STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Battling, fighting, and clawing. That’s how Marble Falls High School head football coach Mike Birdwell described his team’s effort in a 57-50 homecoming loss to Elgin at Mustang Stadium on Oct. 5.
The Mustangs had a lead for three minutes during the 48-minute district contest that featured every high and low players, coaches, and fans can imagine.
“We’re super proud of our kids for fighting their tails off,” Birdwell said. “In my 19 years, I’ve never seen a grittier performance by a group of kids.”
The Mustangs (2-3, 0-2 District 13-5A Division II) trailed 49-37 with 7 minutes and 31 seconds remaining in the contest.
Senior quarterback Andrew Stripling led Marble Falls on a seven-play touchdown drive, calling his own number for a 17-yard scamper to the end zone. Freshman kicker Logan Barnes added the extra point, and the Mustangs trailed 49-44.
The Mustang defense forced a turnover on downs when the ball went incomplete on fourth down.
Stripling and company took the field with 1:21 left. He hit junior receiver Warren Cuplin for a 20-yard pass and sophomore receiver Luke Nail for another 20-yard pass. As Stripling was being chased, he ran to his right and pointed to a spot he wanted junior running back Hayden Wells to go. Then, he delivered the ball right into Wells’ hands, and all Wells had to do was find the end zone. The two-point pass went incomplete, but Marble Falls led 50-49 with 48 seconds left in the contest.
Elgin (2-3, 1-1) only needed 27 seconds. Senior quarterback Jacob Harkins hit senior receiver Ty McFarlin for a 62-yard touchdown pass. Then, Harkins caught the 2-point pass for the 57-50 victory.
Marble Falls’s final pass was knocked down.
“With all the adversity, with big plays on both sides and big special teams plays, our kids had to battle, fight, claw, and scratch to give us every opportunity to win,” Birdwell said. “Our kids need to hold their heads high.”
The game featured only three punts, all in the first three series of the second half.
Stripling hit senior receiver Brock Linder on a 61-yard touchdown with 3:47 left in the third quarter. Senior running back Cooper Wilson added a 1-yard plunge with 9:25 left in the contest to set up the heroics that followed.
Minus two plays, the first half was evenly played.
The Mustangs got things going on the second offensive play when Stripling found Wilson on a 66-yard touchdown throw. The extra point was missed, but Marble Falls led 6-0.
Elgin scored on all seven first-half possessions. Sophomore receiver Trey Isom scored his first touchdown of the game with the 15-yard touchdown run. After adding the extra point, the Wildcats led 7-6.
The Mustangs turned the ball over on downs on a high snap and gave the Wildcats a short field. Isom took advantage, running 24 yards to paydirt for a 14-6 lead.
Marble Falls answered when Stripling found junior tight end Josh Whitecotton for a 9-yard touchdown. Barnes added the extra point to trim the deficit to 14-13.
That didn’t last as sophomore running back Peter McFarlin went 26 yards to the end zone for a 21-13 lead.
Seventeen seconds later, Elgin junior outside linebacker Trevor Magnuson intercepted a deflected ball and scampered 10 yards to paydirt and a 28-13 advantage early in the second quarter.
Stripling scored on a 2-yard run to trim the deficit to 28-20.
McFarlin scored on a 24-yard run for a 35-20 lead.
Barnes connected on a 23-yard field goal before halftime to make it a 35-23 game.
That simply set up the heroics in the second half.
Stripling completed 22 of 35 passes for 400 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception and ran eight times for 43 yards and two scores.
Linder caught nine passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, while Wilson had 11 carries for 31 yards and a score and one reception for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Marble Falls welcomes Brenham at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, to Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive. Catch the contest on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune and KBEYFM.com beginning with the Highland Lakes Coaches Roundup at 6:30 p.m.