JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
LLANO — Llano High School head football coach Craig Slaughter summed up the importance of the game against Hondo in one sentence.
“(It’s) a win-and-in scenario,” he said.
The two play Oct. 30 at Llano Stadium, 400 Texas 71 East. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
“I know it sounds crazy because it’s one district win, (but) that’s what we have,” Slaughter continued. “You’re fighting to extend your season because, if we lose to Hondo, (next) week is irrelevant because we don’t have the tiebreaker over Hondo or Lytle. We have to win period or there’s no chance – we’re not going to the playoffs.”
Lytle beat the Yellow Jackets (2-6 overall, 0-2 in District 13-4A Division II) 15-13 in overtime Oct. 23.
Hondo (1-7 overall, 0-2 in district) utilizes the slot-T offense, a run-based scheme that uses speedy runners and misdirection to confuse the defense.
The Owls are led by quarterback Garrett Van Damme, who has 23 rushes for nine yards but has completed 13 of 40 passes for 173 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
The primary runners are Matt Deleon, who has 48 rushes for 256 yards and five touchdowns, and Aaron Oefinger, who has 42 carries for 169 yards.
Slaughter said the scheme is new for the Owls, but they’re having success with it.
“The one thing I think is tough to defend in the slot-T is the misdirection and the angle blocks,” he said. “A lot of times, there’s one guy on the ball, and you better have a good night tackling.”
Despite the loss to Lytle, the Jackets have confidence defending the run based on what they were able to do the previous week when they held the Pirates to 11 yards rushing. Lytle had been averaging more than 200 yards a game. But the Pirates won the game with their 234 passing yards.
“Hondo is a much better line of scrimmage team but, overall, a slower football team, and they’re not really giving the ball to a gamebreaker-type kid, just a kid to make five, six, seven yards a pop to try to move the chains,” Slaughter said. “Hondo is much more stay on schedule – second and 6 to third and 2 to a new first and 10. They’ll just kind of work the ball all the way down the field.”
Defensively, the Owls like to go into man coverage in the secondary and put seven at the line of scrimmage.
“Sometimes, that’s been kryptonite for us,” Slaughter said. “We have trouble sometimes with a little man coverage. We feel like we ought to move the ball OK.”
He prefers a low-scoring contest that will give the Jackets a chance to win it late. The key is forcing punts and not allowing Hondo to control the clock and the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, Llano has been able to lean heavily on sophomore running back Mason Greenwood, who had 30 rushes for 178 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Lytle. For the season, he has 828 yards and five touchdowns on 156 carries.
Slaughter said turnovers doomed the Jackets in the Lytle loss. They had a total of three with two inside the Pirates’ 20-yard line.
“It was a very frustrating,” he said. “We felt like we let one get away. We should have won, we just didn’t pull it out. Had a few too many plays go the other way in the overtime loss. Just a tough, tough night.”
Still, he believes the players will enter the Hondo contest ready to play to close out the home schedule the right way.
“Normally, kids are better than I am at moving past it,” he said. “But I definitely thought early in the week our kids were still maybe not where they needed to be. Our kids work hard and just continued to do a lot of good things. I keep telling them, at some point, things are going to turn, and the ball is going to bounce our way on some of those plays and some of those big things will happen. I think you’ll see a great effort.”