September.  Hard work and getting stronger gives Quincy a chance to become elite.

Brooks Keele has been Cade’s go to receiver the past two seasons.  Brooks 7 TD catches this season and 12 TDs for career ties him second all time with Ned Butler from the 1976-77 season.  45 career catches is 10th all time. 818 career yards is 8th all time best.  A good blocker, and always a menace to opposing secondary players, a big clog in the Jacket attack.  Will be very hard to replace.

Cant’ say enough about how much improvement Llano saw in the play of the defense.  Not just a little.  Improved over 7 points a game over last season, and over two touchdown improvement over just  a few years back.  In this high octane offense days, defense becomes more important than ever.  Everyone scores.  Just how do you keep it close so your own offense can stay in the game.  The Jacket defense kept Llano in most every game.

Few played harder than senior Presley Lynch at safety.  34 solo tackles, and 70 tackles, good open field tackler, and fast.  The Jacket secondary stood out with this senior leading a strong field. Hope Presley passed on some of his secrets to junior Justin Yocum at cornerback.  Justin had 22 solo tackles and 45 tackles.  The Jackets had two first team secondary players, Mason Brooks and Christian Kirby.  These four players were just great.  Man oh man….will these guys be missed. Justin again will need a short memory.

Kaleb Dodson may have been over shadowed by two first team defensive lineman. Drew Cooper and Giuillermo Davilla.  Both super tough in the trenches.  But Kaleb gave no quarter.  17 solo tackles, 39 tackles, tough as they get.  Llano had no weakness in the trenches from any spot.  And just as important, Kaleb, and Davilla and Cooper kept blockers off Llano linebackers. I spoke so much about the 2017 Jacket defensive lineman that were so good.  2018 was just as good.

Linebacker position:  Man oh man.  Everyone has to work together.  The secondary gets help with a strong pass rush.  The linebackers get help when the lineman keep blockers off them.  But this season, our three linebackers more than played their part.  Sophomore All District Mason Baker is a star.  But his two position mates do not carry his water.  Quentin Franklin and Logan Duggar are so good and so aggressive I caught myself praying for a blitz by one of the trio.  They seemed to always make the plays.  Duggar with 49 solo tackles and Quentin with 38 solo tackles and 57 tackles. 2019 looks like it is in good firm hands with all three returning. As a unit, they are so much fun to watch.

Next article in a few days, we will talk about more Jackets. Thanks for reading.

Posted in Play to Win | Leave a comment

Jackets and the All-District Team 2018

The All-District team was announced last week.  We put this in Play To Win, Just for the Record.  I’ve been waiting several weeks to begin my articles, but really felt it unfair to make statements that might give false hope to some players.  I really felt strongly that Llano had many of the best players in the District, but, would they be mentioned on the elite list.


Drew Cooper– Senior Defensive end. The best defensive lineman in the district.  A starter for three years, with 29 starts, few made an impact as much as Drew.  A great leader, and a player every team had to coach around.  If they didn’t, Drew made them pay. Due to his play, and the statics that Drew accumulated, I will begin this winter trying to have more statics on the defensive side of the football.  I have many years of stats from Llano’s former head coach, Karl McCormack on the defenses he coached.  The best by any comparisons.  Yet this Jacket team lead by Drew made plenty of noise, and I will try to put the top players in the showcase.  Stats such as “sacks, fumble recoveries, and total tackles”.  It will take some time, but I love working on this. Drew was one of a kind football player. One of the very best in decades in Llano. Caused 3 fumbles, had 7 sacks, and 16 tackles for a loss, plus a total of 65 tackles.

Christian Kirby– Senior, Corner back- a deadly tackling machine, 23 solo tackles, plus speed, made Llano’s secondary one of its’ strongest units.

Mason Brooks– Senior Safety on defense, the Jackets leading rusher on offense with 585 yards, where he was also 2nd Team All District.  Had 30 solo tackles. A sure tackler.  Played his heart out every play. Wonderful team leader.

Mason Baker– Linebacker, sophomore…one of a trio at linebackers that has not been seen in many moons. Mason lead this very strong group, with 54 solo tackles, and 88 tackles. All can sleep well knowing Mason will be back for two more seasons.

Heath Godfrey– Offensive line,  this unit was so much better than years past…just played hard every game, and these lineman, lead by Heath made life better for quarterback Fly and the Jacket passing game. Heath will be a great leader next season as his senior year approaches.

Case Kuykendall– Sophomore, wide receiver, Cade’s favorite target, 512 yards receiving, 172 yards rushing, line this guy up anywhere, and you have a player.  Quick, fast, and dependable.  Two more years to help the Jackets get to the next level.

Diego Miguel– Sophomore, Extra Point man (35 of 36), and field goal experti !!!  * of 8, with a school record 48 yard kick. Diego was  the biggest surprise of the 2018 season.  Not since Grant Morgan has Llano seen a kicker like this.  The Jackets’ future is in a nice place with Diego coming into games  to seal the deals.

In the next week to 10 days will preview the Jackets that also were recognized on the ALL DISTRICT TEAM….working on entries into the record books.  If you see an omission, let me know….might be easier to email me at ….mvirdell@virdellrealestate.com

Posted in Play to Win | Leave a comment

2018 Seniors Give Base to Build Future

The 2018 seniors have had time to start reflecting on the success of their seniors year.  Sure, it could have been better, but there will only be one team out of 90 4-A, Division 11 schools that will have no regrets.  Navarro and Cuero play each other this week in game 14 of the season.  Expect a repeat of the district contest.  I hope Cuero wins it all. That would put the number at 7 teams that have been in Llano’s district that went on to win state, should Cuero win.

I am going about things different this year. I am going to post on this site names and numbers that will be put into the record book.  Should I make an error, please let me know.  Also, will still be reviewing the season, and a few more comments about our players, and returning players.

I am planning on adding more categories in the “PLAY OFF” section.  May take a bit.  but One new category will be “Longest Pass/Pass Reception.” 1. Cade Fly to Quincy Prince, 2018, Hondo Bi-District Game, 91 Yards, TD  2. Cade Fly to Brooks Keele, 2018, West Oso Area game, 84 Yards, TD.

In Other Categories;  Most Games Started Career:  Cade Fly 22…should be in top 5.

Most TD Passes Season- Cade Fly: 19   Most Career TD Passes:  35…. Career Yardage with 2017 Yardage…1721 plus 2091…3812…should be second best all time.

In Category of Receiving Yards: Most Yards in a Season, Brooks Keele- 384…add in 2017 for career…1,065 Yards….also Catches Career: 22 plus 2017 catches.

Senior Mason Brooks…2017 season rushing yards 681…2018…585  Total:  1266 yards should be in top 25.

Do Know that Quincy broke a record that has lasted since 1976.  Larry Clutter in 1976 had 10 catches for 313 yards, a 31.3 yard per catch.  Minimum number of catches is 10.  Quincy this season caught 15 passes for 505 yards…a 33.7 yards per catch.  5 TDS. That is remarkable.  Larry will be happy for you.

Still thinking about some defense recognition:  We have interceptions.  Have only scattered tackles and sacs from past…but I guess we HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE.

Diego will have his name in several first place catagories.  But more research….I will post more items later this week.  Thanks for the memories.


Posted in Play to Win | 1 Comment

Proud Jackets End 7-5 Season

The disappointment cannot be washed away in a few days after the Yellowjackets went down 62-31 in the final game of the 2018 season.  Yet the great seniors of this class will see that they had a very important part in turning the Yellowjacket program into a winning program.  The 7-5 may not be what all had hoped.  But seven wins is nothing to look down on.  The Jackets have played in one of the toughest districts in 4-A football. This team, these seniors should be so proud.

You won 7 games.

You had a four game winning streak.

You averaged over 30 points a game on offense.

You average allowing 21.58 points a game on defense.  A vast improvement over any defense in the past 15 years.

You lost 3 games by a total of 14 points.

You avenged one of those losses with an over time win in a State Play Off Game.

The offensive line protected a passing game that was the second most productive in school history.

The Passing attack produced 19 TD passes. ( Tied school record)

The passing attack had 4 games of more than 200 yards.

The running game produced a 137 yard rusher in the Area football game.

The offense produced a need for a new category in the Record Book:  The top two most receiving yards on a single play in play off history.

The team played for the first time, at the most Historic Alamo Stadium, two times.

You Showed up to play. The offense had the ball first.  Drove 17 plays without a penalty or turnover to score first in the Area Game. Then, when it would have been easy to call it a season, the offense drove 10 plays at the end of the game to score a touchdown.  There was no give up in this team.

You played on a team  that found a record kicking field goal and extra point man.  8 of 8 on field goals.  Missed one extra point.( Made 35 of 36). A  48 Yard FG!  School records all.  Those could be records for you all to notice….decades from now.

Maybe the records mean little to you now.  But as time moves on, this team will look back and be so proud of all you accomplished.  And more than that, it should be a way to measure your own personal success as you move through life.  Never give up.. Anything can happen.  Even winning when you have your back to the end zone.

I will be writing on for a few more weeks…more than anything putting items in the record books…I will post those items here, and then you can go and locate them under Yellowjacket Records.   Do not hesitate to point out errors or omissions. I could use the help.

Have at least a dozen entries now….will write more soon on the Llano-West Oso Game…I like to think good thoughts, and fun things about this season…the next few weeks will be fun.


Posted in Play to Win | Leave a comment