Mustangs drop high-scoring season finale

The Natalia Mustangs produced plenty of points and statistics offensively last Friday night to be successful. Unfortunately, the one factor that proved costly aside from a struggling defense was two intercepts by Natalia. As a result, Skidmore-Tynan was able to rally past Natalia, handing the Mustangs a 38-48 season ending loss in front of a standing-room only Natalia home crowd.
“I am proud of the kids and coaches for putting everything they had into this game,” Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “We just fell short. I feel like we closed the gap in a lot of areas, but the area we continue to fall short of is finishing games. That will be our focus heading into the off-season.”
An offense which has been inconsistent throughout the season, was hitting on all cylinders for the majority of the game, especially early on.
The Natalia defense only forced Skidmore-Tynan to turn the ball over on downs and or punt twice in the game and one of those was on their opening drive.
Natalia got the ball at their own 35 yard line with 10:36 to go in the opening quarter and they went to work. Natalia’s Woodson heated up at the QB position, as he went to one of his favorite targets Xavier Vasquez for a 47 yard gain to start the drive. Natalia then used a Woodson run for a loss, a Vasquez completion for 16, a Gutierrez 5 yard run before capping things off with an 8 yard touchdown run by Woodson with 8:38 to go in the 1st. The Stangs opted to do something they had not done much and this was go for two. Woodson found Matthew Contreras for the 2 point try.
Skidmore got the ball back at their own 36 and needed eight plays all on the ground to score their first touchdown of the game with 4:34 to go. They opted for the PAT and it was good. It was a sign early, Natalia would struggle against their mis-direction ground attack.
The Stangs got the football back at their own 32 yard line with 4:34 to go in the opening quarter. Natalia used Woodson and Gutierrez runs to march downfield before watching Woodson run in for his second touchdown of the game! Woodson did it again thanks to great blocking up front, as he ran in for the two point try giving Natalia a 16-7 lead with 1:57 to go in the 1st.
Skidmore-Tynan got the ball as the 1st quarter neared ending and used nine plays to march downfield to score their second touchdown of the game with 9:25 to go in the 2nd.The PAT was good, but Natalia managed to still lead 16-14.
On the ensuing kickoff by Kade Florence, Diego Zapata caught the ball at the 13 yard line. Zapata stumbled on a wet slippery field, but that would be his only stumble as he weaved in and out of traffic out-running the defense on an impressive 87 yard kickoff return touchdown. This time, the two point try failed, but Natalia led 22-14 with 9:25 to go in the 2nd quarter.
The see-saw battle continued, as Skidmore-Tynan used nine plays to march 60 yards down field to score again. The Bobcats went for two and it failed, as Natalia still led 22-20 with 4:50 to go in the 1st half.
Natalia took over on their next drive at their own 38 yard line. Natalia used twelve plays to march down field as they used a mixture of Gutierrez, Woodson and Zapata runs along with a Woodson to Zapata connection. Natalia capped off yet another touchdown, on a 1 yard Woodson touchdown run. This time, Gutierrez made his way into the end-zone for the two point try giving Natalia an impressive 30-20 lead. This had the packed home-side on their feet, loving what they saw. This is how Natalia would go into the half, up by 10 against the 2nd seed Bobcats.
In the second half, Natalia got the ball at their own 28 and they were determined to march down field and hopefully put a dagger of a touchdown to put this game further out of reach. Natalia used nine plays to march almost 75 yards downfield. They used Gutierrez runs, Woodson to Vasquez and Woodson to Curiel connections and more runs by Woodson and Gutierrez to set up a 2nd down and 10 at the Skidmore 25 yard line. Unfortunately, Woodson threw his first pick of the game as Kade Florence intercepted the ball.
Ten plays later, Skidmore made Natalia pay for the turnover as they scored on a Tyler DeLeon 1 yard run on 4th and 1 at the Natalia 1. The PAT was good, but Natalia still was holding on to a 30-27 lead with 3:13 to go in the 3rd quarter of play.
On the ensuing kickoff, Natalia stumbled for the first time offensively, as they stalled out at their own 42 punting the ball off with 2:00 to go in the 3rd quarter.
Skidmore didn’t waste time as they used a rough punt to their advantage. Skidmore marched just 49 yards down field on four plays to take the lead for the first time of the game as time expired to end the 3rd quarter. The PAT was good, as the Brenden Boales run gave Skidmore-Tynan a 34-30 lead as the small but mighty purple and gold clad visitor bleachers roared loud and proud.
Natalia didn’t quit, as they responded using a huge Woodson to Zapata completion on the ensuing drive. Zapata made things happen with a huge 74 yard score, giving Natalia the lead back. Gutierrez ran in for the two point try, as the Stangs re-gained the lead 38-34 with 10:43 left in the game.
The Mustang defense forced Skidmore to a three and out for the second time of the game on the ensuing drive, as Natalia got the ball back at their own 48 yard line with 8:24 left in the game. Natalia used four straight Gutierrez runs before Woodson attempted a pass under pressure on a 2nd down and 11 at the Skidmore 41 yard line. A huge lineman batted the Woodson pass into the air, as Peyton Schmidt caught the ball and returned the football for a huge Skidmore touchdown with 6:42 to go in the game. The PAT was good, as Skidmore went back ahead 41-38.
Natalia got the ball back with 6:42 to go in the game at their own 17 yard line. Natalia used a heavy dose of Gutierrez on the ground to drive to the Skidmore 45 where they were faced with a 4th and 3. Natalia was unable to get the 1st down, as Skidmore rose to the occasion.
The Bobcats took back over with 3:15 to go in the game and instead of running out the clock, they secured the victory with one final touchdown capping off a six play 54 yard drive. This fueled the Bobcats to a 48-38 win over the Mustangs and secured 2nd place in a competitive 15-3A (Div.II).
“Offensively, we executed the game plan and cut down the mistakes, but we have a long way to go,” Martinez said. “I was really happy with overall how far the offense has come along. We still had a few assignments errors and a couple of missed opportunities.”
Natalia finished the night with 381 yards of offense thanks to 58 plays ran. This included 212 yards of passing and 169 yards of rushing. Natalia also had 24 1st downs on the night.
Defensively, Skidmore kept Natalia on the ropes all night as the Stangs defense never could truly figure out their offensive attack. Skidmore finished with 408 yards of offense thanks to 30 passing yards and 378 rushing on 56 plays ran with 24 1st downs.
“We couldn’t stop the run,” Martinez said. “The scheme they run is unique and if it’s not something you defend regularly, it can create some issues and they did a good job of exploiting those weaknesses. I felt like all year long our defense has kept us in games and unfortunately we couldn’t get it done on Friday.”
Individual Stats: Passing: Woodson 9-17-212-1TD-2INTs. Receiving: Vasquez 4-107, Zapata 2-86-1TD. Rushing: Gutierrez 25-129, Woodson 14-32-3TDs. Defensive Stat Leaders: Manuel Garcia 5 assist, 5 solo, 1 forced fumble; Jarred Stallworth 6 assist, 3 solo; Mike Martinez 5 assist, 3 solo; Demetri Martinez 6 assist, 2 solo; Joel Rios 4 assist, 2 solo; Matthew Contreras 8 assist, 1 solo; Manny Padilla 5 assist, 4 solo.
Next week, we will take a look at what Coach Ilyan Martinez felt about the season as a whole. We will also take a look at what is ahead for the boys in blue and hear what Coach Martinez had to say about each of the ten seniors for 2018.
Representing District 15-3A (Div.II) in the playoffs will be District Champion Poth who gets 4th seed Santa Rosa in the Bi-District Round of the playoffs. 2nd seed Skidmore-Tynan will battle 3rd seed Hebbronville as 3rd seed Stockdale will face 2nd seed CC London. Last but not least, 4th seed Dilley will face District 16-3A (Div.II) Champion Odem in the Bi-District Playoffs.
By Eric Smith