The Burnet Bulldogs kick off an unusual football season on Aug. 28 in a pre-district match against the Jarrell Cougars.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Field, 1400 Bulldog Stadium Drive in Burnet. The Bulldogs are in District 13-4A Division I; Jarrell is in 9-4A Division II.
COVID-19 safety protocols are in place following University Interscholastic League guidelines. Attendance is restricted to 50 percent of the stadium’s capacity. According to the Burnet Athletic Department, fans will be “expected” to wear face coverings and stay 6 feet apart from other groups to protect against spreading the coronavirus. The school’s guidelines also include ticket information.
Against Jarrell, quarterback Jaxson Denton and running back Marcus Escamilla, both seniors, will lead the Bulldogs offense, while coaches will evaluate wide receiver and offensive line positions.
Burnet head coach Jerod Rye said it’s not that these players aren’t performing well. Quite the contrary, he said.
“At offensive line, we’re going to play seven kids in a rotation until the top five spots (are earned),” he said. “I think we have to throw and catch the ball better to help with the running game and to improve from last year.”
During a scrimmage against Lake Belton on Aug. 20, Escamilla had 12 carries for 195 yards and a touchdown. However, the passing game wasn’t as productive, though it showed flashes of big-play potential. Coaches are looking for a balanced offense that runs and passes well.
The top three receivers from the 2019 team are gone. Penciled in to start against Jarrell are seniors Gunner Blair and Cade Rye, the coach’s son, and sophomore Jackson Crawford.
“We’re pleased with who’s there,” coach Rye said. “Jaxson (Denton) is learning where to put balls on those receivers. It’s a timing thing right now. We’re looking for (offensive) flow. We’re going to run it and throw it. We need to go find out what others can do. We need to get them the ball to open up running lanes.”
The strength of the team throughout August has been the defense. Look for junior defensive lineman Devonte Miller and senior defensive end Grishma Pun to control the line of scrimmage.
“I’m excited about what our defense brings to the table,” Rye said. “It’s a system where we move around a lot, blitz a lot, and put pressure on people. It’s disruptive. I think it makes us better, not only defensively but offensively. We play against that every day. You learn. It’s a better chance to know your assignments and block better. It makes our offensive line better as well.”
Per UIL rules related to the pandemic, football teams in Class 4A and below are starting on schedule, while those in Classes 5A and 6A, including Marble Falls, cannot play their first games before Sept. 24. The Mustangs are scheduled to open the season against Lehman at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25.