STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
While the task may be huge for the Llano High School football team, the fact the Yellow Jackets will board a bus to go to Cuero on Friday, Oct. 19, is considered a success.
The contest between Llano (4-2, 0-1 District 13-4A Division II) and Cuero (5-1, 1-0) at Gobbler Stadium, 401 Parks Heights Drive, kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
Because of rain and flooding Oct. 16, Llano Independent School District officials canceled classes for two days as well as all athletic activities, including football practices.
“As a coach, I want to worry about our team and back off preparation,” head coach Matt Green said regarding the effect the recent flooding had on his players and their families. “I’ve never coached or played a game where we didn’t practice.”
Llano does have an indoor practice facility on the high school campus the team can use for a Thursday practice. The issue are roads, Green said, because officials need to make sure players can safely travel back home after practice.
Green noted that roads weren’t safe to use Tuesday, especially where he lives, which is 5 miles outside of Llano. Low-water crossings, debris, and other obstacles deemed it unsafe to travel. He noted many of his players and coaches faced the same hurdles.
The Thursday practice is crucial against a Gobblers team that’s ranked in the top five in the state.
“They’re ranked No. 5 for a reason,” Green said. “They expect to play for a state championship.”
The Gobblers are led by senior running back Grant Keiran, a West Point commit, who has 85 carries for 617 yards and 10 touchdowns, and senior receiver Jordan Whittington, a University of Texas at Austin commit, who has 18 catches for 321 yards and five scores.
“Jordan is a top-five receiver in the country,” Green said. “He could play anywhere. He wants quick screens thrown vertically. You have to know where he’s at at all times. Grant is very fast and explosive. Those two pose a huge problem for any defense.”
Defensively, the Gobblers are led by senior safety Caleb Vernor, who has 29 tackles and a sack, and senior defensive tackle Trey Moore, who has three sacks and an interception.
“They’re very big, very physical, tall, and rangy,” Green said. “They appear to have two or three defensive linemen who are 6-2 to 6-4. They’ll be a problem to deal with because of size and how long they are.”
The Jackets are still looking for their first district win after losing to Geronimo Navarro 14-10 on Oct. 12.
The loss was especially heartbreaking considering Llano was inside the Panthers’ 30-yard line three times and couldn’t score.
“That’s a credit to them,” Green said. “Our offense didn’t play well; our defense played outstanding. We had them. I felt like our team was heavy underdogs. We learned a lot from it.”
Among the lessons was realizing that getting points on key positions deep in the opponent’s territory is a must and the offense can’t suffer a turnover. The Jackets threw two interceptions and lost a fumble for the first time this season.
“You have to take care of the ball,” Green said.