STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls High School football team gets a Friday off Oct. 6, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
The Mustangs (2-3, 0-2 District 26-5A) are using the off week to heal as well as address some line issues.
Interim head coach Mike Birdwell said the team is thin at both the offensive and defensive lines, which have become positions of need. One player, senior linebacker Luis Cristobal, made the move to offensive line to help fill out that key area.
Unlike many of the skill positions, linemen are in contact every play, so fielding players with controlled aggression is essential.
“Luis was used to the contact and used to the trenches,” Birdwell said. “He fit in very well and played a good portion of the game against (Castroville) Medina Valley with only three practices. That’s not normally what we like doing.”
Senior Jervon Collins went back to right guard after spending the past several months at tight end and halfback. He made the move during halftime of the 42-14 loss to San Antonio Alamo Heights on Sept. 22.
“The good thing is Jervon had a number of starts playing that position in the past,” Birdwell said. Collins hadn’t played guard since Aug. 15, but he didn’t quibble about making the change. “He loves his teammates and was willing to do what he had to for us to be successful.”
There are no shortcuts in learning to be a linemen. Most coaches believe becoming a lineman is one of the toughest challenges on the gridiron. It requires a great deal of thinking on one’s feet because a quarterback may call a play in the huddle that requires a certain blocking assignments only to change the call at the line of scrimmage, forcing the linemen to adjust.
The best way to learn how to become a lineman and develop a rapport with the others on the line is by working at it, both individually and as a unit.
Along with the line, the Mustangs must deal with the specter of dropped passes.
Though the team averages about three a contest, it’s the time they occur that has people scratching their heads. Against Medina Valley, the Mustangs had three drops on their second-to-last drive when they trailed 43-30 with eight minutes left in the contest.
“You make sure you’re working on fundamentals each day,” Birdwell said. “We’re locking the ball into our hands and tucking the ball. Our coaches have done a great job making sure our receivers are catching the ball every day. We want them to catch as many footballs as possible. We are reteaching them on how you catch footballs. This is how you’re successful on the highest level. We have to make sure those kids are good and coached up.”
With no game this week, it’s also a chance for the players to take care of some injuries that come with the full-contact sport, as well as get a little rest.
“It’s important we keep them healthy, we keep them fresh,” Birdwell said. “We need to be able to go into a game and execute at a high level.”
The Mustangs currently are on a two-game losing streak with defeats by Alamo Heights and Medina Valley. Those losses have extended Marble Falls’s district losing streak to nine games dating to 2016.
The season now comes down to five games, and Marble Falls starts a crucial two-game road trip next week beginning with Boerne Champion (2-3, 1-1) on Friday, Oct. 13, then Kerrville Tivy (3-2, 1-1) on Friday, Oct. 20.
Birdwell said offensive consistency in both running and catching the ball and relentless defense are the keys to success.
“I feel like we’ll take it one game at a time and go from there,” Birdwell said. “We’re going to fight our tails off for four quarters.”