First stop on Marble Falls football’s road to playoffs is Dripping Springs

Marble Falls High School linebackers Zuri Buchanan (9) and Davin Manning (7) keep Cedar Park Vista Ridge running back Stedman Mayberry from getting a first down during the Mustangs' 45-41 victory against the Rangers on Oct. 25. Photo by Virgil Belk/Hill Country Sports Images

[box]GAMETIME
Marble Falls Mustangs at Dripping Springs Tigers
KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1
WHERE: Tiger Stadium, located behind the Dripping Springs Middle School, 111 Tiger Lane
TUNE IN: Listen to KBEY 103.9 FM, at KBEYFM.com or on Northland Channel 15 with pre-game show at 6:30 p.m. and live broadcast at 7 p.m. [/box]

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — Minutes after the Marble Falls High School football team’s dramatic 45-41 victory against Cedar Park Vista Ridge on Oct. 25, head coach Todd Dodge instituted the 24-hour rule.

“This is so big for our team,” he said. “There (was) a lot of hard work to get this victory. We can enjoy it for 24 hours. They deserve to enjoy it for awhile. Then, we got to get back to work.”

The Mustangs (3-5, 1-3 in District 25-4A) now are focused on = Dripping Springs.

The Tigers (2-8, 0-4) enters this contest on a four-game losing streak, falling to Leander High 44-7 on Oct. 25.

The Tigers use two different quarterbacks. Sophomore Shep Shepard has completed 44 of 74 passes for 388 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions and 32 carries for 43 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Senior quarterback T.J. Coble has 52 rushes for 69 yards and four touchdowns.

Sophomore running back Bobby Credeur leads the Tigers’ rushing attack with 94 carries for 495 yards and five touchdowns.

Senior receiver Zack Zamora has caught 24 passes for 515 yards and four touchdowns, and senior receiver Eli Shelton has caught 24 passes for 213 yards for Dripping Springs.

Marble Falls and Dripping Springs have played some memorable games during the past three years. In 2010, the Mustangs had to go on the road to earn a crucial 47-10 victory that helped them reach the playoffs. In 2011, the Tigers took advantage of an injury-plagued Marble Falls team en route to a 17-0 victory. In 2012, former Marble Falls kicker Jacob Wyatt nailed a 29-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining to give the Mustangs their only district win of 2012 with the final score of 38-35.

“Nice high school rivalry teams,” Dodge said. “They’ve been playing each other a long time.”

Marble Falls gave itself a chance at the postseason thanks to senior receiver Garrett Gray’s performance against Vista Ridge.

He caught 10 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns, ran in a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and took a direct snap for a two-yard dash to pay dirt.

“The only score I didn’t have was throwing one,” he joked after the win.

His kickoff return was especially dramatic.

Vista Ridge had forced a turnover on downs and connected on a 64-yard touchdown pass to build a 28-19 lead.

Gray caught the kickoff and looked for a seam based on what the Mustangs designed.

“I was watching for it,” he said. “I was watching for the left side, I was watching for the hole.”

That’s when he used his speed and outran the closest Ranger by three strides. And even though Vista Ridge answered with a kickoff return for a touchdown of their own on the following play, Gray’s score gave his teammates renewed energy.

The motivation?

“Playoffs — just one word,” Gray said. “This is the playoffs pretty much. It’s the mentality we have going in.”

Sophomore quarterback Brennen Wooten connected on 21 of 29 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns, but he also had eight explosive plays that went for 20 yards or more.

None was bigger than a third-and-27, when he scrambled to his left and hit senior receiver J.T. Watson for 38 yards.

Both players said the quarterback and the receivers know they have to extend the play and continue to look for each other during those situations.

“We had several big third downs, too,” Wooten said. “We have very good familiarity with each other this season. It’s so good.”

“He’s a fighter,” Watson said of Wooten.

Once senior running back Keith Jerome, who had 22 rushes for 101 yards, completed the final touchdown drive with a four-yard scamper, the Mustangs defense took over with 83 seconds left.

Senior cornerback Aidin Parnell knocked the ball away on a Dripping Spring’s third-down possession, and junior linebacker Tyler Ryan tipped the ball away on fourth down.

“We knew we had to do it this week,” Ryan said. “We learned from (the 31-27 loss to Leander Vandegrift on Oct. 18). I was doing what my coaches told me to do.”

Dodge said his squad must keep the same focus on Dripping Springs it had against the Rangers.

“We got to go get the next one,” Dodge said. “And we can’t look ahead. You have to take care of the job at hand.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com