JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
LLANO — Llano High School sports fans find it hard not to smile when they reflect on the 2013-2014 season.
The Yellow Jackets advanced to the playoffs in football, boys basketball, boys golf and baseball.
“No doubt it was very successful and very productive,” athletic director Craig Slaughter said.
The best finish was turned in by the golf team, which was fourth in the Class 3A state tournament by shooting a two-round total of 652. Llano had led after the first day.
The basketball team ended a 17-year drought of not advancing to the postseason, and its bi-district championship was the first in more than four decades. The baseball team was back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Only football lost in the first round.
Slaughter said he believes many factors played a role in the year’s successes.
Obviously, having talented athletes in every class and tremendous support is at the top of the list, he said.
And it doesn’t hurt to have seniors who accept their roles as leaders in the weight room, on the playing field and in the community, the athletic director added.
Senior Chance Ware said his classmates were determined to return the Yellow Jackets to the playoffs, and they not only put in the time to get better but also encouraged other players to join them, no matter their age.
“That’s coming from a player,” Slaughter said. “That’s awesome. Looking back on it, it was a job well done. They left such a great foundation of success in a variety of sports. If that was the goal, they did a great job. They showed hard work and class and dignity.”
That also illustrated how the players held each other accountable. Slaughter said successful programs have athletes who aren’t afraid of reminding each other of the team’s goals and that each player has a role.
“We call it policing themselves,” he said. “They’re selling the message. There’s nothing better than a team that polices itself. Kids have to be accountable for themselves.”
If he had to pinpoint one moment that illustrated the Jackets could accomplish their goals, it happened in the overtime win against the Lampasas football team.
“We badly needed to win,” he said. “That was a program-building moment. I told our players, ‘You’ll never forget this as long as you live.’ We really think the success that night paved the way for our program.”
While most fans know of the contributions of seniors Layton Rabb, Issac Hutto and Ware, Slaughter said they’d be the first to say the success of Llano program goes beyond what they did.
“There were so many outstanding kids, including underclassmen” he said. “They may not get the touches, but you have to have the nucleus doing their parts. They had camaraderie and togetherness. There was no jealousy. I can’t brag enough about how unselfish they are.”