With 6 minutes and 16 seconds left in the game, the Marble Falls High School football team drove 63 yards but came up 2 yards short of the end zone on its last play, losing 20-13 in a District 14-5A Division II match to Austin McCallum on Friday, Oct. 1, at Mustang Stadium.
The Mustangs (4-2 overall, 1-1 district) have a bye before heading to Liberty Hill on Oct. 15.
“Stings,” head coach Brian Herman said about the loss. “It stings, but (McCallum) played very well. They’re well coached, they’re fast, they’re physical, and we made too many mistakes.”
The final play called for a toss to allow the ball carrier to run to the outside toward the left corner of the end zone.
“We felt we had them sucked in,” Herman said. “I thought our speed would get us to the edge, but they had more speed in the end.”
On the drive before the Mustangs’ final opportunity, the Knights (2-2, 1-0) increased their one-point lead with a 16-play drive covering 70 yards in 10:38. It ended when senior running back Colby Napier ran 2 yards into the end zone on fourth-and-goal. McCallum converted two third downs and the only fourth down of the drive.
After the two teams played to a 7-7 halftime tie, the Mustangs took the opening drive of the second half 58 yards in five plays. Senior fullback Isaias Fernandez had four of the five carries on the drive with his last one resulting in a 7-yard touchdown. A bobbled snap led to a missed extra point.
“We did what we always do,” Herman said of the touchdown. “We went in (to the locker room), we made our adjustments, and we came out and scored.”
The Knights responded on the kickoff as senior returner Jake Hissey ran 98 yards to paydirt. The Knights led 14-13 with 9:12 left to play in the third quarter.
“It’s huge,” Herman said. “Some of our best players were in position to make a tackle, but he hit a crease and he got wide.”
On the next possession, Marble Falls turned the ball over on downs, setting up McCallum’s 16-play drive.
Penalties and errors marred the first half. After the Marble Falls defense forced McCallum into its second punt of the first quarter, a shank punt gave the Mustangs offense a first down on the Knights’ 20-yard line. A facemask penalty put the Mustangs on McCallum’s 8-yard line. On fourth down, senior quarterback Jake Becker faked a handoff and rolled to his right, finding junior split end Logan Barnes for the 3-yard touchdown. Barnes then kicked the extra point to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead with 2 minutes 55 seconds left in the opening stanza.
After the Mustangs missed a 40-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, McCallum senior quarterback Jaxon Rosales ran 60 yards to get the Knights inside Marble Falls’ red zone. Two plays later, Hissey ran into the end zone from 11 yards out to tie the contest at 7-7 with 6:51 left to play in the half.
The Mustangs looked as if they were going to break the tie on the next drive, keeping the ball for 5:44. On first-and-goal from the Knights’ 5-yard line, senior fullback Rio Suarez ran for 4 yards, but the Mustangs were called for holding. The 11-play drive ended when the Knights busted through the line of scrimmage and tackled Becker after he faked the handoff, knocking the ball out of his hand. But instead of the Knights picking it up for a scoop-and-score, which is what happened in last season’s contest late in the first half, the Mustangs tackled the Knights and kept the game tied.
The Mustangs had 262 yards of total offense led by Suarez’s 14 carries for 83 yards and Fernandez’s 10 carries for 76 yards, all unofficial. McCallum had 175 yards of total offense led by Rosales’ seven carries for 87 yards and Hissey’s 98-yard kickoff return.
Herman noted that when his offense stayed on schedule, when it wasn’t behind the chains because of false starts and holding penalties, the Knights were on their heels.
“When the plays we got off were averaging positive yardage, they weren’t bad,” he said. “When we were averaging 4 yards a play, we were fine; first and 15, second and 15, second and 20 doesn’t add up.”
Though the Mustangs trailed as they trotted onto the field for what was the final drive of the game, Herman said he felt nothing but confidence.
“I thought we’d go down there and score and go for the win,” he said. “But they beat us on crucial plays. I don’t know if our kids were pressing, if they were super anxious. It’s been a good week of practice. Our focus was good. It’s just disappointing.”