STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls High School football team ended its first week of fall training camp Aug. 18 with a scrimmage.
The Mustangs scored two touchdowns, both on the ground, and were led by senior running backs Dillon Mayberry and Cooper Wilson and junior Hayden Wells. The defense held its own, too, in that it gave up only one big play during the hour scrimmage.
“Being our first day in full pads and taking each other to the ground, I was very, very pleased with the physicality of our offensive line and how our running backs are playing,” head coach Mike Birdwell said. “We tried to get in as many kids as we could, and everyone came out healthy.”
The offense had other options at running back besides Mayberry and Wilson, who are three-year lettermen, and Wells.
What pleased the offensive coaches so much was the rapport between the backs and the offensive line. That’s not surprising with four returning starters in seniors Genaro Arreguin, Braidon Whiteside, and Chance Haley and junior Andy Arreguin. The new starter is junior Mauro Palacio, who is a returning letteman. The offensive line was impressive in its run blocking and is responding well to new offensive line coach Cyril Lemon, a 2010 Marble Falls graduate. Lemon demands his players give their best each play and truly believes the line is capable of being even better.
The Mustangs also had different formations and different personnel in their run packages. This illustrates depth and options that should bode well for the season.
“Hopefully, they’ll continue to get better,” Birdwell said. “Offensive line is gelling at a level within six practices that they are already ahead of the game. We have to keep them healthy.”
The offensive line looked sharp against a tremendous defensive line that includes juniors Sam May and Josh Whitecotton and senior Ernesto Castenada and senior inside linebackers Zach Fearn and Reece Vanhoose. That might explain why the Mustangs only scored twice. Those five players are providing the leadership and setting the examples for swarming to the ball and making sure tackles.
Birdwell said it’s imperative those players remain healthy, not only because of what they bring on the field but also because of what they mean to their teammates. Their leadership, work ethic, and preparation is crucial, he added.
“We have to lean on those kids,” he said. “Our defense is playing extremely well. Kids are flying to the ball.”
Birdwell noted the Mustangs underwent a tackling circuit a day earlier. That work showed during the scrimmage.
“That let them learn how to tackle and run to the football,” he said. “I think our defense did a good job building momentum.”
Quarterbacks Andrew Stripling, a senior, and Luke Nail, a sophomore, are starting to groove in the passing game, Birdwell said.
“You can tell there’s continuity there,” he said. “The wide receivers will continue to improve to be great run blockers and route runners.”
Coaches want to see better ball security, more yards after catches, and breaking more tackles.
“When I look at our starting receivers, I feel extremely confident those kids will put us in position to win games,” Birdwell said.
The coach’s favorite part about the first week? The competition.
“Compete for those positions, go earn it,” he said. “We like to compete. Competition makes everyone better. Those kids are playing hard for sure.”
Marble Falls hosts Liberty Hill in scrimmages Friday, Aug. 24, at Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive. Sub-varsities will play at 5:30 p.m. with varsity to follow.
The event also will allow fans from both schools to donate money to Our Day To Shine, the Texas High School Coaches Education Foundation’s benevolence fund that raises money to assist athletes and coaches with special needs or hardships. All donations to the scrimmage will be given to the fund. Buckets will be available for fans.
Marble Falls held a donations night for the fund last year. As a result, officers of the fund voted to give financial support to the family of Maribel Enriquez, a Marble Falls student who died in a car accident in June.