The Marble Falls High School football team’s season ended Dec. 18 in a hard-fought 54-47 loss to Sharyland Pioneer in the area round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs.
The Mustangs (7-3 overall, 4-2 District 14-5A) recorded only their second winning season in the past two decades.
“I can’t be more proud of the kids and the coaches,” head coach Brian Herman said. “The community was awesome. We just got better every week.
“I wanted it not to end,” Herman added. “My heart breaks for the seniors.”
Marble Falls tied the score at 47-47 with 1 minute 44 seconds left in the game.
Then, Pioneer (7-0, 4-0 District 16-5A Division II) senior quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger led his team on the game-winning drive, covering 64 yards in 92 seconds. It ended when he completed a 17-yard toss to sophomore receiver Joseph Graham, Jr. That was the Graham’s third touchdown of the game. He caught eight passes for 221 yards.
Marburger threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns along with rushing for two more scores en route to the victory.
“He is a generational talent that came out of the valley,” Herman said of Marburger. “He hit open receivers in the middle of the field. He had total control. He reminded me of Steve Young. I was so impressed by him.”
The Diamondbacks never punted, and they got to fourth down twice: on fourth-and-four in the first half and fourth-and-five in the second half. Marburger drew the Mustangs offsides both times.
“Those fourth-down plays are the difference in the game,” Herman said. “This is something we preach. We practice ball get-off. It’s all predicated on movement of the ball.”
Still, the Mustangs kept coming back and overcame two failed fake punts to tie the game. Junior tailback Robert Adame had 17 carries for 188 yards and three touchdowns, while senior fullback Hayden Hoover had 16 carries for 121 yards and a score. Junior quarterback Jake Becker had 16 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior kicker Logan Barnes, who had the game-winning field goal against Brenham the previous week, added a 39-yard field on the final play of the first half to trim the deficit to 27-23.
It was a special teams play that put Marble Falls within striking distance of the Diamondbacks.
Junior David Rodgers caught a Pioneer failed extra point in the back of the Marble Falls end zone and returned it 109 yards the other way to get his team to 47-40 with 5:46 left in the game.
The Mustangs tied up the game about four minutes later.
Herman said that while the ending wasn’t what they wanted, the ride was special. He noted the players’ experiences off of the field were a first for many of them.
“People would ask them about football,” he said. “In the past, it wasn’t that way. It was so different. I wish we could have started this (level of success) a lot earlier. They do understand the significance of what they started.
“The amount of hugs I got from the seniors, they felt proud of the standard they set,” Herman added. “They’re happy to be the start of it. It’s also an exciting beginning for the younger kids. They got to experience something special.”