STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
The Marble Falls High School football team earned its first victory of the season in a breathtaking 45-37 victory against Bastrop on October 18 to remain perfect on Max Copeland Night.
Mustangs head coach Brian Herman said he and his staff have watched the Mustangs (1-6 overall, 1-4 District 13-5A Division II) steadily improve each week leading up to this win.
“The growth, the belief in what we’re doing,” he said. “Keep fighting. I’m proud of the kids for continuing to believe.”
Protecting a 45-37 lead in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs defense trotted back on the field with the aim of containing Bastrop senior quarterback Desmond Young. During the previous Bears drive, Young had led the Bears on a 91-yard scoring drive to make it a one-touchdown game.
After his 17-yard scamper was called back for holding, Young dropped back to pass on the next play.
That’s when junior defensive back Keaton Rodriguez stepped in front of the pass for his second interception of the game.
“I read his eyes the whole time,” Rodriguez said. “I had my safety (senior) Ben Anderson holding me on a leash. I saw the read-up and knew it was right there. I don’t call myself the hero. I give credit to my coaches, coach (Cary) McSwain. Tonight, I was there.”
Bastrop (3-4, 04) struck first, needing only three plays in its opening drive to take a 7-0 lead thanks to a 41-yard Young touchdown run.
Marble Falls answered immediately with only two plays for its touchdown when senior fullback Gabriel Barker ran 30 yards to paydirt. The extra point by sophomore kicker Logan Barnes was good for a 7-7 tie. The drive was set up by kick returner Rodriguez, who ran about 50 yards to the Bears’ 37-yard line.
The Mustangs took the lead right after their defense forced Bastrop to turn the ball over on downs.
Marble Falls went 72 yards in six plays in a drive that ended when senior running back Lance Poling ran 42 yards to the end zone. The extra point was blocked, but Marble Falls led 13-7 with 3 minutes 56 seconds left in the opening stanza.
The Bears regained the lead when senior running back Eddie Brown scored on a 22-yard run that gave Bastrop a 14-13 advantage to end the first quarter.
After a series of punts, Marble Falls found the end zone when senior running back Hayden Wells caught a pass in stride from sophomore quarterback Jake Becker that went 40 yards. The six-play drive covered 70 yards. The two-point run failed, but the Mustangs led 19-14 with 5:20 left in the half.
Wells added another touchdown in the second quarter, this one on the ground when he ran 51 yards to end the three-play drive that covered 68 yards. Becker scored on the two-point run to give the Mustangs a 27-14 lead at the half.
Herman described the mood in the locker room.
“There’s a sense of excitement that something special is happening,” he said.
Marble Falls added to its lead in the third quarter when Rodriguez recorded his first interception of the contest to give the ball back to the offense. Senior running back Kaleb Alexander capped a five-play, 52-yard drive when he ran 14 yards to the end zone for a 33-14 lead.
Rodriquez said “anyone could have caught” the interception.
“All the credit to the defensive linemen,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of my defensive linemen. They work their tails off. They did the work.”
That score lasted 30 seconds thanks to Bastrop senior kick returner Keylin Hodge, who ran 70 yards for a touchdown to trim the deficit to 33-21 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
Wells earned his third touchdown on a 56-yard run. The two-point run failed, but Marble Falls led 39-21 with 1:57 remaining in the third.
After the Mustangs forced a turnover on downs, the offense added another touchdown when Becker found senior receiver Warren Cuplin from 35 yards out for a 45-21 advantage with 10:34 left in the contest.
Young directed a scoring drive for the Bears that ended when he found senior receiver Nathan Blair for a 21-yard touchdown on a nine-play, 71-yard drive. Young ran the two-point attempt himself, which was successful and trimmed the deficit to 45-29 with 8:18 left.
The scoring ended when Bastrop senior quarterback Payton Parsons called his own number on a 3-yard touchdown with 3:13 left. Young scored on the two-point run to trim the deficit to 45-37. The 14-play drive covered 91 yards in 3:03.
The Bastrop defense forced the Mustangs to punt, which set up Rodriguez’s last interception of the night.
“You can’t take a breath,” Herman said. “We had to keep battling.”
The Bears had 51 carries for 298 yards led by Young’s 167 yards on 23 carries. He completed 10 of 19 passes for 107 yards.
The Mustangs had 310 rushing yards led by Wells’ 110 yards on five carries and Barker’s 109 yards on 20 rushes. Poling had five rushes for 71 yards.
Becker praised the offensive line for the ground game.
“All the credit to the offensive line,” he said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without them.”
Becker completed four of eight passes for 81 yards. Two passes went to Wells for 41 yards.
The quarterback summed up the win, noting the Mustangs still have three games left in district play.
“We put in a lot of work,” Becker said. “We’re going to keep moving forward and keep working harder. Everybody is coming together as a team, as a whole.”
Marble Falls travels to Leander Glenn on October 25. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at A.C. Bible Stadium, 3301 S. Bagdad Road in Leander. You can listen to the game on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune or at KBEYFM.com.