STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
The 105th edition of the Burnet-Marble Falls High School football game promises to be as exciting and gut-wrenching as ever. There’s a reason why fans refer to it as the Battle of Burnet County.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 6, at Bulldog Field, 1400 Bulldog Stadium Drive in Burnet. If you can’t make the game, tune in to KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com starting at 6:30 p.m. for the “Highland Lakes Coaches Roundup” followed by a pregame show at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs and the Mustangs enter the contest seeking their first victory of the season. On August 30, Marble Falls lost 7-0 to Fischer Canyon Lake, while Burnet fell to Wimberley 42-6.
Both head coaches understand the significance of the game and agree it brings out the best on each sideline.
“I’ve coached in this game seven or eight times,” said first-year Bulldogs head coach Jerod Rye, who was previously an assistant. “Every year, it’s competitive.”
New Mustangs head coach Brian Herman has faced the Bulldogs before, but as the offensive coordinator at Liberty Hill in 2002 and 2003.
“I’m excited about playing Burnet again,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I was back at Burnet (coaching at Bulldog Field).”
The two offenses have little in common.
The Bulldogs (0-1, District 14-4A Division I) will stick with their version of the spread, a scheme of short passes to get receivers in open space for big gains. It has been a Burnet staple for the past two decades.
Burnet is led by junior quarterback Matthew Tippie, who completed 13 of 26 passes for 113 yards in the loss against Wimberley. He’ll be playing in a varsity Burnet-Marble Falls matchup for the first time. Against Wimberley, senior receiver Blaine Burkhalter had four receptions for 80 yards and senior receiver Bradyn McPherson caught three passes for 11 yards. Junior running back Marcus Escamilla had 19 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Herman was complimentary of those four as well as junior athlete Jaxson Denton and sophomore receiver Devonte Miller.
“Tippie is a good athlete,” he said. “They have some good athletes. They do create mismatches.”
Marble Falls will counter with senior defensive linemen Sam Mays and Josh Whitecotton and junior defensive lineman Gabe Perez. They top things off with senior defensive backs Keaton Rodriguez, Jett Huffman, Ben Anderson, and Brenden Sapp.
Rye was beyond respectful of the Mustangs, noting the players are unafraid of fighting through blocks to get to the football.
“Josh Whitecotton is a monster,” the Burnet coach said. “He’s going to pose some issues on that line. It looks like they were flying around defensively (during the Canyon Lake game). All three defensive linemen play hard.”
Offensively, Marble Falls runs the slot-T offense, a run-based system that uses misdirection and confusion.
The Mustangs are led by senior fullback Gabe Barker, who had 13 carries for 38 yards; Sapp, who caught two passes for 62 yards; and sophomore quarterback Jack Becker, who completed 2 of 8 passes for 34 yards, in the loss to Canyon Lake.
Rye said the challenge for defenses against a slot-T is to properly read the keys before committing to a skill player. He noted that defenses that commit to one side or play too much will get burned because of the misdirection or the surprise pass.
“The slot-T requires so much discipline,” Rye said. “Coach Herman has been coaching it for a long time, and we know it’ll be a big challenge.”
The Burnet defense is led by senior defensive backs Brayden McPherson and Jaylen Laidler, junior defensive back Luke Kiser, and senior linebacker Tracer Park and Escamilla.
All Burnet defenders exemplify a common trait, Herman said.
“They seemed to have elected to go with speed over girth,” he said.
Both coaches said which line can control the line of scrimmage and which squad can recover the most turnovers will dictate which squad is victorious. Herman added that he believes special teams will be a factor, while Rye said penalties and explosive plays will be huge.
“(Burnet’s) offensive linemen are all about the same size and shape. They move well. They’re not timid. They’re physical. They’re impressive,” Herman said. “I feel (controlling the line of scrimmage) will be the key. I think that’s where it’ll be won and lost on both sides of the ball.”
“We’ve challenged our guys upfront,” Rye added. “That’s where football is won and lost.”
The Burnet team and community will recognize area first responders during a ceremony at 7:15 p.m. before the game.