JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
LLANO — Only winning one game in the Highland Lakes 7-on-7 League in June didn’t take away the positives gained by Llano High School football players, according to quarterback Wyatt Casey.
“We got as much work as we wanted to get the new young men on the field and give them a taste of what the pace is like,” he said.
Getting those three weeks’ worth of experience was the most important part of playing in the league hosted by Marble Falls, which played games June 1, 8 and 15. Rainy weather in May forced Llano to miss three of the four weeks of the Burnet 7-on-7 League.
The Yellow Jackets’ only win in the Highland Lakes league was in Week 1 against Lampasas. Still, Casey noted the receivers adjusted not only to the speed but also the physicality of the game. Even though 7-on-7 is touch football, at times, receivers and defensive backs were going for the same pass and ran into each other. Receivers also got better at using their bodies to keep away defenders, running away from tags and finding ways to get open inside the 10-yard line. That distance to the end zone typically favors the defense.
The Llano defensive backs also forced some turnovers, which was huge since the offense usually excels in 7-on-7.
Casey said he could see his teammates were encouraged by their play because they were getting more comfortable in their roles each week.
“They’ve all been able to adjust,” he said. “I’m able to trust my receivers. They give me options.”
And it’s not just the receivers and the defensive backs who’ve improved. The quarterback said he feels a lot better standing in the pocket because he is able to make better pre-snap reads of the safeties. He also became more patient while waiting for a receiver to get open and isn’t afraid to simply take a four-second violation instead of forcing the pass to a teammate who isn’t open.
“Last year, I forced a lot of those things,” he said. “Last year, I was looking for options as the play was going. The mental preparation now slows the game down. Our offense consists of a lot of timing.”
The positive feelings have spilled over in offseason workouts, too, Casey said. After weightlifting workouts, the quarterback and the receivers go to the practice fields and work on passing routes. He noted one of the biggest growth areas has been the Jackets’ ability to let go of a bad play and move on to the next one. It also helps, he added, that when a teammate makes a mistake, others are there to encourage him.
“We don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s best to bring up someone’s spirit. Everyone is growing close.”