Playing the favorite is certainly unfamiliar territory for the Rockdale Tigers who while winning their last league crown a
Football magazine began prognosticating such
has a little more
spring in their step these days.
"They are excited about getting out there," said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. "They're ready to hit on somebody else for real and get under the lights. They've been working a long time for this."
However, Miller is quick to point out that, "Llano doesn't give a hang about where we are ranked or whether we are supposed to win or not."
The injury bug has bitten the Tigers hard in the past week, hitting them in their most vulnerable area, the offensive line, where there are five new starters this season.
Starting tight end Justin Gadison broke his arm in the scrimmage against Robinson on Thursday night and is questionable for the opener. Senior Derrick Mynar will slide over from receiver to fill in.
Starting left guard Sal Bishop is still recovering from a knee injury he suffered two weeks ago in the scrimmage with Giddings and is also questionable. He did not suit up for Robinson. Senior Chris Ware will take his place if he is unable to play.
Last season's starting nose guard Shane Barcak will be out for another month as he continues to heal from shoulder surgery he had after last season.
"This is the worst position we have been in going into an opener with injuries," said fourth-year coach Miller. "But we won't let all the injuries get us down."
After sleepwalking through the controlled part of the scrimmage, the Tigers perked up when they turned the clock on and played under game conditions, outscoring the Rockets 3-2.
Rockdale scored its final touchdown with no time left on the clock after Tyler Wright took in a three-yard pass from Joe Sanders. Sanders had driven the Tigers 70 yards in under three minutes to snap the tie.
Terral Dixon accounted for Rockdale's first score on a twoyard run and then Brandon Gibbs hauled in an over-theshoulder pass from Sanders for the Tigers' second score.
"We looked horrible in the controlled scrimmage," Miller said. "But, once we turned the clock on, we got after it a little bit better, so that and the way we executed at the end is encouraging."
Llano gained 4,300 yards on the ground last season through its Wing-T offense and 2,800 of it is coming back.
The Yellowjackets will employ a new signal-caller in 6-foot-5 junior Preston Rabb, but he won't have much to do but hand the ball off to Clayton Maples (1,322 yards, 20 TDs) and Estevan Aviles (1,194 yards 10 TDs).
"They are as explosive as they were last year," Miller said. "They have no weaknesses on offense.
"Defensively, they have some big kids up front and a couple of safeties that will move up and light you up."
The line is buoyed by 6-foot- 4, 275-pound Matthew Ratliff.
"No, I don't think we're ready for Rockdale," said fifth-year Llano Coach David Yeager (32- 17) fresh off a 42-12 scrimmage win over Sonora. "But I saw us play hard, the backs ran great. We did some good things and we made some mistakes."
In last year's 39-33 Rockdale victory, the Tigers used Cois Walker's career-high 238 yards to stave off the Yellowjackets.
The Tigers constructed a 27-12 halftime lead but Llano stayed close with 349 yards on the ground.
Aviles grounded out 161 yards and Maples had an even 100.
"They are very similar to what they were last year," Miller said. "We've seen this offenseThe TIgers are (Liberty Hill, Caldwell, Cleveland) quite a bit we've gotten better at stopping it."
• No less than five Tigers will be starting both ways: Justin Elliott
WR-LB), Brandon Gibbs (WR-DB), Derrick Mynar (TE-LB), LeRaven Clark (OL-DL), Clemente Diaz (OLDL). That number is up from three last year.
• Three sophomores will start off the year on the varsity roster, with two of them starting, Patrick David at center and Derek David at linebacker in place of all-state pick Nic Hammett. The third, running back Daniel Brooks, will see extensive playing time.
• Rockdale's ranking varies on which poll the Tigers are in. They were a pre-season No. 15 in Texas Fooball, they were No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and No. 12 in the Old Coach's Poll.
• Terral Dixon is the lone Tiger to change his number this season, from 3 to 11.
• Junior offensive lineman Sal Robles has legally changed his last name to Bishop.
• The Tigers are 2-1 under Miller in season openers and haven't won back-to-back openers since 2000- 2001 with victories over Smithville.
No. Pos. Player, Ht.-Wt. Class
18 QB Joe Sanders, 6-2, 190 Sr
22 RB Greg Chelf, 5-7, 150 Sr
25 FB Matt Farley, 5-9, 160 Sr
9 WR Justin Elliott, 6-3, 180 Sr
8 WR Brandon Gibbs, 6-1, 170 Sr
88 TE Derrick Mynar, 6-4, 205 Sr
62 LT LeRaven Clark, 6-6, 230 Jr
71 LG Sal Bishop, 6-4, 250 Jr
50 C Patrick David, 6-0, 235 So
64 RG Clemente Diaz, 5-11, 235 Sr
76 RT Dillan Schnerr, 6-4, 250 Jr
64 NG Clemente Diaz, 5-11, 235 Sr
75 DL LeRaven Clark, 6-6, 230 Jr
77 DL Logan David, 6-4, 300 Sr
88 LB Derrick Mynar, 6-4, 185 Jr
34 LB Anthony Montoya,5-10, 200 Jr
9 LB Justin Elliott, 6-3, 180 Sr
6 LB Derek David, 6-3, 225 So
8 CB Brandon Gibbs, 6-1, 170 Sr
11 CB Terral Dixon, 5-9, 160 Jr
15 S Tyler Wright, 6-3, 180 Jr
7 S Casey Burrough, 5-7, 160 Jr
* returning starter
• The Tigers are 5-5 in season openers in the past 10 years. • The Tigers are 9-10-1 in the past 20 years in season openers. • The Tigers are 2-3 in road openers in the past 5 years. • The Tigers were 4-1 last season at home. • According to Texas High School Football, Rockdale is 448-407-27 all-time in football. • The Tigers made their 20th playoff appearance in 2008. They have 19 playoff wins. • The Tigers haven't won a district title since 1999, the last of consecutive crowns. • Joe Sanders needs 73 yards to become the all-time leader in receiving yardage. • Last season marked the 12th time the Tigers have finished second in district play. • If the Tigers make the playoffs this season, it will tie a school record for consecutive playoff appearances with three. • The Tigers need to win six games to give the program a winning record for the decade.