STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — For members of District 26-5A, the real football season begins Friday, Sept. 22.
Marble Falls High School (2-1, 0-0) will drive south to face San Antonio Alamo Heights (1-2, 0-0) at 7:30 p.m. at Harry B. Orem Stadium, 150 E. Fair Oaks Place in San Antonio.
Both teams enter the contest with some momentum after victories last week. The Mustangs defeated Austin Crockett 16-8, while the Mules earned a 42-14 victory against Victoria West.
Alamo Heights graduated 53 players from its 2016 roster, so the Mules are experiencing “a little bit of growing pains,” head coach Mike Norment said.
Both coaches weren’t shy about stating the importance of beginning district play with a win.
“It would mean a lot,” Marble Falls interim head coach Mike Birdwell said. “We’re going to go down there and give them our best shot and effort.”
“We’re entering the second part of the season,” Norment said. “It’s the only part that’s guaranteed. So if you want any extra games, you’re going to have to start winning. We understand we’re going to have to be ready to play Marble Falls.”
Alamo Heights is led by quarterback Reed Andersen, who has completed 75 of 110 passes for 961 yards, nine touchdowns, and two interceptions and rushed for 33 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Junior receiver Nik Proctor has 25 catches for 411 yards and six touchdowns, and senior receiver William Dehlinger has 25 receptions for 297 yards and four touchdowns.
“Proctor is a phenomenal athlete,” Birdwell said. “They single him up and throw the ball. The quarterback does a good job distributing the ball. They can be physical on the offensive line. They’re going to throw the ball.”
Defensively, the Mules use a 4-3 alignment for its front seven led by defensive lineman Ruben Alvarez, a junior, and Henry Bell, a sophomore, and linebackers Maki Carabin, a junior, and Cody Nelson and Kaw Blute Htoo, both seniors. Bell is a 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 235 pounds.
“Their defensive linemen are four of the best we’ve seen up to this point,” Birdwell said. “Bell is an absolute monster. Their linebacker corps is extremely tough.”
Controlling the line of scrimmage will be a key component in the outcome, especially when the Mustangs are on offense, Birdwell said, to allow junior quarterback Andrew Stripling to work. Stripling has completed 42 of 69 passes for 492 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions and has 17 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. Senior receiver Keegan Deering has 13 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
“We have to keep him standing and allow him to make plays,” Birdwell said.
The Marble Falls offensive coaches will continue to use the three junior running backs — Dillon Mayberry, Cooper Wilson, and Jayden Bridges — for a power run game. Against Crockett, both Mayberry and Bridges had 10 carries for 56 yards each, while Wilson had six rushes for 22 yards. Mayberry has 43 carries for 246 yards and two touchdowns on the season.
“We want more kids touching the ball,” Birdwell said. “Our kids did a great job of it.”
Norment noted the Mustangs’ offensive line is “big and physical.”
“They’re going to try to get after you,” he said. “They’re well-coached. To beat them, we’re going to have to play a good game.”
The two coaches believe both teams will bring out the best in the other.
“Alamo Heights is explosive,” Birdwell said. “They have a tradition of excellence, and we have ton of respect for their program. We want to be the aggressor, and we have to play that.”
“We’re looking forward to the game,” Norment said. “We know we’re going to have to play well.”
Listen to the game starting with a 6:30 p.m. pregame show on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com.