STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls High School football team celebrated Brother Max Copeland Night in a way the former pastor of First Baptist Church and ardent Mustangs fan would have enjoyed – with a win.
The Mustangs beat Seguin 35-21 to end an 11-game district losing streak and give interim head coach Mike Birdwell his first district victory on the night they honored Copeland, who passed away in 2015, by kicking off a scholarship in his name.
The Mustangs are now 1-4 in District 26-5A and 3-5 overall. The Matadors fall to 1-4 in district and 2-6 overall.
“Obviously, it was a lot of comments during the game and after the game,” Birdwell said. “It’s about our kids playing hard and our coaches being effective. I’m so proud of our kids on offense, defense, and special teams for four quarters.”
Ensuring the win was Marble Falls senior receiver Keegan Deering, who had four touchdowns — three receiving and one off an offensive fumble recovery in the end zone — for a new career game high.
Deering credited the red socks the Mustangs wore to honor Copeland for the win. Brother Max, as he was affectionately called, was fond of red socks and suspenders.
“I think it’s what got us that win, the energy we felt, everyone’s energy, and especially (Copeland’s),” Deering said. “It’s amazing. There’s no feeling like it.”
“Keegan is a kid who has been in our program and has continued to trust in his teammates. He makes the right decisions and works hard,” Birdwell said. “He is a dynamic and explosive receiver. The hard work paid off.”
The Mustangs played their most complete half in district by scoring on three of four possessions, including their opening drive.
That initial drive ended when junior running back Cooper Wilson scored on a 5-yard scamper for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Deering ended the Mustangs’ third drive when he fell on the fumbled ball in the end zone. The extra point gave the Mustangs a 14-0 lead with six minutes and 23 seconds left in the half.
Deering scored on the next drive when junior quarterback Andrew Stripling found him for a 22-yard touchdown pass, putting Marble Falls up 21-0 with a minute and 21 seconds left in the half.
Meanwhile, the Marble Falls defense limited the Matadors to 65 yards of offense in the first half, including three 3-and-outs to start the contest.
By contrast, the Mustangs had 205 yards of offense in the first half with 128 coming through the air.
Stripling found Deering again for another 22-yard touchdown to begin the second half to give the Mustangs a 28-0 advantage early in the third quarter.
Seguin junior quarterback Anthony Gonzales hit senior receiver Brian Cash on a 6-yard touchdown pass to trim the deficit to 28-7 with 7:17 left in the third quarter.
Deering added to his career night with another touchdown pass from Stripling for 6 yards and a 35-7 lead with 2:11 left in the third.
The Matadors weren’t giving up, however.
Gonzales found junior Hayden Haas on a 1-yard touchdown pass to trim the deficit to 35-14 with 11:12 left in the game.
Gonzales found Haas again, this time for a 3-yard touchdown to make the score 35-21 with 1:49 remaining, but the comeback ended there.
Birdwell commended the offensive line, which helped the Mustangs rack up 370 yards of offense. Stripling finished the game with 240 passing yards, and Deering had eight catches for 108 yards, all unofficial.
“I challenged our offensive line like I’ve never done to keep our quarterback clean, to take care of him,” Birdwell said.
Deering said playing with Stripling is great because they know each other so well. The receiver especially appreciates the quarterback for continuing to have confidence in him by throwing the ball to him, even after a drop.
The Mustangs enjoyed their most focused week of practice, Birdwell said, so it felt great to get the reward of winning.
“It wasn’t a monkey — it was a gorilla — and it’s off our back,” he said about ending their district losing streak. “We haven’t had a district win in two years. I’m so proud of our coaches to keep our kids focused, to be able to go in and make necessary tweaks.”
Marble Falls travels to Lockhart on Friday, Nov. 3. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Lions Stadium on Lion Country Drive. Listen to the game on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com starting with a pregame show at 6:30 p.m.