Mustangs fight #9 Pirates

#4 Nate Banda stalled the Poth ball carrier and #1 Isaac Martinez takes him down with assists from #47 Dustin Soto and #5 Michael Martinez.

What could have been. What should have been. Those are questions that will never have the opportunity to be answered, after Natalia dropped a frustrating road game in Poth last Friday night 34-14. Natalia won the battle on paper when it came to offensive production, but early self-inflicted mistakes, a crucial injury and a few questionable calls resulted in Natalia’s 2nd loss of the season, putting hopes of a 15-3A title out of reach.
“We knew coming into the game we had to play our best game in order to give us an opportunity,” Natalia Head Coach Ilyan Martinez said. We had some uncharacteristic mistakes and it ultimately cost us an opportunity to win.”
Natalia received the ball to start the heavy weight battle at Jack Lane Stadium at their own 20 yard line. Natalia was able to find some success getting up to their own 46 before stalling out and being forced to punt.
For the first time this season, the snap for the punt sailed over the head of Woodson who scrambled to fall on the ball and did at their own 16 yard line.
Poth took over and needed just two plays, as Kolton James ran for 14 yards before scoring on a touchdown pass to Blake Moody from 2-yards out with 10:16 to go in the first quarter. The PAT was blocked by Natalia, but the Pirates led 6-0.
Natalia started their second drive of the game from their own 14 yard line. Natalia’s Woodson began to heat up using his feet and arm to move the Stangs down field. QB Woodson was able to connect with Zapata twice during a successful drive (18 yard catch and a 11 yard catch), Xavier Vasquez (23 yard catch) before connecting with Jacob Navarro on a 2nd down and 5 getting down to the Poth 8 yard line. Natalia then handed off to Adrian Vasquez who was stripped of the football, as Poth’s Moody scooped up the football and returned it 92 yards for the Pirate touchdown. The PAT this time was good, as the Pirates led Natalia 13-0 before the Stangs realized what had happened.
Natalia had their third drive of the game start at their own 40 yard line after a nice 19 yard kickoff return by Zapata. Natalia once again sustained a nice drive that used 10 plays to march 32 yards downfield. Natalia was faced with a 4th down and 2 from the Poth 28. Natalia went to their heavy offensive set and handed off to their big man Jake Navarro. Unfortunately, the Poth defense rose to the occasion and stuffed any hopes of a 1st down giving the Pirates back the football.
On the ensuing Poth drive, Natalia’s defense fixed their muscles and stopped the Pirates forcing a 3 and out.
Poth had a phenomenal punt that went to the Natalia 3 yard line. Natalia was unable to get out from deep inside their own territory, resulting in a Natalia punt.
Poth took over on the 50 yard line and used a 11 play drive to march 50 yards down field and truly earn their first offensive touchdown of the game on a Kolton James pass to Moody. The PAT was up and good as the Pirates led 20-0 with 6:22 to go in the first half.
Natalia took over on their own 32 desperately needing to come alive and finish a drive offensively. Natalia used Vasquez runs, two big passes to Michael Martinez and a big passing play to Zapata to drive down the field. On a 3rd down and 13 from the Poth 13, QB Woodson rolled around on the home sideline of the field and ran to the corner of the end zone not only hitting the pile-on, but the ball crossed the goal line. Unfortunately the human eye did not see this, as they called Woodson down at the 1 yard line. Video replay and (I myself happened to be right there with video showing Woodson scored.)
Unfortunately, on a 4th and goal from the 1 with 13 seconds to go in the first half, Natalia was stuffed and stopped which truly put the Stangs down for the count in this battle.
Poth was able to take a 20-0 lead into the half, despite Natalia had out-gained the Pirates 226 yards of offense to 101.
The Pirates got the ball back in the second half and drove down 88 yards before taking a 28-0 lead on a James run. The two point try was good as QB James found Preston Dallmayer with 6:54 to go in the 3rd quarter.
Natalia got the ball for the first time in the second half at their own 35 yard line. Woodson was able to lead Natalia downfield with his feet and arm. He found Vasquez on a huge passing play before a six yard run resulted in a near life changing event. Woodson was taken down by a Pirate and as he was nearing the completion of being tackled, hit from behind with a target blow to the head. Woodson rose to his feet, took off his helmet before collapsing onto the ground.
This is when a chaotic 40+ minutes took place resulting in too many things to put onto paper took place. Woodson was eventually taken by EMS to the Poth Catholic Church where he was airlifted to University Hospital.
“When you see a kid take a shot like Wyatt did, it is pretty scary,” Martinez said. “He is a big part of our team and we are all happy to hear he is going to be okay.”
A Natalia team full of passion returned to the field once everything concluded as recent JV move-up Ryan Rico took over at QB at the Poth 20. Natalia used a run by Vasquez, a Rico pass to Curial before watching Vasquez run in from 2 yards out with 2:40 to go in the 3rd quarter. This allowed Natalia to finally get on the board in a frustrating Friday night in Wilson County. The PAT was good by Diego Hernandez.
Poth would score one final touchdown with 7:34 to go in the 4th on a James pass to Dane Dylla. The PAT failed, but the Pirates led 34-7.
Natalia finished the game with a 78 yard drive before watching Vasquez score again from 8 yards out. This put the score at 34-14 and this is how it would stand when the final buzzer sounded.
“I am disappointed for our kids,” Martinez said. “They have worked really hard to have this opportunity and we know we let one get away. It will be with us for a long time, but we will learn from it and be better because of it.”
Final Stats
Natalia finished with 341 yards of offense on 58 plays ran compared to 305 yards of offense on 41 plays by Poth. Natalia finished with 17 1st downs compared to 19 by the Pirates. Natalia rushed for 104 yards and passed for 237 as Poth rushed for 171 and passed for 134. The Stangs did struggle on 3rd down converting just 5-15 and also 2-4 on 4th down.
Woodson finished 14-18-189 yards as Ryan Rico finishers 5-6-48 yards. Vasquez led rushing for Natalia 16-67-2TDs as Woodson had 11-31.
QB James for Poth finished 12-14-134-3TDs as he led their rushing 7-77-1TD.
Receiving for Natalia, Vasquez had 4-84 as Zapata had 4-59 and Curial 4-40. Moody led their receivers 5-69.
“As always, I thought our kids played hard,” Martinez said. “They played through the adversity of a tough football game. I was proud of their fight from start to finish.”
Upcoming Game
Natalia will lick their wounds and return to battle as they still have plenty to play for with two games remaining. The battle of the Stangs will be Friday night in Natalia as Nixon-Smiley comes to town for Parents Night 2019. Be sure to come out early as Parents Night begins at 6:30 p.m. See the Nixon-Smiley preview for more details.
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer