CAPTION: Marble Falls seniors Dominic Fierro (left) and Jaime Castillo return for the 2023 season in their last year in purple and gold. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
By 6 a.m. Monday, July 31, the field house at Marble Falls High School will be buzzing with activity.
Football players will be at their lockers, putting on their practice gear after getting fitted for their shoulder pads and helmets. They’ll make their way to familiar territory — the artificial turf at Mustang Stadium and the weight room — to start the preparations for the 2023 season.
“Hopefully everybody out here is ready because they have their physicals and paperwork done,” said head coach Brian Herman with a chuckle. “We have a couple of position battles for their spots. It’s going to be evaluated on everybody’s first day. It’s enthusiasm and just getting after it the first few days of camp. It’s more about who’s in shape and who remembers. Ultimately, it’s who can perform and who can execute what.”
The Mustangs are used to early morning practices, something Herman and his staff implemented a couple of years ago. Coaches found it simply worked better for players, who were often asked to help their families by picking up younger siblings after school or in other ways. The switch to before-school practices meant fewer players couldn’t attend.
Early morning practices in August also means beating the triple-digit heat. Still, with attendance for summer workouts in the 60s after July 4, the Mustangs, particularly the upperclassmen, have displayed the commitment and desire coaches were looking for during the spring semester into the hottest time of the year.
Coaches have commended the players for their attendance and work ethic, stressing the importance of arriving in shape for training camp. In short, the seniors and juniors projected to play the most minutes this season have led by example: with their attendance, with their attitudes and with their appetite to challenge themselves and each other.
Offensively, Marble Falls will still use the Slot-T offense, a run scheme highlighted by misdirection to confuse the defense.
“To me, that’s what makes it better — it’s different,” Herman said. “We want to cause problems for other teams in preparation. They play 7-on-7 and prepare for the spread. We want to be confounding to them, we want to be different and have a physicality and a mentality. We want to be upcoming and make people uncomfortable.”
Look for seniors Jeremiah Bales, Jaime Castillo, Dominic Fierro and Gavin Hernandez to form a solid quartet committed to moving the chains. Juniors Kole Becker, Noah Luckie and Manny Ortiz also will be counted on to positively produce, too. Throw in Joaquin Aguilar, Cameron Graham and Dax Murphy, and coaches see the possibilities and are enjoy the various ways these Mustangs can be utilized.
Meanwhile, the defense in 2022, under the direction of coordinator Ryan Craven, who was in his first year in the position, was equally solid — and stingy — as the unit was in 2020 and 2021 when it helped the Mustangs qualify for the postseason. There’s little reason to think it will take a step back this season.
Before the players took the field for their final summer strength and conditioning session, Herman reminded them the Slot-T offense isn’t a scheme — it’s an attitude — because it forces its will on the opponent by wearing them down 3.3 yards per play at a time.
“That’s the ending message,” he said. “We want to chew time and to be able exert their will on people. We think that’s going to pay dividends. We think it gives us an advantage. We correct our mistakes from last year. Ultimately, it’s what you want to do constantly.”
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CAPTION: Linemen Raul Moran (left) and Jeremiah Bales are two important pieces for the Mustangs in 2023. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro