Mustangs coach Michael Birdwell takes handoff from Matt Green

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Marble Falls High School interim head football coach and athletics director Michael Birdwell puts the Mustangs through mat drills on the first day of voluntary strength-and-conditioning workouts June 12 at Mustang Stadium. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Marble Falls High School interim head football coach and athletics director Michael Birdwell puts the Mustangs through mat drills on the first day of strength-and-conditioning workouts June 12 at Mustang Stadium. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

MARBLE FALLS — When current coach Michael Birdwell was offered the chance to become the interim Marble Falls High School head football coach and athletics director, he wasted no time in accepting.

“I was thrilled by it,” he said. “Everything has been positive so far. I think it helps there’s not a new guy coming in. We have a lot of coaches on our staff. It’s my plan going forward to take advantage of every opportunity. I think for (the student-athletes), they had stability. For this senior class we’re all they’ve ever known.”

Birdwell takes over after Matt Green announced his resignation June 9 to accept the same positions at Llano High School.

When Green told the coaching staff of his decision, he emphasized that he didn’t want to set up Birdwell or the Mustangs to fail.

So promoting a member of Green’s staff for cohesion was a priority, said Chris Allen, superintendent of Marble Falls Independent School District, who made the decision to offer the jobs to Birdwell.

Birdwell is familiar with MFISD, the student-athletes, and the community. He served as the co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach the past three years, coming with Green to Marble Falls from Lucas Lovejoy in 2014.

“I came as a coordinator,” Birdwell said.

He noted he, wife Bethany, and their daughters have made Marble Falls their home in that they shop here, dine here, and have joined organizations here. His daughters have played in community sports leagues, and that has allowed the Birdwells to meet other families.

During the past three years, Birdwell taken on various administrative tasks on top of being a coordinator that he believes will help now, including budgets, paperwork for purchasing, requests, and other duties that are part of sports administration.

“I do feel like I’m prepared,” Birdwell said.

He said he has no plans to make changes to the coaching staff; if a coach isn’t at Marble Falls, it’s because they chose to leave, Birdwell added.

“I want guys who want to move shake, rock, and roll,” he said. “If our staff stays intact, I’ll be happy. If some want to go, I’ll wish them well, but I’ll do everything in my power to keep them.”

Birdwell also plans to keep the same schemes and will become the quarterbacks coach and work directly with starting junior quarterback Andrew Stripling.

“Stripling is a player’s player,” Birdwell said. “Kids respond to him. When he was moved up to play with the big boys (on the varsity) his freshman year, he didn’t bat an eye. Last year, he went through a quarterback battle, and he handled himself well. He put himself in position to win it outright. Overall, he had a really good season.”

Birdwell added that Stripling played behind an offensive line that was learning the speed on the varsity level, but he thought the quarterback responded well to that, too.

“It’s hard to match his composure,” the coach said. “He doesn’t get too high or too low. There’s unlimited potential for him.”

Both Birdwell and Green spoke to the Mustangs the morning of June 11 to tell the players of the changes.

“He got a chance to visit with the kids. I got a chance to speak to the kids,” Birdwell said. “I think it was received well. It’s an amazing opportunity coach Green has and to be able to do it in his backyard (Green lives in Llano). He’s been a mentor, father-figure, a coach.”

So now it’s time to prepare for the upcoming season beginning with the Marble Falls 7-on-7 League, which is 5 p.m. Mondays at Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive. Also playing are Lampasas and Fredericksburg.

“Once our kids start winning, there’s a culture change,” Birdwell said. “Coach Green has opened the door with all those things. If I’m ever going to be ready … I want the chance this year, in 2017. Now is the time. I have the support from the superintendent. I’m grateful. My family and I are extremely blessed to serve this community in this capacity.”

Marble Falls opens the 2017 season against Bastrop Cedar Creek at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at The Pasture, 159 Lower Red River Road in Bastrop.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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