JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — When opposing coaches talk about the Marble Falls High School football team, the unit on which they elaborate the most is the Mustangs’ defense.
That’s because the unit has forced turnovers on downs, especially inside the Marble Falls five-yard line, punished ball carriers and made receivers think twice about going deep or in the middle.
In short, the defense has a reputation among the opposing district coaches.
“The Mustang defense is so good,” said Leander head coach Tim Smith before the Oct. 16 contest.
The group in the middle of the unit are the linebackers led by seniors Ethan Reed, Jeff Ramey and Robert Atkinson before he was moved to quarterback.
“We’re really responsible for getting the defensive line lined up, kind of getting the calls to strength and making sure everyone is good to go,” Ramey said.
Fans might see lopsided scores in the Mustangs’ losses; however, the defense has forced several punts and recovered turnovers in the first half to keep Marble Falls within striking distance. But as the game gets longer and the defense is asked to play more minutes, opponents take advantage.
Still, Ramey doesn’t look at it that way.
“I think we should always try our best, even with short field position, to stop the other team from scoring,” he said. “Sometimes, we can’t, but sometimes, we can and always try to stop them.”
Ramey is a middle linebacker and involved in several key stops, either at the line of scrimmage or behind the line when he gets to the ball carrier in a hurry.
But he doesn’t call his unit the smartest; that distinction goes to the safeties, he said.
“Middle linebacker is just fill your gap, hit the person with the ball,” he said. “Safety is worrying about more coverages, how to line up where and everything like that.”
Before he took over at quarterback, Atkinson was causing just as much havoc. After he made a big play, he would sometimes turn to the sidelines and celebrate with his teammates.
He attributes the defense’s success to having a year of learning the scheme and getting to know the coaches.
“It’s amazing what a year will do,” he said with a smile. “Last year was the coaches’ first year and a lot of the guys. Not that we didn’t have the talent; we were just picking up the new scheme. That’s a big point in any coaching change. But this year, with a whole other offseason under your belt and whole other year to rep these plays, you just get better and better. We’ve played well. I was really proud of us.”
And while he no longer plays on the defensive side of the ball, Atkinson said he knows he can continue to impact that unit by ending drives with scores and not turnovers.
“It’s my job to get out there and put us in a good position offensively,” he said, “and then on the flip side of that coin, putting our defense in better position, so indirectly leading these guys.”
Ramey said this season is about leaving a different kind of legacy.
“Hopefully, we set a certain standard for the younger groups to come,” he said.
For more on the Mustangs’ 42-28 loss to Leander on Oct. 16, go to DailyTrib.com. Marble Falls hosts Cedar Park on Oct. 23. Listen to the game on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com starting with a pregame show at 6:30 p.m. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.