STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Just before the Marble Falls High School football team exits its gold inflatable tunnel and helmet to take the field, Mustang players yell, “Who’s got my back? I got your back!”
The Mustangs proved that in their 20-7 victory over Leander Glenn on Oct. 26, giving the Grizzlies their first District 13-5A Division II loss. Marble Falls improves to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in district. Glenn falls to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in district.
The game was the Mustangs’ most impressive of the season. Players excelled in every facet of the contest, and they did in on what was designated Brother Max Copeland Night to remember the former pastor of First Baptist Church of Marble Falls and raise money for the scholarship in his name. Copeland died in May 2015.
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Mustangs head coach Mike Birdwell said. “It was our most complete game from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. Offensively, we had big plays and extended drives. The defense played absolute lights out. (Defensive coordinator Chad Bishop and the defensive) coaches had those kids primed up, and they kept making play after play after play.”
“We came in prepared, we practiced hard, we had four really good practices leading into this,” senior running back Cooper Wilson said. “We really came together as a team, and it really showed what we’re made of.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Marble Falls senior quarterback Andrew Stripling shoved his way into the end zone from 2 yards out thanks to a push from his teammates. That gave the Mustangs a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes 3 seconds left in the half.
The score held until the fourth quarter, when Stripling ran 14 yards to the end zone and a 14-0 advantage with 8:16 remaining.
The key play was a 30-yard pass to Wilson from Stripling one play earlier on fourth-and-2.
The Grizzlies needed only 26 seconds and one play of 84 yards to trim the deficit to 14-7. Junior quarterback Drew McGuire found junior receiver Jarvis Henderson for the score.
Marble Falls answered right back on a 9-yard touchdown run by senior running back Reece Van Hoose for the 20-7 final. Glenn had three personal fouls during the 70-yard drive.
Marble Falls sophomore cornerback Lance Long sealed the victory with an interception on the Grizzlies’ final offensive possession.
Stripling finished with 14 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns and completed 13 of 26 passes for 187 yards, while Van Hoose had four carries for 39 yards and a score. Wilson rushed 13 times for 36 yards and had two catches for 48 yards, senior receiver Brock Linder had four receptions for 63 yards, and sophomore receiver Luke Nail had four catches for 42 yards, all unofficial.
Both teams got 340 yards of total offense, but Glenn had 110 penalty yards to Marble Falls’s 50.
“We challenged them to be physical and be aggressive and leave it on the line,” Birdwell said. “It allowed the kids to really believe in what we’ve been telling them this season: focus on the fundamentals, focus on blocking, and focus on tackling.”
He noted the Mustangs didn’t have a turnover, just like in their wins against Burnet and Geronimo Navarro, and they were able to stay on schedule offensively by getting positive yards on just about every down and didn’t have to overcome many penalties.
“We played physical and played aggressive,” Birdwell said. “For us to see it and our kids to feel it and do it, it’s proof we absolutely can be a good team.”
Defensive coordinator Chad Bishop said coaches gave the players one directive.
“We challenged the kids to communicate and play as fast as they possibly could,” he said. “We knew what (Glenn) wanted to do. Our kids did a good job of executing.”
He noted that when the offense and special teams are excelling, that simply brings up the desire of the defense to go make plays, too.
“This group is a big family,” he said. “They’ve been through so much, and they’ve rallied together. Any team can win on any given night. This was the first time all year we played a complete game.”
The Mustangs travel to Pflugerville Weiss on Nov. 2 for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at The Pfield, 1301 W. Pecan St. in Pflugerville.
Catch the game on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com starting with the Highland Lakes Coaches Roundup at 6:30 p.m.