CAPTION: Behind the superb blocking of the Marble Falls offensive line, sophomore Joaquin Aguilar runs to the end on a 64-yard dash on the opening drive of the 2023 season. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
The Marble Falls High School football team lost to Pflugerville Connally 40-14 Aug. 25 in the season opener.
The Mustangs (0-1) now turn their attention to a road trip to Brownwood (1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1,
After the game, head coach Brian Herman was to the point with his players.
“We did everything we could to lose that game,” he said. “I’m almost speechless. The number of balls we had on the turf, the number of penalties. In an evenly matched game, you can’t win doing that. At halftime, I told them we weren’t playing with any confidence.”
The game didn’t start that way.
The Mustangs scored on their opening drive thanks to a 64-yard scamper by sophomore Joaquin Aguilar. The six-play drive covered 75 yards and took 3 minutes and 12 seconds to complete. The extra point was missed, but Marble Falls led 6-0.
The advantage was good throughout the first half thanks to a stingy defense that rose to the occasion at every challenge. The first was when the Cougars drove to the Marble Falls 19-yard line and needed a yard to get a first down. In back-to-back plays, the Cougars gave the ball to senior running back Jamal Abercrumbia, who was stuffed at the line of scrimmage both times and turned the ball over on downs.
On fourth down, the culprits were junior Brandon Guevara and senior lineman Jeremiah Bales who stood Abercrumbia up and didn’t let him go. Bales leapt to his feet and turned to the Mustang sideline to lead the celebration with his teammates and coaches.
But two plays later the Mustangs fumbled and it was the Connally’s defense’s turn celebrate after recovering the ball on the Marble Falls 24-yard line.
The Cougars drove to the Marble Falls four- and one-yard line. Senior quarterback Kaden Nguyen lofted the ball to the end zone that was intercepted by Marble Falls senior Austin Cutchin, who snatched it in midair and ran to the Marble Falls 16-yard line.
The Mustangs assembled a 15-play drive that ended with a fumble in the end zone that Connally recovered. The teams exchanged punts the next four possessions.
With 46 seconds left in the half, Connally covered 66 yards in four plays in a drive that ended when senior receiver Landon Bradley caught a tipped ball in the end zone for a 7-6 advantage.
Since Connally won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, it received the opening kickoff. On the second play, the Cougar ran 76 yards for the touchdown and a 13-6 lead.
A personal foul against the Mustangs allowed Connally to kick off on the Marble Falls 40-yard line. The Cougars recovered the onside kick thanks to a perfect high bounce of the ball that went over the Mustangs’ heads.
Nguyen needed only one play, about a 25-yard pass to senior receiver Owen Garcia, for the two-touchdown advantage with 11:01 left in the third quarter.
The Marble Falls offense responded by driving 75 yards in 14 plays highlighted by Aguilar’s eight-yard run to the end zone. Senior Jaime Castillo powered his way to paydirt to trim the deficit 20-14.
The Cougars scored on their next three drives: a 23-yard run by Abercrumbia, an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone by Bradley, and a 30-yard pass to sophomore receiver Aidin Smart.
Meanwhile, Marble Falls fumbled and had turnovers on downs.
“We had opportunities, and we had too many mistakes,” Herman said. “They were coming and putting their helmet on the football.”
Aguilar and Castillo led the Mustangs offensively. Castillo had 19 rushes for 119 yards, while Aguilar had 9 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
Castillo simply picked up where he left off in 2022. Aguilar is in his first year on the varsity.
“We have high hopes for him,” Herman said of Aguilar. “He showed flashes of being really good.”
He noted his team showed its talent and ability to string together offensive drives and get stops defensively, illustrating the Mustangs have what it takes to be successful.
“We found ways to open the door,” the coach said. “Once they got momentum, they took advantage. When you make a poor decision like that, you put the whole team in jeopardy. Finishing is about confidence and belief. We didn’t do the things to be successful.”
The Mustangs trailed the Cougars 7-6 at the half.
The Cougars won the coin toss and elected to defer. The Mustangs took the touch back and needed six plays to score highlighted by a 64-yard run to paydirt by sophomore Joaquin Aguilar. The extra point was missed but Marble Falls led 6-0 with 8 minutes and 48 seconds left in the opening stanza.
The Mustang defense shined. After Connally reached the Marble Falls 19, the defense stiffened and forced a turnover on downs.
The Mustangs fumbled in their next possession, giving the Cougars the ball on the Marble Falls 24.
But the defense responded again highlighted by an interception in the end zone.
Marble Falls assembled a 15-play drive but fumbled on the Connally 2-yard line.
The two teams exchanged punts until the final 1:49. Connally scored a touchdown on a tipped ball from 25 yards with six seconds remaining for a 7-6 lead.
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CAPTION: Pflugerville Connally senior running back Jamal Abercrumbia is stopped at the line of scrimmage by Marble Falls junior Brandon Guevara (9) and senior Jeremiah Bales. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro