STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Throughout the week leading up to the Marble Falls and Burnet high school football game September 6, Bulldogs head coach Jerod Rye had one message for his players.
“We’re going to play to win,” he said.
When the clock hit triple zeroes, the Bulldogs (1-1, District 14-4A Division I) had a 41-6 victory over the Mustangs (0-2, District 13-5A Division II), and Rye had his first victory as a head coach.
His confidence was obvious in the play calling.
After winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Bulldogs began the game with a squib kick, which they recovered. However, the Mustangs forced a punt.
But Burnet junior defensive back Jaxson Denton picked up a Marble Falls fumble on the Mustangs drive and scampered 15 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
Junior quarterback and place kicker Matthew Tippie faked the extra-point attempt and threw a two-point pass to senior receiver Bradyn McPherson for an 8-0 lead with 9 minutes 13 seconds left in the first quarter.
“I took a few chances here and there,” Rye said.
Marble Falls lost four fumbles and had two interceptions, while Burnet had only two lost fumbles, both in the first half.
“Burnet played faster, they played efficiently, they played with more belief,” Mustangs head coach Brian Herman said. “We started to doubt. Once it starts to steep in, it takes a team with experience, composure, and personal belief to overcome the snowballing effects. They came out in a perfect storm.”
Denton immediately followed up his fumble recovery with an interception, but the Mustangs got the ball back two plays later when they recovered a fumble.
The two teams played evenly until 4:09 remained in the half. Burnet had the ball on its own 11-yard line and proceeded to drive 89 yards for a touchdown that was capped when McPherson caught an 18-yard pass from Tippie for the score. The extra point was blocked, but Burnet led 14-0 at the half.
The 16-play drive took 3:32 to complete.
The Bulldogs began the second half the same as the first: with a touchdown by Denton. This time, he caught a 20-yard pass from Tippie on fourth down. The extra point was wide right, but Burnet led 20-0 with 9:45 left in the third quarter.
Rye thought Tippie found his passing rhythm in the third quarter, which was illustrated by the opening drive, which took seven plays and covered 52 yards. Tippie completed passes of 16 yards, 10 yards, and the 20-yarder to Denton.
The coach credited the Bulldogs offensive line for giving the quarterback time to throw and find other receivers.
The Burnet defense got its second touchdown when sophomore linebacker Devonte Miller tipped the ball to himself for an interception and ran to the end zone for a 27-0 lead with 5:31 left in the third quarter.
Marble Falls got on the board when junior running back Keaton Rodriguez took a toss to the left and sprinted away from tacklers for a 14-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 27-6. The key play was a shovel pass from senior Ben Anderson to senior running back Jett Huffman on a fake punt. The play went for 43 yards.
After the teams exchanged punts and Burnet recovered a Marble Falls fumble, McPherson caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Tippie for a 34-6 lead with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
Burnet senior running back Isaac Sanchez scored on a 7-yard run to give the Bulldogs a 41-6 lead with 7:10 left in the contest.
Tippie finished the contest with 15 of 27 completions for 148 yards and three touchdowns. McPherson caught six passes for 61 yards and two scores, and junior running back Marcus Escamilla had 17 carries for 76 yards, all unofficial.
Rodriguez had 11 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown for the Mustangs.
Rye said he was pleased with the effort of his entire squad. He commended McPherson for his two touchdowns.
“We have to do that. We have to spread the ball to other people,” he said. “We have to find ways to hurt people.”
He tipped his hat to his defense. While most will remember Denton’s and Miller’s defensive scores, the coach noted that unit excelled in defending all parts of the field and recovered four fumbles and two interceptions.
“I thought we got after them at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “We rallied to the ball.”
Herman said once the Mustangs trust and believe in themselves, they’ll get the results they want.
“We’ll get there,” he said. “We learned a lot about our kids tonight. We can’t let this spread any further.”
On September 13, Marble Falls hosts Geronimo Navarro for its homecoming contest at Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive, while Burnet welcomes Lockhart to Bulldog Field, 1400 Bulldog Stadium Drive.
Both games kick off at 7:30 p.m. Catch the Mustangs on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the Highland Lakes Coaches Roundup.