STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Llano High School head football coach Matt Green wouldn’t call the contest against Bandera on Oct. 26 a must-win game.
But, he noted, it’s important the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 0-2 District 13-4A Division II) enter this contest with the proper mindset. To help, coaches have called for starters to face each other a little more throughout practices.
“We are giving Bandera our full respect,” Green said. “We know we have to play great.”
A loss to Bandera (1-5-1, 0-2) would mean the Jackets would have to beat Wimberley on Nov. 2 and Austin Eastside Memorial on Nov. 9 to have a shot at the playoffs.
To avoid tiebreaker scenarios, Green said the goal doesn’t change: Win every game, including the finale of the regular season, and get into the postseason.
“You have to go play well,” Green said. “Go win the game.”
The district contest kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Llano Stadium, 400 Texas 71 East.
Bandera enters the contest confident after a close 41-38 loss to Wimberley on Oct. 19. Wimberley, a traditional powerhouse, was picked to finish in the top four in the district standings. The Bulldogs know they can take a huge step toward the playoffs with a win over Llano.
“As you look at them on film, I’m not shocked,” Green said. “Wimberley lost their quarterback early. Both teams did a lot of good things. Both played fairly well.”
The Bulldogs are led by a pair of juniors, quarterback Solomon McNeil and running back Tommy Cardenas, as well as sophomore receiver Leo Trevino.
The area where Green sees Bandera’s biggest improvement is the offensive line. That allows the power-run game, which McNeil runs well, to move the chains. Green believes McNeil is the Bulldogs’ best player and reminds him of Hondo sophomore quarterback Brandon J. Garcia, an excellent runner who can throw on the run.
“We’re going to have to stop the quarterback,” Green said. “Really, (the offense) all revolves around the quarterback.”
Defensively, Bandera will be in a 3-4 front designed to allow linebackers to shoot through gaps to make tackles. Still, the Bulldogs have struggled to contain the run.
The Jackets will counter with senior running back Mason Brooks, who has 71 carries for 338 yards and four touchdowns, and senior quarterback Cade Fly, who has 50 carries for 119 yards and five scores and has completed 82 of 148 passes for 1,262 yards, 10 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
No team has had the district schedule Llano has endured. The Jackets lost 14-10 to Geronimo Navarro, a squad picked to finish second in district, Oct. 12. Green said that contest came down to Llano’s inability to score offensively.
Then, the week leading up to an Oct. 19 road game against Cuero, a top five team in Class 4A Division II, the Jackets were unable to practice much because of flooding. Llano lost 55-16.
“It’s a very odd schedule,” Green said. “Our kids aren’t deflated. Kids have to be able to bounce back. Our kids played two very good opponents.”
Green said what makes Cuero so good are the linemen, who are able to consistently control the line of scrimmage. It also helped that Cuero has senior running back Chance Albrecht, an Army commit, who rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries, and senior athlete Jordan Whittington, a University of Texas commit, who had three carries for 90 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 28 yards and a score. He also returned an interception for a touchdown.
The Gobblers led 27-0 after the first quarter and 48-3 at the half.
“They’re a really good football team,” Green said. “They’re a very talented team. We went down there and played a good team.”