STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
The Llano High School football team will start Thanksgiving Day with a 7:30 a.m. practice as they prepare for Corpus Christi West Oso on Friday.
On Nov. 16, the Yellow Jackets beat Hondo 21-14 for a bi-district championship, setting up the Thursday practice. Llano takes on the West Oso Bears on Nov. 23 in an area-round game with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Alamo Stadium, 760 Stadium Drive in San Antonio.
On Nov. 16, the Bears (7-4 overall, 3-2 District 15-4A Division II) beat Port Isabel 57-56 on Nov. 16, surviving a last-second field goal attempt by the Tarpons.
Llano head coach Matt Green used one word to describe the Bears’ offense: explosive.
“They have skilled players with speed and agility,” he said. “They’re very, very talented.”
West Oso coaches want to put junior quarterback Malachi Moore, “do-everything” senior Craig Clemons, and junior running back and linebacker Cameron Williams in space and allow them to make plays with their legs, according to reports. The Bears average 36 points a game.
In the win over Port Isabel, Moore threw six touchdowns passes. Four were to Clemons, who ran 65 yards, 64 yards, 60 yards, and 57 yards to paydirt. The other passes were to sophomore receiver Dominique Baker, who trotted 30 yards for the score, and senior receiver Jose Hernandez, who ran 43 yards for a touchdown. Hernandez also ran a kickoff back 81 yards for a score. Williams scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Green noted the Bears line up in different spread formations. The offense allows Moore to either pass or run with the football, but he seems to like passing more than running. West Oso likes to throw short and intermediate passes and allow their receivers to pick up yards after the catch.
“They want to spread you out and use their speed,” Green said. “They’re a very balanced team. We’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback. If we don’t pressure him, the wide receivers and running backs can cause us some pain and misery.”
The defense is led by senior defensive end Tony Espinoza, who has 146 tackles, 93 of them solo. He also has seven sacks and caused two fumbles. Williams has 80 tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception.
“You have to be able to throw the ball and run the ball,” Green said. “We’re going to have to be mixing it up and be balanced.”
Llano began game preparations at 8 a.m. Nov. 19 in what Green called “a great practice.” He noted Mondays are usually a challenge because it’s more of a teaching and installation day for the game plan for that week’s opponent.
He also added that several freshmen and players from the junior varsity black team are serving as the scout team offense and defense. Many of these players won’t see the playing field during a game, but their importance can’t be measured, Green said.
Green knows his players’ families are having to change up Thanksgiving plans, but he wants the expectation to be that Llano is playing through November and families shouldn’t make plans to leave. That expectation will soon turn into a tradition, he added.
“I see the transfer and mindset of our younger players,” he said. “I love that. I love seeing the transfer.”
Everyone is invited to the short Thursday morning practice at Llano Stadium, 400 Texas 71 East. There will be coffee and hot chocolate provided by the Llano Athletic Booster Club.
For Green, this tradition is one he hasn’t enjoyed since 2012 when he was the head coach at Lucas Lovejoy.
“We’re excited,” he said. “We’re hoping fans will come out to practice. This is one of my favorite traditions, this Turkey Day practice.”