STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
The Marble Falls High School football team opens District 13-5A Division II play against a Georgetown East View squad that looks very similar in scheme to the Mustangs.
The two square off Friday, Sept. 28. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Bernard Birkelbach Field, 2275 N. Austin Ave. in Georgetown.
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 Patriots’ (1-2) offense is similar to the Mustangs’ (2-1) spread offense. It utilizes a mobile quarterback capable of making plays with his legs by either tucking and running with the football or rolling out of the pocket to make throws on the run.
The running backs must be quick to hit the hole in order to turn short yards into big gains. Receivers must be able to catch balls in traffic and hold onto them because defenses will have speed across the field.
East View is led by junior quarterback Jackson Coulson, who has completed 43 of 62 passes for 711 yards, nine touchdowns, and one interception this season.
Senior running back Zion Hester has 52 carries for 329 yards, averaging almost 110 yards per contest, and seven touchdowns and seven receptions for 64 yards and two scores.
Senior receiver Devhaun Little has caught 19 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns and has four carries for 54 yards and two scores.
The Patriots will want to control the line of scrimmage with their offensive line to open holes for the running backs and establish a power run game.
“They like to go fast,” Mustangs head coach Mike Birdwell said. “They’re going to try to go tempo. You can tell East View is a really good team. We’ll have to continue to play well in space, get stops on third down, and force them to punt. Our kids need to fly to the ball as they have.”
Defensively, East View’s front goes between three linemen and three linebackers and three linemen and two linebackers with a hybrid. The hybrid can be a linebacker with the speed to drop into coverages or a defensive back capable of tackling power runners.
Patriots head coach Rob Davies said his offense must start fast and continue to do what it has done all season. The Patriots can’t give up big plays, he added.
“They’re always going to get after it,” the East View coach said.
Senior defensive tackle Christian Cortes has 21 tackles on the season, while senior defensive ends Ben Simons and Trevon Watts and junior cornerback Deziah Little each have 15 tackles. Sophomore safety Isaiah Quinton-Jackson leads the team with 25 tackles, one interception, and one fumble recovery.
“(Quinton-Jackson and Little) can cover a bunch of ground,” Birdwell said. “They’re going to force us to throw. We can’t get away from what has gotten us to this point.”
Marble Falls senior quarterback Andrew Stripling will start, and the coach noted the Mustangs are playing well around him, particularly the offensive line.
The Mustangs have 103 carries for 410 yards led by senior Cooper Wilson’s 194 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and two receptions for 59 yards and a score. Senior Dillon Mayberry is next with 25 carries for 109 yards and four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore receiver Andrew Rodriguez has nine receptions for 220 yards and a touchdown and senior receiver Brock Linder has eight catches for 176 yards and a score.
The good news is the Mustangs have faced this defensive style already in a 42-32 victory over Navarro.
“Navarro is a physical football team,” Birdwell said. “East View is even more physical. You want to come out and have success early. You’re looking to continue to run the things that got you to this point. Our kids have made big plays, and we’re going to have to score on offense.”
Both coaches agree the district teams have plenty of balance, which means any squad can win on any given night.
“It’s a big swing game right from the get-go,” Birdwell said. “Stay healthy, minimize turnovers, and who can make big plays and minimize big plays. If there’s a play they’ve been working on like a fake punt, they’ll use it. They’re not saving anything. Wins are going to be critical.”
“I think all the coaches would agree there’s a lot of parity in the district,” Davies said. “They’re all important, especially the first one.”
Birdwell said the losing team won’t be out of the playoff chase, noting a postseason berth can’t be won in the opener.
“We’re breaking the season up into one-game increments: one practice at a time, one rep at a time, one game at a time,” he said. “We’re focusing on things we can control. There are some storied programs that know how to win. New programs are looking to make a name for themselves.”
The Mustangs didn’t have the same intense game-week practices they normally experience because of the bye week. They still lifted weights and had three practices that focused on fundamentals and basics. Plus, the Mustangs continued to take care of classroom work. They also began watching film on East View.
“It was a good time for coaches to reconnect with kids,” Birdwell said. “We’re as healthy as we’ve ever been.”