STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Just when it looked like the Marble Falls High School football team was going to end the season with a loss, junior defensive lineman Josh Whitecotton made the play of the fourth quarter to preserve a 21-20 win over Bastrop Cedar Creek on Nov. 9 in final District 13-5A Division II contest.
He came up the middle to block a 22-yard field goal attempt, the Eagles third try during the contest. Cedar Creek had already made field goals of 26 and 27 yards.
“I knew going into the field goal, there was an opening,” Whitecotton said. “I knew I had to take it. The game was on the line. I started through the hole.”
The rest was history as senior quarterback Andrew Stripling and company did their part by getting two first downs to ice the contest. Before earning the first first down of the drive, Cedar Creek (4-6 overall, 3-4 district) put the Mustangs in third-and-3 and called a timeout.
Stripling went to the sideline to talk about play options and requested the naked bootleg. Head coach Mike Birdwell agreed.
Stripling trotted back on the field and saw the all-out blitz by the Eagles. He calmly threw the ball to the flat to junior running back Gabriel Barker for 16 yards to move the chains.
“Our quarterback is a veteran starter,” Birdwell said. “It’s an incredible catch. I’m proud of our kids to execute it. It takes guts.”
The Mustangs (5-5, 3-4) never gave the Eagles another offensive series.
With the win, Marble Falls ends the season winning three games in a row for the first time since 2007.
“It means so much to our community and our school,” Birdwell said. “We honored 24 seniors on senior night. The foundation these young men have built. It’s amazing to get five district. We’ll savor this one.”
Stripling got the scoring going when he powered his way to paydirt from 7 yards out on fourth-and-3. Junior kicker Frankie Gonzales added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.
Stripling added his second touchdown on the next drive when he ran in from 6 yards out and a 14-0 advantage with 57 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Cedar Creek senior kicker Natanial Salas kicked a 26-yard field goal to trim the deficit to 14-3 midway through the second quarter, which also was the score at the half.
After the Mustangs forced the Eagles to punt to start the second half, Marble Falls senior running back Cooper Wilson ended his team’s opening drive with a 5-yard touchdown run and a 21-3 advantage. Key plays were Stripling passes to senior receiver Brock Linder of 27 and 19 yards on third down.
The Eagles came right back thanks to a 3-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Hunter Hughston and a 21-10 deficit with seconds left in the third quarter.
Cedar Creek recovered the onside kick then Hughtston found junior receiver Payne Allen for a 32-yard touchdown pass to trim the deficit to 21-17 with 11:24 left in the game.
Cedar Creek lined up for a fake punt that Hughston turned into a 14-yard pass to Allen to extend the drive. Salas hit a 27-yard field goal to trim the deficit 21-20 with 6:05 left in the game.
Marble Falls punted on the ensuing drive to give the ball back to Eagles and for Whitecotton’s heroics.
Stripling finished game by completing 19 of 27 passes for 196 yards and had five carries for 7 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson had 13 carries for 60 yards, while Linder had eight receptions for 83 yards.
Hughston completed 11 of 28 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown and had 16 carries for 88 yards and a score, while Allen caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“You have to deal with adversity,” Birdwell said. “I thought the kids did. Our kids had to overcome so much. Our coaches and kids continued to battle.”