STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls High School football team finds itself in familiar territory: trying to bounce back after a loss to Burnet.
The Mustangs (1-1, 0-0 in District 26-5A) welcome Austin Crockett (0-2, 0-0 District 25-5A) to Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive, on Friday, Sept. 15. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Marble Falls suffered a 27-14 loss to the Bulldogs on Sept. 8 in its home opener. The Mustangs’s challenge is to avoid the position they found themselves in against Crockett in 2016: trailing 21-17. Marble Falls needed a big second half to win the game.
“(The Cougars) are looking for their first win of the season, but they played us well last year,” Mustangs interim head coach Mike Birdwell said. “We don’t want to get behind in this game. We had a really strong effort in the second half, but ideally, you’d like to come out and execute early. We want to make them play catchup rather than us.”
The Mustangs are preparing to get Crockett’s best efforts led by quarterback Ryan Waugh, who has completed 22 of 37 passes for 246 yards with one touchdown and one interception and has 42 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Mekhi Ball has 20 carries for 113 yards and three touchdowns, and receiver Keon Franklin has 10 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.
“Their offense is very explosive,” Birdwell said. “They have a stable of backs in multiple formations. They like to run outside zone. Those are things we’ll have to shore up.”
Marble Falls will answer with senior defensive back Latham Nakhleh, who has 12 tackles and one interception, senior linebacker Dylan Crownover, who has 18 tackles, and junior linebacker Zach Fearn, who has 17 tackles.
The Cougars defense is led by junior linebackers Kevin Hansen and Silvestre Lopez and senior defensive tackle Josh Alvarado.
“They have returning starters,” Birdwell said. “They fly to the ball.”
The Mustangs will counter with junior quarterback Andrew Stripling, who has completed 30 of 51 attempts for 404 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception and has nine carries for 42 yards. Junior running back Dillon Mayberry has 33 carries for 190 yards and two touchdowns, and senior receiver Keegan Deering has eight receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
As for a possible Burnet after-effect, the coach said there’s no reason to worry.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “We try to put that to bed. Celebrate and learn for 24 hours and you move on.”
The Mustangs’s goals for this game haven’t changed: They want to play relentless defense, score when they’re inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, and win the turnover battle.
“Our kids from week to week are getting better,” Birdwell said. “We have to play well, and there needs to be a hunger. That’s what we have to do to be successful on Friday.”
Listen to the game starting with a 6:30 p.m. pregame show on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com.