The Natalia Mustangs (5-1, 2-0) are ready for a 15-3A clash in Live Oak Country Friday night vs. the George West Longhorns (1-4, 1-0). Natalia will ride a four game win streak into the district battle, as GW is coming off their first victory of the season thus far.
George West Outlook
The George West Longhorns are led by first year Head Coach Bobby Nicholson who also served most recently as the HC at Goliad and previously coached at Yoakum and Pleasanton as well. GW had a rocky start to their season, as they dropped four straight games to San Diego (33-13), Refugio (55-0), Goliad (43-40) and Mathis (43-26) before picking up the district opener last Friday in Nixon 36-0.
Coach Nicholson was asked what has been an area that has held his team back thus far and he had the following to say: “Injuries and sickness from week to week have held us back a bit this season, but through the course of all has allowed us to build up some depth at various positions that we might not have seen if the season had not gone this way thus far,” Nicholson said.
The Horns return six offensive and four defensive starters back from their squad that went 6-5 on the season and 3-2 in district before falling in the Bi-District round of the playoffs.
“George West is a good football team” Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “They have a tradition of success and they have some talented players who play hard. Coach Nicholson and his staff have done a great job of keeping those guys together and it will be another physical week of football for us. We will have to do a good job of traveling and limiting our mistakes.”
Offensively, the Horns are a spread team with a lot of power run game.
“They throw a lot of formations at you and try to catch you out of position,” Martinez said. Defensively they are aggressive and play a lot of man coverage. They will be in an even front with a lot of man to man defense on the back end.
Coach Nic was asked what has been his team’s strength thus far and he stated the following: “We have strong leadership from our captains and they have kept our team together as a brotherhood when things were not going our way.”
According to Coach Martinez, their leader of the team is senior #17 Weston Rhodes who plays RB and Safety for the Longhorns.
“He is one of the most talented kids we will see all season,” Martinez said.”He runs the ball hard and has some good speed on the edges. We will have our hands full trying to contain him out of the back-field. On the defensive side of the ball, he is their play maker. He makes it difficult for teams to block him with his athleticism and quickness and plays hard. He always seems to find a way to the football.”
GW is led by junior QB Jake Snider. “He does a good job of putting his team in the best play,” Martinez said. “He has a great arm with accuracy but can really extend and make plays with his feet. He will also be a challenge for our defense.”
“Senior Tuner Lee is another great player who plays H-Back and Linebacker for GW,” Martinez said. “He is big and physical and we will need to know where he is at all game and account for him.”
The Natalia Mustangs are riding high as they are using a very aggressive defensive game plan to lead the charge as offensive weapons around the field compliment on the other side of the football. The biggest + for Natalia all season is they don’t have to get really fancy offensively to execute and it all starts with the play of their offensive line complimented by QB Rizo and his talented backs and receivers.
“Natalia is very athletic, strong and big up front and they play the game with a lot of confidence,” Coach Nicholson said. “They play with a ton of energy and they are well coached. We will have to find a way to create turnovers vs Natalia and three and outs will be crucial for us.”
Through six games, Natalia had the following stat comparisons to their opponents: Outscored them 189-53, 1st Downs: Natalia 127, Opponents 60, Turnovers: Natalia 4, Opponents 20, Rushing: Natalia 996, Opponents 664 and passing: Natalia 982, Opponents 426.
As you can see from those stats alone, turnovers and 1st downs can create a lot of opportunities and Natalia will need more of those in Live Oak Country on Friday night.
A season ago, George West entered the district picked to win it all, but Natalia shocked the Horns at Natalia in a thrilling 31-28. This season, the Stangs go into Live Oak County as the favorite according to the two main state polls, but at the end of the day the game has to be won between the hashes for four quarters.
“We have to be physical up front and take care of the football Friday night,” Martinez said. “We are going to have to sure up our tackling and continue to create turnovers.”
Tickets for the Natalia vs. George West game will be sold in George West at the gate on Friday night.
“Our fans did a great job last Friday night and we really need our fans to travel well to George West Friday and be loud for this big one,” Martinez exclaimed.
Natalia vs. George West, Friday, 7:30 at Longhorn Stadium! Make the trip south and cheer on the boys in blue.
By Eric Smith