STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls High School football team will have its District 26-5A home opener Friday, Sept. 29, and celebrate homecoming all during the same contest.
The Mustangs (2-2, 0-1 District 26-5A) welcome Castroville Medina Valley (3-1, 1-0 in District 26-5A) to Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Listen to the game on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com starting with a 6:30 p.m. pregame show.
“We are excited and look forward to it,” interim coach Mike Birdwell said. “A lot of people are Mustangs and bleed purple and gold.”
The Panthers arrive with plenty of confidence after a 21-14 win last week over tri-district defending champion Boerne Champion. Marble Falls lost its first district game to San Antonio Alamo Heights 41-14 on the same night.
“The played Champion extremely tough,” Birdwell said. “They ran the ball extremely hard, and they blocked from from the snap to the whistle.”
The Panthers utilize the Slot-T offense, a run-based scheme that focuses on misdirection in order to fool the defense. It’s led by senior running back Devin Johnson, who has 43 carries for 325 yards and four touchdowns; receiver Caytan Chang, who has 47 carries for 242 yards and one touchdown; and sophomore fullback James Gipson, who has 43 rushes for 200 yards.
Medina Valley has two quarterbacks who operate the offense: junior Alek Child, who has completed 17 of 33 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown but has negative 15 yards rushing; and sophomore Charlie Marsh, who has completed 14 of 27 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown and has negative 1 yard rushing.
Junior receiver Ryan McCauley has seven catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
As for the Mustangs offense, Birdwell said effectively running the football remains a priority, noting establishing a running game helps open up the passing game.
“There are no fancy play calls,” he said. “We call plays our kids are confident with.”
The Mustangs are led by junior running back Dillon Mayberry, who has 52 rushes for 264 yards and two touchdowns, and junior running back Cooper Wilson, who has 25 carries for 135 yards.
He added that junior quarterback Andrew Stripling improves each week. Against Alamo Heights, Stripling was so accurate with the football that he directed some of his targets to open spaces. For the season, he’s completed 57 of 98 passes for 647 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions. Sixteen of those passes have been completed to senior receiver Keegan Deering, who has 240 yards and three touchdowns.
“(Quarterbacks coach Kerry) Graham coaches him every single day and couldn’t be happier with his progress,” Birdwell said. “(Stripling) gets us on track in the huddle. He does a great job communicating with our skill players and offensive linemen. He has progressed at a high level from year one to year two. Our coaching staff is high on Andrew, and we need him to play at a high level.”
Birdwell said a bigger home crowd will definitely provide a home-field advantage.
“We can’t wait for our alumni and old Mustangs to come back to town,” Birdwell said. “We want our kids to have confidence. Our kids play well at home.”