District 8-3A starts play Friday
October 09, 2013, 10:00 am by
By Jim Goodson
Four of the six teams in District 8-3A will make the
Texas University Interscholastic League coaches and administrators approved the
four-playoff-team proposal in January for all Class 3A districts. Of the four
qualifiers, each district’s two largest high schools will enter a Division I
playoff system (64 teams) and the two smaller schools will seek a Division II
state title (also 64 teams).
It’s an absolute lock that Llano, by far the smallest school in District 8-3A,
is chasing a Division II playoff spot.
District 8-3A teams went 16-14 against the opposition in non-district games. So
what are the Yellow Jackets’ chances in the district Texas Football magazine ranks as the state’s second-toughest Class
It likely depends upon the status of senior starter Layton Rabb, who underwent
an emergency appendectomy Sept. 5. The 6-5 senior quarterback is the team’s
acknowledged leader after passing for 1,899 yards last year but has only played
once in 2013. Without Rabb, Llano managed to go 2-2 under senior Tyler Stiles
and junior Holden Simpson.
"It’s a difficult situation,” head coach Craig Slaughter said. "It’s not a
football injury and it involves Layton’s interior organs, so we are being
extremely precautious. It’s entirely a medical decision.”
Rabb, who’s been working out with the team without absorbing any hits, will
miss Llano’s District 8-3A opener Friday night in Liberty Hill.
Here’s a team-by-team preview of District 8-3A, in the order they appear on
Liberty Hill Panthers (4-1)
Liberty Hill fans would love to bring a championship to their
brand-new Panther Stadium off Hwy. 29.
The Panthers won back-to-back state titles in 2006-2007, using the same Slot-T
attack they’ll use Friday night against Llano. Liberty Hill won last year’s
In this pass-happy football era, coach Jerry Vance’s Slot T is a delight to
watch – unless you’re an opponent.
"Their timing and execution is unrivalled,” Llano coach Slaughter said.
"Other teams run a single wing-style attack, but none do it as well as Liberty
The Panthers stuck to Class 3A opponents in non-district games, losing to
Giddings 21-20 and defeating Hondo (20-6), Smithville (54-12), Rockdale (49-28)
and Wimberley (21-10).
The common opponent is Wimberley, which defeated Llano
31-14 on opening night. Comparing scores against Wimberley would install
Liberty Hill as a 28-point favorite Friday night. Comparing scores can be a
useless exercise until you consider that Liberty Hill downed Llano by 27 points
Liberty Hill is the consensus district co-favorite (with Burnet) and with 807
students is the second-smallest school in the district.
Lampsasas Badgers (2-3)
The Badgers are an anomaly. The largest
district school (978 students) went 1-9 a year ago, resulting in a coaching
Lampasas defeated Smithville 47-6 in its opener, lost to Class 4A Austin Travis
55-28, absorbed a beating by perennial power Lorena 35-6, lost to
Fredericksburg 24-7 and downed China Spring 35-14.
The common opponent is Fredericksburg, which defeated Llano 16-13 last week.
The score comparison would install Lampasas as a 14-point favorite against
Llano. Llano defeated Lampasas 20-13 last year in the most exciting game of the
The Yellow Jackets host Lampasas (Oct. 18) in what must be called a must-win
Gatesville Hornets (2-3)
The Hornets have worn out Hwy. 84
traveling back and forth to Waco, playing Reicher Catholic (a 19-8 loss), Class
4A Waco University (a 28-22 win), Waco Connally (a 44-19 loss) and Waco La Vega
(a 37-26 loss). Gatesville also defeated the Taylor Ducks 23-13.
This 826-student high school always seems to play Llano tough and the Oct. 25
battle in Gatesville will go a long way toward deciding who gets into the
Burnet Bulldogs (4-1)
Llano’s most natural rival is the district
Burnet, which is 29 miles down Highway 29 from Llano, has a solid group of
skilled players. Quarterback Derek Kiser passed for 2,805 yards last year and
the Bulldogs have scored 179 points in wins over Fredericksburg (40-27),
Rockdale (20-9), Canyon Lake (34-7) and Taylor (34-24). Their most memorable
game of 2013 – so far – was a 56-51 loss to their even more natural rival Class
4A Marble Falls.
The Yellow Jackets play in Burnet Nov. 1. Last year the Bulldogs prevailed
62-34 in a wide-open affair that clearly established Burnet (951 students) as
the top team in the district.
Brownwood Lions (2-3)
The Lions have won seven state titles in
their storied history.
Llano coach Slaughter said Brownwood (938 students) played the toughest
non-district schedule of any 8-3A school.
For starters, they lost to Fort Worth All Saints, the reigning SPC champs (11-0
in 2012) whose quarterback Foster Sawyer is considered by many publications and
websites the top-rated high school quarterback in the nation. The little Fort
Worth private school defeated perennial power Brownwood, 70-27.
The Lions then lost to Graham 56-15. Graham was 13-2 last year, finishing one
game shy of a state title appearance. Brownwood shook off the lop-sided losses
to defeat Snyder 46-23, lost to 12-1 in 2012 Abilene Wylie 38-16 then downed
"They have the most deceiving record in the state,” Slaughter said. All told,
Brownwood’s non-district opponents were 42-15 collectively.
Llano (530 students) ends its regular season at home against Brownwood, who
defeated the Yellow Jackets 41-13 in Brownwood – a game that was closer than
the final score indicates. It would surprise no one if the 2013 game has
playoff implications, which is the point of adding another playoff team anyway,