STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls High School football team snapped a four-game losing streak to county rival Burnet, winning 34-14 on Sept. 7 at Mustang Stadium.
“For two years, we’d been doing this,” said senior running back Cooper Wilson, who had eight carries for 131 yards unofficially. “It’s our senior year, and we couldn’t allow this to happen again. A big shoutout to our defense.”
The opening quarter couldn’t have played out better for the Mustangs (1-1).
They marched 75 yards on their first drive that ended with a 2-yard score by junior running back Hayden Wells, who finished with 11 carries for 34 yards and two touchdowns. The snap on the extra point attempt was bobbled, but Marble Falls led 6-0.
Burnet fumbled on a high snap on their first offensive play. The ball was recovered by Marble Falls junior defensive lineman Sam May.
Marble Falls then made the Bulldogs pay for the mistake when sophomore quarterback Luke Nail threw his first touchdown pass, a 26-yarder to sophomore receiver Andrew Rodriguez on fourth and 21. Freshman kicker Logan Barnes added the extra point to give the Mustangs a 13-0 lead.
Burnet answered with a 46-yard scoring pass and catch from sophomore quarterback Jaxson Denton to junior receiver Blaine Burkhalter. Sophomore kicker Jose Salazar added the point after to trim the deficit to 13-6.
Marble Falls got the points right back when Nail capped an 84-yard drive by finding senior receiver Brock Linder for a 35-yard touchdown. The extra point was good, and the Mustangs ended the opening quarter with a 20-7 advantage.
The Bulldogs’ next drive ate almost seven minutes off the clock, but they came away with no points as Marble Falls forced a turnover on downs.
The Mustangs had no such issue on their next drive as Nail threw his third touchdown pass of the night, this time to junior tight end Josh Whitecotton, an 11-yard catch on fourth and goal for a 27-7 advantage, which was the score at the half.
Wells scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run on fourth and goal to give Marble Falls a 34-7 lead with 10:12 left in the contest.
Denton found Burkhalter for a 25-yard touchdown to end the scoring at 34-14 with 1:49 remaining.
Unofficially, the Mustangs had 443 yards of total offense. Nail finished the game by completing 10 of 20 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Rodriguez had five catches for 162 yards and a score.
Marble Falls offensive coordinator Kerry Graham said he had several conversations with Nail about the playbook, which included slants and go routes.
“He’s a studying quarterback,” Graham said. “He knows the game. We talked about what he’s comfortable with. He grew up a lot. (Our quarterbacks) make the commitment to film. They understand blitzes, they understand their outs.”
Graham said he tells his quarterbacks to visualize a play before they call it, so they know the order of their reads and where to put the ball. Nail threw to a spot on the touchdowns to Rodriguez and Whitecotton and hit Linder perfectly during his stride so all he had to do was break a single tackle for the score.
Because the players put in the work, Graham said coaches were comfortable going for it on fourth down several times.
Senior running back Dillon Mayberry, who had nine carries for 37 yards, credited the offensive linemen for their run blocking and pass protection.
“It’s always about the offensive line,” he said. “Everything starts upfront. Cooper had great runs. All glory to the offensive line.”
“We needed to have a problem starter for the other defense,” Wilson said. “And everyone follows. The holes were wide open. Luke played exceptional.” .
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs had 232 yards of total offense with Denton completing 13 of 31 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Burkhalter caught five passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore running back Marcus Escamilla had 16 carries for 32 yards.
Marble Falls senior linebacker Reece Vanhoose, who had a couple of sacks and tackles for losses, said he’s always more psyched about facing Burnet.
“It’s a game I won’t forget,” he said. “As a team, we talked about that they beat us the past four years. We wanted to contain the quarterback and shut down their No. 1 receiver. I felt like I was invincible. When our offense is able to get a lead like that, it gets us excited and more pumped up to stop the other team’s offense.”
Up next for Burnet is Lockhart. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14.
The Mustangs travel to Navarro on Sept. 14. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Catch the contest on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or KBEYFM.com beginning with the Highland Lakes Coaches Roundup at 6:30 p.m.
NOTE: A traffic accident on U.S. 281 forced Burnet High School’s Esprit De Corps and cheerleaders to return to campus, so they were not able to perform Friday night at Mustang Stadium.