STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The District 26-5A schedule doesn’t get easier for the Marble Falls High School football team.
The Mustangs (2-4 overall, 0-3 district) travel to Kerrville Tivy (4-2, 2-1) on Friday, Oct. 20. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Antler Stadium, located at Stadium and Holdworth drives in Kerrville. Catch the contest on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com beginning with the Highland Lakes Coaches Roundup at 6:30 p.m.
The Antlers are in a four-way tie for second place in the district, one game behind Dripping Springs, which beat them 40-7 to start district play.
“Tivy is an experienced, seasoned team,” Mustangs interim head coach Mike Birdwell said.
Antlers head coach David Jones said his 2017 team faced a rash of injuries in 2016. When Tivy visited Marble Falls a year ago, the squad was on its seventh and eighth running backs. They squeaked by the Mustangs 17-14 on a late field goal. This season, the injured players returned with a hunger.
“They realize it can end,” Jones said about playing football. “It’s been the biggest turnaround for us. They realize this game is physical, and you’re not guaranteed anything.”
The Antlers offense is led by senior quarterback Karson Valverde, who has completed 56 of 109 passes for 647 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception and has 40 carries for 144 yards. Senior running back Hunter Saunders has 70 rushes for 443 yards and a touchdown, while senior running back Macrae Sherron has 56 carries for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
Tivy incorporates spread offensive concepts but uses multiple formations to move the ball such as double tight end sets, four wide receivers, and two running backs in the shotgun with the quarterback. What makes the offense hum, however, is the offensive linemen will pull and look for defenders to block to open holes for the skill players to move the chains.
“They’re really, really effective,” Birdwell said. “Running back is certainly a strength for them. We want our kids to play tough, smart, and play together.”
Jones said his offense is “healthy, and the kids have played all season long. We feel like we’re probably a better team on offensive side of the ball.”
The Antlers are as strong defensively as they are offensively. They are comfortable rotating between three and four down linemen, but them having as many as seven seniors on the field at once is what caught Birdwell’s eye.
Senior outside linebacker David Denais leads Tivy in tackles with 74, including three sacks. He also four quarterback hurries, an interception, two fumble recoveries, and a blocked punt.
Senior outside linebacker Trent Mott has 69 tackles, six quarterback hurries, and two fumble recoveries.
Marble Falls will counter with junior quarterback Andrew Stripling, who has completed 94 of 156 passes for 1,145 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions and has 33 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior running back Dillon Mayberry has 60 carries for 295 yards and two touchdowns, and junior running back Cooper Wilson has 56 carries for 274 yards and a touchdown. Senior receiver Keegan Deering has 26 receptions for 386 yards and six touchdowns.