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Llano football impresses new coach with strong numbers, stamina

Llano High School fullback Josh Soliz scores a touchdown during the Yellow Jackets’ 2016 bi-district loss to Crystal City. Soliz is one of the returners for new head coach Matt Green’s 2017 team. File photo

Llano High School fullback Josh Soliz scores a touchdown during the Yellow Jackets’ 2016 bi-district loss to Crystal City. Soliz is one of the returners for new head coach Matt Green’s 2017 team. File photo


LLANO — With 100 players showing up for the first day of summer training camp Aug. 7, and another five or 10 still on the way, new Llano High School football coach Matt Green called it a good start.

Those numbers would allow Green to put 30-35 players on the varsity roster.

It wasn’t just the numbers that had Green in a good mood.

The coach was also thrilled with his players’ stamina. The afternoon practice and walk-through lasted about 3½ hours. Green had wanted the workout to be on the grassy practice field, but 7 inches of rain earlier in the day forced the players to go to Llano Stadium and play on the artificial turf. On the turf, which absorbs heat from the sun, the athletes faced warmer conditions than anticipated.

“It was very humid and hot,” said Green, who starts his first season at Llano after three years at Marble Falls. “I thought our kids were fantastic. I was very pleased with the overall shape of our players. We certainly have work to do, but they came in at a high level. It allows us to have quality practices.”

Coaches began installing the base offense and defense. Since coaches held a football camp last week with the ninth-graders, the freshmen had already received a glimpse of what the base schemes looked like. Green said he was pleased with their retention.

The goal for the sophomores, juniors, and seniors is to make sure coaches are teaching the schemes at a comfortable pace that allows them to remember what to do, he said.

Green, who will also be the quarterbacks coach, was impressed with that group’s physical abilities and intellect. Cade Fly and Ben Walling are vying for the starter’s position.

Green’s spread offense requires a tailback, a fullback, and a lot of passing routes, so receivers are still getting used to learning that many routes, the coach said.

“I felt like they were in shape, but they’ll have to get acclimated to that number of routes,” he said.

Anthony Watson returns to anchor the receivers.

Aaron Brown, Dalton Moore, Mason Brooks, Josh Soliz, and Christian Kirby lined up at tailback, while Walling, Ian Fletcher, and Drew Cooper were at fullback.

The number and quality of linemen have coaches eager for the start of the season, Green said. The  linemen are led by senior left tackle Ray Dixon. Others include guards Dakota Trull, Tyler Lindale, and Robert Ward, while Luke Williams can play both center and guard. Williams returns after missing the 2016 season because of an injury.

The right tackle is senior Daniel Sparks.

Green was equally happy with what he saw defensively, noting Dixon, Sparks, Soliz, Cameron Johnson, Nolan Keller, Austin Humphrey, and Cooper will be solid on the line.

Fletcher, Luis Coronado, Dalton Baumann, and Walling will fill the gaps nicely at linebacker, and the secondary is in good hands with defensive backs Gage Cox, Tyler Gann, Watson, Brown, and Brooks.

“The strength of our team is the offensive line and linebackers,” Green said. “I think we’re pretty solid at most positions, but we have strength, depth, and aggression at offensive line.”

The best part for him though was that the team’s strongest players also happen to be the hardest workers.

“The leaders led by example,” he said. “They are tough, hard-nosed. Any time your leaders set the example, you’re going to get hard work. It’s exciting.”

Green noted that long practices usually show the energy level dwindling because linemen tend to fade, but that wasn’t the case Aug. 7.

“We’re in great shape given how long the practice was,” he said.

The Yellow Jackets kick off the 2017 season against Smithson Valley at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at Llano Stadium, 400 Texas 71 East in Llano.