JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
LLANO — Having two sophomore starters on a team filled with upperclassmen can sometimes disrupt the chemistry of a locker room, especially if those two underclassmen are key skill position players.
But that hasn’t been the case in Llano, according to head football coach Craig Slaughter, as he reflected on quarterback Ben Walling and running back Mason Greenwood.
While Greenwood has been the starter since fall training camp in August, Walling became the starter Sept. 28.
“It’s been great,” Slaughter said. “They’re likable kids. They’re not brash or arrogant. They’re respectful. They work hard.”
And that attitude of bringing a lunch pail each day doesn’t hurt either, especially with a team that remains hungry for wins.
The Yellow Jackets showed just how much of a unified team they are during the 27-24 win against Salado on Oct. 2.
Llano trailed 16-14 at halftime and 24-14 midway through the third quarter, even though the Jackets had recorded four takeaways in the first half.
Worse, the Eagles arrived on a 19-game losing streak.
But Llano ended the third quarter with a four-yard Greenwood touchdown, and Walling hit pay dirt from one-yard out with one minute 45 seconds remaining in the game. The Jackets defense did the rest in preserving the victory.
Greenwood had 26 rushes for 169 yards and a touchdown and one reception for nine yards. Walling finished with five completions for 88 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought Ben, for his first start, did a good job, made some huge throws for us that really helped us win the game,” Slaughter said. “I thought Ben held himself very well.”
The coach said Greenwood doesn’t have a reputation of being outspoken; rather, he likes to let his play talk for him. Walling takes command of the huddle but doesn’t take the mindset everywhere else at the field house.
And though he wasn’t named the starter until late September, Slaughter said Walling had been practicing with the varsity since training camp. Walling and the receivers have been spending extra time working pass routes.
“They’ve done well,” the coach said.
While the sophomores have contributed, Slaughter said, the key is they simply want to help their teammates to accomplish the goals for this season.
“When you have those elements in place, there’s not any jealousy or any question in what’s going on,” he said. “They’re good ol’ hardworking kids. They fit right in.”