Mustangs muscle win over Stockdale

Matthew Manka, middle, and Oscar Ramirez fight through blocks. Photo by Eric Smith.

The Natalia Mustangs came out on top in a battle of two stalwart defenses, beating the Stockdale Brahmas 10-7 last Friday, Oct. 27 to improve to 2-1 in District 15-3A DII and 7-1 overall.
“Obviously very happy with the win over Stockdale on the road,” Natalia Head Coach Chad Graves said. “Beating Stockdale has been an issue for the Mustangs for quite a while. It was a hard fought game that took every bit of four quarters to play.
“Very excited for our kids and coaches.”
Neither team was able to put points on the board in the first half, exchanging punts and fumbles as both defenses were at their best.
Graves’ halftime speech must have been an inspiring one, because the Mustangs scored on the first possession of the second half.
Diego Zapata busted a 27-yard kickoff return to set Natalia up in good field position at their own 41 yard line. Caden Fregia picked up two yards before Ray Rizo rushed for another 13 for a first down in Stockdale territory. Rizo ran for another seven yards before Fregia picked up a first down with a nine-yard rush. Quarterback Dustin Richardson hit Fregia for an 11-yard reception before Rizo rushed for 15 yards to give the Mustangs 1st-and-Goal at the 2 yard line. Richardson then punched it in himself for a 7-0 lead.
Stockdale (3-5) didn’t score on their next possession, but did set themselves up for it. After stalling out just inside Natalia territory, Brahmas punter Thomas Burrier unleashed a booming kick that pinned Natalia against their own end zone at the 4 yard line.
Isaiah Gomez rushed for six yards to give the Mustangs a bit of breathing room, but Rizo’s following two-yard gain was negated by an offensive holding penalty that pushed Natalia back five yards. Facing 2nd-and-9 at their own 5 yard line the Mustangs went to the air, only to have an opportunistic Brahma snag an interception at the 15 yard line.
The Brahmas made it count, scoring just two plays later on a 15-yard touchdown pass to tie things up at 7-7.
After the teams traded punts on consecutive possessions, Natalia put up the deciding score midway through the 4th quarter.
The drive started off with a scare when Richardson’s pass was picked off on the first play from scrimmage. The interception was waved off thanks to a defensive offsides penalty, and back-to-back rushes by Rizo secured a quick first down. Richardson hit Zapata for a nine-yard completion, and Rizo picked up four yards for another first down. Rizo then broke out for a 19-yard gain to get into the red zone at the Stockdale 15 yard line. After Richardson was stopped in the backfield for a loss and threw an incomplete pass, Fregia picked up eight yards. With points at a premium and time winding down, Oscar Alvarez stepped up as he has all season and nailed a 28-yard field goal to give Natalia a decisive 10-7 lead.
The Mustang defense held Stockdale to a 3-and-out on their next possession, and Natalia was able to run out the last 5:25 of the game to secure the win.
Defense dominated the game. Natalia managed 194 total yards of offense while holding Stockdale to just 97 total yards of offense. The Mustangs also had the edge on time of possession, holding the ball for 26:38 seconds to 21:22 for Stockdale, and had 18 first downs to the Brahmas’ eight.
“I can’t say enough about the way our defense performed,” Graves said. “They played lights out.”
Natalia picked up 129 yards of rushing on 34 attempts, averaging 3.8 yards per rush. Rizo led the rushing attack with 112 yards on 17 attempts, followed by Fregia with 27 yards on seven attempts, Gomez with six yards on one rush, and Richardson with five yards on six rushes.
Richardson connected on 10 of 18 passes for 65 yards, an average of 6.5 yards per catch. Fregia was the leading receiver with four receptions for 19 yards, followed by Matthew Contreras with one catch for 14 yards, Rizo with one catch for 12 yards, Jeramiah Castro with two receptions for 10 yards, Zapata with one catch for nine yards, and Thomas Lara with one catch for one yard.
“The offense started slow but came through down the stretch,” Graves said.
The Mustangs lost a fumble and threw one interception, while Stockdale lost a fumble of their own. Natalia was penalized four times for 35 yards, and the Brahmas had eight penalties for 70 yards.
Alvarez converted his sole point-after and field goal attempts, adding four points that were crucial to the Mustang win.
“Special teams had a huge factor in the outcome of the game,” Graves said.
Natalia vs. Dilley
Next up for the Mustangs are the Dilley Wolves, who are 4-4 overall and 2-1 in District.
“Dilley will be a tough game for us,” Graves said. “Coach Martinez does a great job getting his players ready to play. They have played very well this year.”
The Wolves started the season well with a 14-8 win over Carrizo Springs before getting thumped by George West 36-7. After beating Cotulla 19-12, a three-game losing streak followed, including a 19-18 loss to Jourdanton, a 34-22 loss to Crystal City, and 22-14 loss to Stockdale to start District play before bouncing back to beat Karnes City 32-26.
Dilley is coming off a 20-6 win over Nixon-Smiley last week.
“This game will definitely have a playoff implication,” Graves said.
Graves addressed what the Mustangs have to do to beat Dilley.
“We must eliminate turnovers,” Graves said. “That has been a huge issue for our offense. We must put together some long drives to chew the clock to keep their offense off the field. We must continue to play great defense. Winning the turnover battle and kicking game will decide this game.”
This is Natalia’s last home game before finishing up District play on the road against Karnes City.
“We need everyone to be here on Friday night,” Graves said. “Our kids feed off of your energy!”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm at Mustang Stadium.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer