STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
To Burnet High School head football coach Jerod Rye, the week leading up to the Manor New Tech contest wasn’t about physical preparation; it was about mental focus.
The Bulldogs have won back-to-back games: a 41-6 victory over Marble Falls and a 54-31 decision against Lockhart. With such big wins, it might be easy to overlook your next opponent.
Burnet (2-1, District 14-4A Division I) and Manor New Tech (1-2, District 10-3A Division I) square off Friday, September 20, at Bulldog Field, 1400 Bulldog Stadium Drive. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. It’s Burnet’s homecoming, so the homestands should be packed.
“The wins are great,” Rye said. “Our focus is to get better. Guys hear from friends and family, ‘Wow, you guys played so good.’”
Coaches challenged players to have the best Monday practice of the season this week. Rye was pleased with what he saw.
“Your level of play can’t be dictated by an opponent,” he said. “Your level of play can’t be dictated by a scoreboard. That’s the challenge — psychology — understanding you only play one way. You’re focused one way and play really hard.”
The Titans, who defeated Austin Eastside Memorial 52-0 and lost to Weimar 43-0 and Austin Crockett 48-6, are led by sophomore quarterback Alexavier Gonzales, running back Jaydin Martinez-Gonzales, and offensive linemen Alonzo Landeros and Caden Easley.
Rye noted Gonzales extends plays with his legs and uses designed rollouts well.
One of his weapons, senior receiver Dominique Tasby, is “a really good player. He makes problems for a lot of people,” Rye said.
Defensively, New Tech is led by sophomore outside linebacker Canaan Monroe and Tasby at cornerback. The Titans line up in a 4-3 formation, and this will be the first time the Bulldogs have faced that alignment this season.
“It’s good we’re getting to see different things,” the coach said.
One area where coaches want to see definite improvement is special teams. Rye said specials teams weren’t as sharp as they could have been against Lockhart. He believes those units can dictate outcomes.
Another thing he wants to be consistent is finishing opponents.
While the win against the Mustangs was convincing, Rye noted the Bulldogs led 13-0 at intermission and thought they left too many points on the field. Throughout the week leading up to the Lockhart game, coaches emphasized the importance of finishing and taking advantage of short fields, Rye said.
“You shouldn’t give people a chance to stick around because it might not go your way,” he said. “We didn’t start (the Marble Falls) game like we wanted to.”
That certainly wasn’t the case against Lockhart.
The Bulldogs took a commanding 40-17 lead at the half and never looked back. Rye noted his team performed well in all phases of the game during that 24-minute span. He was especially pleased with the defensive performance, noting the Bulldogs continued to recover turnovers and added a defensive score off of a fumble recovery in the third quarter.
“When you start getting defensive scores, things can add up in a hurry,” he said.
The Bulldogs also displayed more offensive consistency, resulting in touchdowns, he said, pointing out six of the opening seven drives ended in scores.
“Everybody is starting to gel better,” he added.