STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — They might be meeting for the 103rd time, but little has changed in the Marble Falls and Burnet high school football teams’ rivalry, which is also known as the Burnet County Super Bowl, the Battle of Burnet County, the U.S. 281 Rivalry, and a host of other names.
What has remained the same is the winner has bragging rights for the next 12 months.
The two will square off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, at Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive in Marble Falls.
Listen to the “Coaches Roundup” at 6:30 p.m. on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune with the pregame show at 7 p.m. for Mustang fans.
Bulldog fans can tune in to KMPN 95.9 FM partnered with KBEY for the 7 p.m. “Kurt Jones Show” then listen to the contest at 7:30 p.m.
Those wanting to listen online can hear both games on KBEYFM.com. Just click on either team’s name under the football tab.
Burnet (1-0) of District 13-4A Division I will attempt to extend its winning streak to four straight over the Mustangs (1-0) of District 26-5A and add to its 51-41-10 record against its county rivals.
Just like last year, both teams enter the contest after winning their season openers: Burnet crushed Austin Reagan 30-0, while Marble Falls defeated Bastrop Cedar Creek 28-14.
“This is a rivalry game, and we can’t wait to host Burnet here,” Marble Falls interim head coach Mike Birdwell said. “We’re expecting a shootout of a game on Friday.”
“It is a big game for us,” Burnet head coach Kurt Jones said. “We play in rivalry-type games with Llano, Liberty Hill, Lampasas, and Marble Falls. There’s always something special about playing the Mustangs.”
At quarterback, Marble Falls junior Andrew Stripling will make his second start in this series, while Burnet sophomore Chandler Galban is making his debut.
Jones said Stripling has grown plenty since last season, which was apparent in how he led Marble Falls against Cedar Creek: 16 of 27 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. He threw an interception on the last play of the first half.
“Stripling has a lot of experience,” Jones said. “I thought they were efficient against Cedar Creek. They marched the ball downfield. There are leadership qualities in that young man. He has proven himself. All those kids look up to him as the leader. In pre-snap, you can see how he gets everyone lined up and the calls he makes. He knows what he’s doing. Leadership is big.”
Also in the win against Cedar Creek, senior running back Dillon Mayberry had 21 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown, while senior receiver Keegan Deering caught two passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bulldogs’ front seven will line up in a 3-4 led by senior defensive lineman Seth Carpenter and linebackers Zach Ferguson, a junior, and Reid Burton, a senior. Sophomore defensive back Kaleb Alexander and freshman defensive back Jaxon Denton will anchor the secondary.
“They play extremely hard,” Birdwell said of Burnet’s defense. “They have big linebackers who are fast and quick. Their secondary is well-coached.”
While Stripling might be the veteran quarterback, he isn’t the only talented one playing in this game.
Birdwell saw many solid qualities in Galban, too, such as his quick release and desire to spread the ball to multiple receivers.
“Their scheme has been consistent from year to year,” he said. “They know what they want to do. They’ve played in it since they were young kids. We have to play relentless defense and be ready to go.”
The Bulldogs will run their version of the spread offense with senior Ian Carter at running back and senior Sterling Galban, Chandler’s older brother, at receiver. The duo are only two of the weapons at the quarterback’s disposal, Birdwell said.
“We’ll have to make the necessary adjustments and play physical,” he said. “Our kids will be prepared and ready to go.”
The Mustangs will counter with linemen Joshua Whitecotton, a sophomore, Grant Fletcher, a senior, and Sam May, a sophomore, as well as senior linebackers Zach Fearn and Dylan Crownover and senior defensive backs Nick Veloz and Latham Nakhleh.
Jones said the Mustangs defense is big and physical up front with solid coverage skills in the secondary.
“They’ve done a good job with defense,” Jones said. “We’re going to have to work for everything.”
Both coaches said these games typically come down to blocking, tackling, and making the least number of mistakes.
But Jones said don’t discount the importance of special teams and explosive plays.
Birdwell said this contest will be decided by which team can execute better.
“We’ve been working on having a laser-like focus,” Birdwell said. “At the end of the day, we want to score one more point than they do. Fundamentally, we want to be solid on offense, defense, and special teams. If we’re fundamentally sound and make the least number of mistakes, we’ll give the team a chance to be successful.”