STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — A late score and a stingy defense led the Marble Falls High School football team a 16-8 victory over Austin Crockett on Sept. 15.
The Mustangs (2-1, 0-0 District 26-5A) led the Cougars (0-3, 0-0 District 25-5A) 10-8 with almost nine minutes left in the game when Marble Falls senior defensive back Rudy Guevara caught an interception inside the Mustangs 20 and ran it back to the 36.
From there, junior running back Dillon Mayberry went to work, running for gains of 22, 3, 11, 3, and 5 yards.
Marble Falls junior quarterback Andrew Stripling found senior receiver Bryce Murphy for a 10-yard pass on fourth-and-seven.
Then, the quarterback called his own number on back-to-back plays and pushed his way into the end zone for a 16-8 lead with 2:16 left in the contest.
Earlier in the game, senior kicker Fortino Tinajera, connected on a 34-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead that held throughout the first quarter. So why not just trot the kicker back out for a 36-yard attempt?
“At that point, those gut instincts take over,” interim head coach Mike Birdwell said. “You go for (a touchdown), you roll the dice. If they went down and scored a touchdown, we still would’ve been behind. Hats off to our coaches … that put us in position to be successful.”
Then, the Mustang defense went back to work. Though Crockett got to the Marble Falls 33, the Mustangs forced four incomplete passes to preserve the win.
“I thought our defense battled as tough as any I’ve seen in four years,” Birdwell said. “We gave up eight points to a very good Crockett team. I was very proud of our coaches for making adjustments. We got stops on first down.”
He noted that some players may have given up plays earlier in the game, but the coaches continued to believe in them, and it paid off on the last drive.
In the second quarter, Crockett got on the scoreboard when senior quarterback Ryan Waugh scored on a two-yard run then found senior receiver Keon Franklin to convert the two-point pass for an 8-3 lead.
Marble Falls got the ball back with just under four minutes left in the half and drove 53 yards for a touchdown. Stripling hit senior receiver Keegan Deering for a two-yard scoring pass. Tinajera added the extra point, and the Mustangs led 10-8 at the half.
Mustangs junior running back Jayden Bridges had 11 carries for 59 yards, including one run of 11 yards during the final scoring drive.
Stripling completed 11 of 19 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown and had eight carries for 32 yards and a score, and Deering had five catches for 32 yards and a touchdown, all unofficial.
The day after the Burnet loss, Birdwell said the word used throughout the week was focus: focus on the work, attitude, and Crockett. He emphasized that again when drives sputtered or the Cougars had multi-play drives.
“I thought the kids battled through the highs and lows against a really good Crockett team better than they did a week ago,” he said. “I thought the kids battled through the highs and lows, the turnovers.”
Marble Falls travels to San Antonio Alamo Heights for its first District 26-5A game Sept. 22. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Harry B. Orem Stadium, 150 E. Fair Oaks Place in San Antonio. The game will be on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune and at KBEYFM.com beginning with the Highland Lakes Coaches Show at 6:30 p.m.