STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — There’s no reason to think the Battle for Burnet County won’t be typical of all the other football games between Burnet and Marble Falls high schools.
After all, as Mustangs head coach Mike Birdwell noted, the players on both squads have probably faced one another in youth or middle school football several times.
“They know each other,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to get their best shot.”
The 104th meeting between the two programs kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive.
Listen to the contest on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the Highland Lakes Coaches Roundup.
Burnet leads the series 52-41-10 overall.
“It’s (our) first game at home (this season),” Birdwell said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Both teams enter this contest after season-opening losses. Marble Falls fell to Fischer Canyon Lake 22-0, and Burnet lost to Wimberley 31-25.
None of that matters when these two teams tangle, especially since both head coaches couldn’t stop complimenting the other’s roster.
Burnet head coach Kurt Jones began his thoughts on the Mustangs offense with the linemen, including seniors Genaro Arreguin, Braidon Whiteside, and Chance Haley and juniors Frankie Gonzales and Mauro Palacio.
“They’re doing some things to give them a chance,” Jones said. “Marble Falls is big upfront. They also return skill players who make things happen. They do a great job of spreading the ball around.”
Seven different Marble Falls receivers caught passes from sophomore quarterback Luke Nail during the loss to Canyon Lake, and senior Dillon Mayberry lined up at running back and receiver and helped with pass protection.
“He does a great job for them,” Jones said. “He’s a big body who’s tough to bring down. The receivers run good routes and have good hands.”
Birdwell said the Bulldogs defense is terrific at finding the ball carrier and quick to get there. Burnet rotates players in, and that allows them to stay fresh and play at a high level, he noted.
“There are 11 hats to it,” he said. “They fly around to the ball. They run to the ball really, really aggressive.”
The key for the Mustangs, he said, is to be balanced.
“We don’t want our kids to do too much,” Birdwell said. “We want them to react to what they see and let our kids play.”
Birdwell was equally complimentary of the Burnet offense, noting sophomore quarterback Jaxson Denton, who completed 8 of 28 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns and had nine carries for 96 yards against Wimberley, continues to be a difference maker, just like he was last year as a starting safety as a freshman.
“He flushes himself out of the pocket,” Birdwell said. “He plays extremely hard. He doesn’t look like he’s lost a step. He’s a quarterback who can throw the ball really well. If he doesn’t like what the defense is doing, he’s an explosive athlete. He makes plays with his legs. (His teammates) rally around him and play hard for him. ”
Junior receiver Blaine Burkhalter had seven catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns and three carries for 24 yards last week. Burkhalter also lined up in the secondary.
“Burkhalter is an explosive receiver,” Birdwell said. “He’s a kid the quarterback has confidence going to.”
Birdwell said the Bulldogs know the offense so well that they make few mistakes in the scheme, so it’ll be imperative the Mustangs make sure tackles and stay fundamentally sound.
When he thought of the Mustangs defense, Jones started with junior nose guard Josh Whitecotton. Junior defensive ends Sam May and Carlos De La Hoya are the bookends. He also noted that senior linebacker Reece Vanhoose is very active.
“Vanhoose does a great job of finding the ball,” he said. “The secondary is sound.”
Jones said it’s imperative the Bulldogs have more players touch the ball. He didn’t feel like they got enough athletes involved against Wimberley.
“We have to spread it out a little more,” he said. “We feel like we can spread it out a little more and make it tougher on defenses.”
He also wants to see Burnet cut down on penalties, which contributed to big plays being called back.