Training camp ended with some defensive stands and impressive runs for the Marble Falls High School football team in a scrimmage against the Leander Lions Aug. 19.
That’s because when the Mustangs needed to make plays — after the first live quarter ended with a 7-7 tie — they showed they had plenty of: athletes who relished the moment and want to be counted on, belief in each other and their coaches to put them in position to be successful, and protecting the football when it mattered most.
That was apparent after the two teams didn’t score during the controlled portion of the scrimmage where units are guaranteed a number of plays in a row no matter the down or distance. The Mustangs’ starting defense stopped the Lions on the Marble Falls one-yard line on the last play of the opening series. That set a tone for the rest of the event.
“I was very encouraged by both sessions of the scrimmage,” head coach Brian Herman said. “When we got to the live part, we called what we knew would work and the kids executed.”
To say the Marble Falls defense got after the Lions is an understatement. The Mustangs became ball hawks and zeroed in on ball carriers. That’s why the Lions used the zone read so effectively. The quarterback had the action going in one direction and went the other by passing the ball. That allowed Leander to record a handful of explosive plays.
Meanwhile, the Mustang offense had to get through some hiccups: missed blocks, bad handoffs and getting stopped at the line of scrimmage. Herman and offensive coordinator Robert Draper emphasized the controlled portion of the scrimmage was about evaluation of certain players in specific positions during specific plays.
But when the offense played fundamentally sound ball, the Mustangs ate up yards. That was especially true in the two live 12-minute quarters.
On the opening drive, the Lions covered 65 yards, capping it with a zone-read touchdown reception from 11 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
Marble Falls responded immediately, completing an 11-play drive with a six-yard run to tie at 7-7.
Leander looked as if it were poised to regain the lead. But the Mustangs didn’t back down. On fourth and 2 from the Marble Falls 35, the Mustangs dominated the line of scrimmage and tackled the ball carrier for a five-yard loss to force a turnover on downs.
Junior quarterback Kody Smith and company made the Lions pay. Smith found Frankie Reyes for a 38-yard reception that sophomore running back Kole Becker punched in from the one for a score and a 14-7 advantage.
Leander was on its way to tie the game after passing for 17 yards on fourth-and-7. But the Mustangs recovered a fumble, and Smith ran out the clock.
Draper noted that linemen Jeremiah Bales, Gavin Hernandez, Michael Marichalar and Kaden Roberts improved, performed well and stepped into their leadership roles.
Herman made it clear on the first day of training camp he and his staff were on the hunt for the Mustangs’ next group of “dudes.” While Marble Falls took valuable steps toward that, coaches were reluctant to say that group has been found.
“They’re all hard-working kids,” Herman said. “I don’t care who we put in there, they’re all working hard. I thought we did some good things in the (controlled) part. We moved up and down the field. We had some mishandling of the ball, but we have to develop those kids. They took the proper steps to get better. I think to say they’re growing up is way too big at this point. It’s something we’ll be working on.”
Part of growing up is handling the challenges of preparing for the season opener that is on the road on a short week against an athletic opponent. Marble Falls will meet Pflugerville Connally at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at The Pfield, 1440 Pecan St. in Pflugerville. The Mustangs will have a roster filled with players who will either be making their varsity debuts or starting for the first time.
“We have to get the first game stuff first,” Herman said. “I think we took some big steps against Leander. We’re seeing who is stepping up, who is figuring it out. Nobody was separating themselves. We have a bunch of kids who are working extremely hard and if they’ll let us coach them up, we’ll be really good.”
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