JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
LLANO — Llano High School head football coach Craig Slaughter said the toughest part of preparing for a bi-district matchup against Crystal City is making sure players understand that last year’s 42-26 playoff victory over the Javelinas is in the past.
The two teams meet Thursday, Nov. 10, at Edgewood Veterans Stadium, 1650 W. Thompson Place in San Antonio. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
“They have a better team than they were last year,” Slaughter said. “I have to convince the kids (that Crystal City is using last year’s loss) as motivation, and you’re one ballgame away from your season ending. Our goal is to be practicing next week (for a second-round game).”
The Javelinas (7-3 overall, 4-1 in District 14-4A Division II) are led by 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior quarterback Sebastian Mendoza, who has completed 31 of 70 attempts for 534 yards, seven touchdowns, and five interceptions as well as has 27 carries for 88 yards.
Junior running back Austin Sanchez has 72 carries for 702 yards and nine touchdowns as well as two catches for 98 yards and a score.
Junior receiver Felix Blanco has 11 catches for 260 yards and four touchdowns.
Crystal City will line up in mostly two-back sets with the goal of running the football right at the defense.
“It’s downhill. They know what they do and do it well,” Slaughter said. “Their quarterback … looks good on film and plays well.”
A bad offensive play for the Javelinas is a one-yard gain, he added, noting run defense is the Yellow Jackets’ strength. So the matchup in the trenches will be a good one.
The Crystal City defense is led by senior defensive end Jo Jacob Rivera, who has 71 tackles and three sacks, and junior safety Sanchez with 69 tackles.
Llano (4-6, 2-2 District 13-4A Division II) will counter with junior running back Mason Greenwood, who has 171 carries for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, and junior quarterback Ben Walling, who has 51 completions for 734 yards, six scores, and three interceptions on the season.
Since the Javelinas will bring heavy pressure, the key for Llano runners is to get past the line of scrimmage.
“We’ll promise to have big plays if we can get through that wall,” Slaughter said.
Llano enters the playoffs well-rested after enjoying a bye last week. The Jackets beat Hondo 48-21 and Bandera 22-13 in their final two games of the regular season to finish third in district.
Meanwhile, the Javelinas lost to Devine 42-21 in last week’s district championship game.
Slaughter noted neither Llano nor Crystal City has won many playoff games, so this contest is equally important to both.
“They haven’t won many gold footballs, and it would be a big feather in our caps,” he said.
Check back with DailyTrib.com for game results.