STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
LLANO — The Llano Yellow Jackets began the 2017 football season with a 35-21 loss to Smithville on Sept. 1.
The Tigers of District 10-4A Division II (1-0) were led by senior running back Nomar Rivera, who had 138 yards on 18 carries, all unofficial, and touchdown runs of 1, 30, 13, and 33 yards.
“Give credit to the running back and the offensive line,” Llano head coach Matt Green said.
The game started out in Llano’s favor.
On a 14-play Smithville drive, the Tigers turned over the ball on downs at the Jacket 16.
Llano (District 13-4A Division II) marched 84 yards in 14 plays as sophomore quarterback Cade Fly ran in for a 5-yard touchdown. Senior Ian Fletcher ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Smithville responded two plays later when senior receiver Kalob Jonas leapt for a pass from senior quarterback Zach Kirby and ran for a 90-yard score. The extra point trimmed the deficit to 8-7.
“He made a great play,” Green said of Jonas. “We’re right there step for step, but the kid made a great play.”
The Tigers took the lead when Rivera scored his first touchdown from 1 yard out for a 14-8 halftime advantage.
After Llano turned over the ball on downs to start the second half, the Tigers added to their lead. Rivera ran 30 yards to paydirt and a 21-8 lead midway through the third quarter.
An interception by Llano defensive back Aaron Brown led to the Jackets’ second score.
Senior running back Ben Walling took a pitch then threw a pass to receiver Brooks Keele for a 24-yard touchdown. The kick was missed, but Llano only trailed 21-14 with a minute left in the third.
But Smithville’s Jonas ran the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to the Llano 13. Rivera scored one play later from 13 yards out. The extra point made it 28-14 Tigers with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.
Rivera scored a fourth time when he ran it in from 33 yards. The extra point was good for a 35-14 advantage midway through the last quarter.
Llano running back Mason Brooks scored on a 1 run for the final score of the contest.
Walling finished with 123 yards on 10 carries and a 24-yard touchdown pass.
Green said his team’s youth in the skill positions showed. Many played extensive varsity minutes for the first time.
Double-digit passes that hit the receivers’ hands were dropped, and high snaps that flew over the quarterback’s head caused the Jackets’ offense to be behind the chains.
“Our strength is on the offensive and defensive lines and linebacker,” Green said. “Our skill players need to get better.”
Though it was a loss, the coach said he saw some positives such as the Jackets never giving up, the defense creating turnovers, and the offense having spurts of good football.
“We had some drives and big plays, but we did not show consistency,” he said. “We were consistently inconsistent. Reps will help.”