Countdown to kickoff: Cleburne Yellow Jackets

Posted Monday, Aug. 11, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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District 8-5A

Last Season: 6-4, 4-3 District 8-4A

Key Players: QB Brian Baca (5-9, 170); DB/WR Reggie Robinson II (6-1, 184); DL Tevin Boone (6-1, 310); LB Chase Lordi (6-2, 230); WR Spencer Suitt (5-9, 160).

The big picture: Cleburne thought it had punched its ticket to the playoffs last year. But when Waco upset Everman in the season finale, the Yellow Jackets suddenly found themselves on the outside looking in. It’s a place coach Jeff Merket and his team say they don’t want to be again. The offense shouldn’t need much time to ramp up as eight starters return. It all begins with quarterback Brian Baca, who is back after passing for more than 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago as a sophomore. The line protecting Baca has plenty of experience after injuries forced youngsters into action last season. The Jackets still need to find a featured back, and depth at running back remains a question mark. But several receivers with Friday night experience return. Perhaps the most explosive target is Reggie Robinson II, who moonlights on offense when he isn’t patrolling the secondary. Robinson had 36 catches for 811 yards and nine touchdowns last season and was second on the team with 80.5 tackles. He also has drawn the interest of several colleges, including offers from Stanford and Kansas State as a defensive back. Robinson and All-State defensive tackle Tevin Boone anchor an experienced defense. Two of three linemen return, as do three of four defensive backs. Merket expects converted offensive lineman Chase Lordi to make an instant impact at linebacker, where all four from a year ago are gone. Merket also thinks kicker Joseph Paez can be special and provide a threat in the kicking game.

Quotable: “We were so close [to making the postseason] last year. We had the tools and could have done it, but we just came up short. I think we’re going to use that as a motivational tool.” — Linebacker Chase Lordi

“We feel like we’re way ahead of where we were last year offensively, so I think we’ll be able to progress offensively rather quickly ... Brian [Baca] is a great leader; he’s the son of a coach. He loves football and studies it and works at it. That’s what he wants to be is a very successful football player. So having him back with a year of experience is huge for us.” — Coach Jeff Merket

“Our community is extremely involved in our football program. People I don’t even know come up to me out of nowhere and they’ll know my name and how we’re doing in the season. I think it’s awesome how our community and school will be behind us this year.” — Lordi

Notable: The Yellow Jackets’ offense averaged 34 points and more than 430 yards per game last season.

— Shawn Smajstrla

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