A defensive statement in Odem

#74 Dustin Soto tackles Odem QB Hunter Dawson during Natalia’s road win in San Patricio County. Photo by Kaelyn Lara.

The Natalia Mustangs continued to show growth as a team, as they picked up a solid road win in non-district play last Friday vs. a traditionally tough Odem Scrappin’ Owl ball club. The Natalia Mustangs overcame a slow start on both sides of the football, to truly dominate the game en route to a 19-7 victory allowing them to improve to 4-2 (2-1) on the season. This marked just the second meeting between the two squads and the first victory for Natalia over the San Patricio County squad.
“I thought our defense played a sound, physical football game,” Natalia Head Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “Trusting our keys and running to the football is always a big part of our game.”
It was a slow start for both squads in the opening quarter of action at Odem Owl Field as neither team found much success offensively. Part was offensive struggles, but many were courtesy of two talented defensives with big linemen up front as well.
“They were big up front and did a good job of limiting our big plays,” Martinez said. “Our QB and receivers did a great job of making plays when we needed them to, to sustain drives.”
Odem was able to find success on their second drive of the game which began at their own 29 yard line. Odem used a heavy dose of runs by talented QB Hunter Dawson along with a nice pass to Kyle Castaneda to march down field on a 12 play drive. This drive resulted in a little trickery, as receiver Castaneda lined up as QB and Dawson as receiver on the left side of the field. Castaneda launched up a ball to the back left corner of the end zone as Dawson made a great grab just getting his feet inbounds for the Odem touchdown with 8:29 to go in the 2nd quarter.
The Mustangs began to win the battle at the line of scrimmage on their third drive of the football game which began at their own 34 yard line. During this drive, Natalia used a Wyatt Woodson run, a Woodson pass to Xavier Vasquez, an Elijah Banda run, a Woodson pass to Coltin Richardson to set up a 1st and 10 at the Odem 41 yard line. This is when Woodson had arguably his most impressive run of the season, as he broke loose and weaved in and out of traffic en route to the end zone for a 41 yard strike with 6:07 to go in the opening quarter. The PAT was good as the game was tied 7-7.
The Natalia defense began to step up, as they were able to hold Odem on the ensuing drive and force an Odem punt which did not go well for the Owls. Natalia got great field position at their own 44 yard line with 3:18 to go in the first half.
Natalia took advantage of the opportunity, as they used a seven play drive that included: Woodson pass to X. Vasquez (10 yards), Banda run (3 yards), Banda run (4 yards), Woodson run (2 yards), Woodson run (8 yards) followed by an Adrian Vasquez 2 yard touchdown run with 53 seconds to go in the opening half. The PAT failed, but the Stangs led 13-7 and this is how it would stand at the half.
At the half things were relatively close when it came to offensive stats as the Owls had 117 yards of offense compared to 106 by the Mustangs.
In the second half, the Odem Owls received to begin play and the Natalia defense took up where they left off. They put pressure on the Odem QB all night long, contained the outside and edge well and stuffed anything the Owls tried to run up the middle for the next two quarters of action. It was by far, the best second half by a defense on the field for Natalia in 20+ years I would say.
Natalia shut-down the Owls forcing a 3 and out giving the Mustangs back the football at their own 36 yard line with 10:02 to go in the 3rd quarter. The Mustangs used nine plays to march down field with the following plays: E. Banda run (2 yards), Woodson to X. Vasquez (6 yards), Woodson to Enrique DeOsio (3 yards), A. Vasquez run (11 yards), E. Banda (10 yards), E. Banda (1 yard), A. Vasquez (2 yards), Banda run (0-yards) before watching Woodson take in a 3rd and 1 from the Odem 1 yard line in for a Natalia touchdown. The Stangs lined up to go for 2-points, but were just shy as the lead was extended to 19-7.
From here on out, the Natalia defense continued to dominate and the Natalia offense had three separate opportunities to add to their lead. Natalia stalled out on two separate drives at the Odem 5-yard line, the Odem 4-yard line before taking a knee and running out the clock on a final drive at the Odem 13 yard line.
“I thought it was a tough, physical football game and I was really proud of how our team competed,” Coach Martinez said.
Coach Martinez was asked his thoughts on holding Odem to under 30 yards of offense in the second half: “We did a poor job in the secondary in the first half,” Martinez said. “Our staff challenged our secondary and made some adjustments to correct the issues. Our front seven did a great job all night of being physical and dominating the line of scrimmage. Credit our coaches and kids for coming out the second half with a different mentality and really taking over the game.”
Final stats: Total Offense: Natalia 274, Odem 141. # of plays: Natalia 54, Odem 44. Passing: Natalia 103, Odem 68. Rushing: Natalia 39-171, Odem 30-73. Penalties: Natalia 4-30, Odem 6-45. Turnovers: 1 each. 1st Downs: Natalia 15, Odem 8. 3rd down conversions: Natalia 5-13, Odem 6-14.
Individual Stat Leaders: Passing: Woodson 11-15-103-1INT. Rushing: Woodson 13-72-2TDs, A. Vasquez 12-53-1TD, E. Banda 14-46. Receiving: X. Vasquez 5-64, E. DeOsio 5-26, Richardson 1-13.
Defensive Stat Leaders: Solo tackles: J. Stallworth 5, M. Garcia 5, G. Perez 4, D. Soto 4, I. Rios 3, J. Navarro 3, G. Martinez 3, C. Saldana 3, A. Vasquez 2, X. Vasquez 2, C. Martinez 2, G. Garcia 1. Assists: M. Garcia 8, I. Rios 6, G. Garcia 4, X. Vasquez 4, A. Vasquez 3, D. Soto 2, J. Navarro 2, G. Perez 1. Tackles for a loss: D. Soto 3, J. Navarro 2, I. Rios 1, C. Saldana 1.QB hurries: J. Navarro 1. Sacks: D. Soto 1, I. Rios 1, M. Garcia 1.Pass breakup: G. Martinez 1. Fumble recovery: A Vasquez.
Coach Martinez was asked what went well offensively for us: “Our QB and receivers did a great job of making plays when we needed them to sustain drives.”
Once again, the Mustang offense was pretty balanced with their rushing and passing attacks which both allowed the other to be successful. At the end of the day, the offensive line once again stepped up against a very stout Odem line and did their job well.
Upcoming Game: Natalia returns to district action Friday on the road in Nixon against the Nixon-Smiley Mustangs.
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer