Mustangs finish season Bi-District champs

The Natalia Mustangs saw their season come to an end in the Area Round of the playoffs for a second straight year, at the hands of a very talented #3 Franklin Lion ball club. Early mistakes by Natalia fueled the Lions to an early lead they would never relinquish, en route to a 49-20 victory in Cedar Park last Friday night.
“You have top credit Franklin, they were extremely talented and they jumped on us early and we could not recover,” Natalia Head Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “I was disappointed in how we played in the first half, but really proud of the fight and how our kids competed in the second half.”
The Mustangs were down four starters vs the talented Lions, as they were missing QB Wyatt Woodson, their Center Austin Guzman, defender Nate Banda and one additional defender in the contest.
The first quarter as nearly a nightmare of a first quarter, as numerous miscues bit the Mustangs early and often. On the opening kickoff, Natalia fumbled the football and allowed Franklin to recover at the Natalia 22 yard line. Four plays later, Franklin’s top back Bryson Washington was able to run in from 3 yards out for the first touchdown of the game. The PAT by Seth Shamblin failed, as the Lions led 6-0 with 10:05 to go in the opening quarter.
The Stangs got the ball back at their own 36 yard line and went to work. After watching Adrian Vasquez run for four yards and QB Jacob Navarro bull forward for a yard, Natalia was faced with a 3rd down and five. Navarro threw a perfect pass on 3rd and 5, but it was dropped by a Natalia receiver forcing a Natalia punt. Unfortunately, that punt only went to the Franklin 46 yard line which gave them great field position to start their second drive.
Six plays later, the Lions were in the end zone again as Seth Spiller ran in from 32 yards out as the Lions showed off their speed and athleticism in each and every drive throughout the night. This time the two point try was good, as Franklin extended their lead to 14-0 with 7:34 to go in the 1st quarter.
On the third drive for Natalia, Natalia threw an interception on a 3rd down and 10 as Franklin took over at the Natalia 14 yard line. Five plays later, Washington showed off his speed again from 7 yards out. The PAT was good; as the Lions had come out and taken a 21-0 lead with 5:16 to go in the opening quarter.
The Lions went on to two more touchdowns in the second quarter as Washington ran an impressive 52 yard strike followed by a Marcus Wade pass to Malcolm Murphy for a 15 yard strike. This allowed Franklin to take a demanding 35-0 lead into the half.
In the second half, Franklin was able to score an additional touchdown out of the gate on a Wade pass to Braden Smith giving the Lions a 42-0 lead.
Natalia’s first touchdown of the game came in the 3rd quarter with 6:23 to go, as Chris Saldana picked up a Franklin fumble and ran it in 40 yards for the first score for the boys in blue.
Franklin scored their final touchdown with 10:50 to go in the game on a Justin Carrier 1 yard run. Franklin had a total of 15 athletes run the football throughout the night which was not a common sight in a 3A football game. This gave the Lions a 49-6 lead on Natalia.
The Stangs never quit battling, as they were able to score two final touchdowns. The first was a Ryan Rizo 2 yard run and the final an Elijah Banda 3 yard run. On the second and final touchdown, Rizo who took over for Navarro as QB late in the game, found Navarro on the two point try bringing the score to 49-20 and that is how it would end when the horn sounded.
“We knew they would be tough to stop, but when you give them extra possessions, it only makes that task that much harder,” Natalia Head Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “They run a tough scheme offensively and we always seemed to be one gap out of place. We would get them in some 3rd down situations and we could not get them off the field.”
Final #s Total Offense: Natalia 213, Franklin 420. # of plays: Natalia 58, Franklin 57. Passing Yards: Natalia 60, Franklin 58. Rushing: Natalia 39-153, Franklin 49-362. Turnovers: Natalia 2, Franklin 2. 1st Downs: Natalia 14, Franklin 28. 3rd Down Conversions: Natalia 4-16, Franklin 4-7. 4th down conversions: Natalia 0-3, Franklin 1-2.
Individual Yards Natalia: Passing: Ryan Rizo 4-11-55, Navarro 3-8-5. Rushing Natalia: E. Banda 15-50-1TD, Navarro 8-45, Rizo 4-30, A. Vasquez 8-24, Jared Stallworth 4-4.
Final thoughts on the game from Coach Martinez
“We knew they were fast as we had watched them in person and on tape,” Martinez said. “We knew we would have our hands full. I was more impressed with how elusive they were. Just when we would have them hemmed in, they would make a move and break loose. I think our kids had a hard time adjusting to their quickness.”
“I am really proud of our guys. I think we played with a lot of guts. We didn’t play to our potential, but we made some mistakes and it put us in a hole early. I liked our never quit effort and the fight we played with all night.”
Writer’s comments: Franklin was the most talented team Natalia has faced in a football team which it comes to overall team speed in 30+ years. This Lions team had a ton of weapons, hint the fact they had 15 different athletes touch the football. If Natalia could have settled in early and not had the early miscues, they could have kept it more of a competitive game, but the bottom line was #3 Franklin was the better ball club and they will make plenty of noise this year and next year in the playoffs.
On the bright side, this is the 1st Natalia Football team since 1983 to win back-to-back Bi-District Titles which is something to be very proud of. We will have a season re-cap next week as well as take a look at All-District releases for District 15-3A, Div.II.
Franklin will battle the Lexington Eagles this Friday in Brenham.
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer