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BATTLE OF BURNET COUNTY: Bitter rivalry now fun game for Burnet fans

The Burnet Bulldogs host the Marble Falls Mustangs in the annual cross-county rivalry football game 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Bulldog Field. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

[box]GAMETIME
Burnet Bulldogs vs. Marble Falls Mustangs
KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13
WHERE: Bulldog Field, 1001 The Green Mile in Burnet
TUNE IN: KBEY 103.9 FM’s pregame show is 6:30 p.m. on the dial or online at KBEYFM.com. Or watch it on Northland Channel 15. Live broadcast starts at 7 p.m.[/box]

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

BURNET — Burnet’s location makes the high school a natural rivalry for its neighbors on all four sides.

But Bulldog alumni admit the opportunity to beat Marble Falls excites them today as it did when they were students. They’re just nicer about it.“Cheese is good,” said a smiling Robby Robertson, Burnet class of 1974. “Second place isn’t too bad. We don’t mind Marble Falls being second to Burnet.”

These alumni still circle the date on the calendar denoting the Mustangs game, even if their children don’t get as excited about it.

Most current Burnet High School students point to another team clad in purple and yellow as the Bulldogs’ current top rival.

“They want to beat Liberty Hill,” said Luann Alexander, class of 1972. “It’s not like it used to be. (The Marble Falls game) means nothing to my kids.”

Still, some losses to the Mustangs haunt Bulldogs even decades later. Brian Thompson, class of 1974, recalled the 1972 contest when Burnet entered the game with district title aspirations.

The Bulldogs sat in first place in the district standings with three games remaining. Burnet faced Marble Falls in Week 7 with Brady and Llano waiting in the wings.

Burnet, which had a two-game winning streak against the Mustangs, arrived with a 2-0 district record. Marble Falls entered with a 1-1 record.

“I really thought we had something,” Thompson said. “We were winning district; we were in pretty good shape.”

However, the Mustangs shattered those dreams by handing Burnet a 10-7 loss.

“It seemed like they knew every play before we ran it,” Thompson said. “It was upsetting.”

It was one of those losses that haunted the Bulldogs the next two games. Burnet, which eyed post-season play before the 1972 game against Marble Falls, found themselves sitting at home when the playoffs started.

And though it’s been more than four decades ago, the former defensive end said that loss still hangs in his memories.

“I think about that loss a lot,” Thompson said. “I used to break into a cold sweat.”

Like so many longtime residents, Alexander and Robertson fondly recalled the 1991 regional quarterfinal game between Burnet and Marble Falls. For Burnet County residents, it earned the moniker, “The Game of the Century.”

The two met at Leander High School stadium with the winner advancing and the loser going home.

“We had 21,000 people in the county,” Robertson said. “There were 18,500 in attendance. That tells you how important the game was. It was a stepping stone to the next game. Some people say you win by any way you can within the rules: penetrations, first downs or the scoreboard.”

With the game tied at 14-14 at the end of regulation play, the decision came down to which team managed to push past its opponent’s 20-yard line more, known as penetrations.

Burnet had three compared to Marble Falls’ two.

That season, Burnet advanced in the playoffs on three consecutive ties, including against No. 1 Southlake Carroll in the state semifinals. Burnet eventually lost to Groesbeck 7-0 in the Class 3A state championship.

Alexander’s son-in-law, Chris Denton, played in the game.

“That whole season was so much fun,” she said. “We kept winning on penetrations. We kept going and had a lot of fun.”

Two years later the annual contest would end. Marble Falls moved up to Class 4A, while Burnet stayed in Class 3A. The two resumed the rivalry in 2004.

While current Burnet High School students might look to Liberty Hill as their prime nemesis, Burnet fans still understand the importance of beating that team from just down U.S. 281.

“It all means a whole bunch,” Thompson said. “It might not seem like a whole bunch, but I know the whole town is going to get behind Burnet.”

Robertson said he’s happy the rivalry isn’t a bitter one.

And he reminds the Bulldog seniors this is their final opportunity to add a slash in the win column in a game that means so much to alumni.

“It’s the last chance to grab that gold ring,” he said.

Alexander summed up the feelings of many Bulldogs when it comes to Marble Falls.

“We want to beat them,” she said, “but just barely.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com