The Natalia Mustangs had their backs against the wall last Friday night in Atascosa County, before a standing room only Indian Stadium on the night Big Red celebrated Homecoming 2018. Despite out-playing Jourdanton all over the field on both sides of the ball statistically, Natalia found themselves down 14-28 due to turnovers as well as a few questionable calls including a touchdown called back.
Natalia could only control what they could, and this is when they began to put together big plays down the stretch to rally past the undefeated Jourdanton Indians in a 34-28 thrilling victory which left the Indian sideline stunned along with their huge home crowd.
“I am really proud of the kids and coaches as we fought until the very last second,” Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “They showed a lot of toughness and character going against a tough team and handled adversity well.”
Jourdanton QB Cole Andrus connected with Jacob Reyna on a 27 yard touchdown with 5:03 to go in the third quarter, to give the Indians that 28-14 lead putting quite the pressure on the Mustangs. Although it would have been easy for many teams to fall apart, this instead motivated the boys in blue as this was the start of a fierce comeback.
Jourdanton kicked off to Natalia on the ensuing drive, and it went out of the endzone as the Stangs began at their own 25 yard line. During this drive, Natalia used a Wyatt Woodson 35 yard pass to Xavier Vasquez, along with three runs by Jimmy Ray Gutierrez to take the Stangs to the Indian 11 yard line. Natalia used a Woodson completion to Diego Zapata for a 7 yard gain, before watching Woodson run in from 4 yards out with 1:35 to go in the 3rd quarter. Unfortunately, the PAT failed, but the Stangs had cut down the deficit to 20-28.
On the ensuing kickoff, Natalia forced a fumble on big red as Gutierrez recovered the ball for Natalia at the Jourdanton 25 yard line. Unfortunately, three plays later Jourdanton intercepted the ball to take over at their own 48 yard line with 37 seconds to go in the 3rd quarter.
Three plays later, the Indians were faced with a 3rd down and 7 at their own 20 yard line, as the Natalia defense came through as they had many times throughout the night. This forced the Indians to punt, as the momentum was definitely on the side of the Mustangs.
Schuchart got a good snap, and just when he was about to release the punt, he was met with a force named Matthew Manka, who blocked the punt. Jourdanton raced to try and secure the football, but it rolled just outside the corner of the endzone as the officials signaled it would be a safety, allowing Natalia to inch within 22-28 of the Indians. The best part was Natalia would get the football back.
Natalia’s Gutierrez had an impressive kickoff return to the Jourdanton 45, but an illegal procedure moved it back 5 yards as the Stangs began this drive at midfield.
During what ended up being the game tying drive, Natalia’s Woodson who had been money the majority of the night, found one of his reliable targets, #5 Michael Martinez. He connected with the big target three different times to help drive down field. Natalia also used runs by Gutierrez who rushed for nine yards on the drive.
Natalia almost turned the football over on the 7th play of the drive, but luckily Gutierrez was able to fall on the football. The biggest play on the drive was a 4th down and 8, Natalia was faced at the Jourdanton 23. Natalia’s Woodson found the big man Martinez with a 14 yard gain giving the Stangs a huge 1st down.
Natalia then used a Gutierrez 6 yard run to get to the Indian 9 yard line. On 2nd and 3, Woodson lost 2 yards, but redeemed himself on 3rd and 5 as he connected with Martinez who made a huge grab in the endzone for the Natalia touchdown with 4:57 to go in the game. Unfortunately, the PAT failed, but the Stangs had rallied back from two scores down to tie the game 28-28.
Jourdanton got the football back at the Natalia 40 yard line thanks to a 16 yard return. Three plays later, Natalia’s secret weapon, who has come up big all year long, Xavier Vasquez, intercepted an Andrus pass giving Natalia the football back with 3:50 to go in the contest.
Natalia used five straight Gutierrez runs to put the Mustangs at the Indian 18 before calling a time-out. Coming out of the time-out, Natalia was faced with a 3rd and 10 at the Indian 18 yard line. QB Woodson rolled around to the right side trying to make something happen, but the Indian D sacked him for a loss of 7. Unfortunately, Natalia was out of time-outs as time began to tick off the clock. With 6 seconds to go, QB Woodson got the snap and looked over the middle and found one of his go-to-men # 7 Diego Zapata. Woodson fired a bullet and Zapata made one of the biggest grabs of his career. He was met immediately by a Jourdanton defender at around the 4 yard line, but Zapata shook off the defender and pranced into the endzone as he scored and gave the Natalia Mustangs an unbelievable come-back victory, 34-28 as time expired.
Woodson and Zapata were met by a herd of Mustangs as celebrations began on the field. On the sideline, the staff and players celebrated, as the large road crowd in blue and white roared in approval. The Mustangs had stunned the Indians, who were undefeated prior to meeting the boys in blue.
“This was just a great team effort and we continue to gel a little more each week,” Martinez said.
Leading up to the 28-14 contest, Jourdanton scored their first touchdown with 1:12 to go in the opening quarter on a Cole Andrus completion to Brett Berg.
Natalia responded in the 2nd quarter as Woodson completed a pass to #20 Evy Curiel who raced 65 yards for an impressive score to tie things.
Jourdanton then responded with back-to-back scored, thanks to a Berg 14 yard run and a QB keeper by Andrus.
Natalia’s second touchdown of the game came on a Woodson completion to Martinez with 6 seconds to go before half. This touchdown came courtesy of Jourdanton’s first turnover of the game which was recovered by Zapata at the Indian 15 with 17 seconds to go before half.
The Natalia Mustangs dominated a bigger (in #s and physical) Jourdanton squad from start to finish as mentioned. They out-gained Jourdanton 412 yards to 191 by the Tribe. Natalia ran 64 plays compared to 50 by the Tribe. Natalia passed for 250 yards as the Indians passed for 86. Natalia out-rushed the Tribe 162-105. Natalia finished with 6 turnovers compared to 3 by the Indians. Natalia finished with 18 1st downs compared to 12 by the Tribe.
Passing: Woodson 14-17-250-4TDs-1INT. Armendariz 0-1-1INT. Rushing: Gutierrez 26-154. Receiving: Zapata 5-72-1TD, Curiel 1-65-1TD, Martinez 5-46-2TDs, Vasquez 2-44, Jacob Jass 1-19.
Defensive Stat Leaders: Matthew Manka 9 tackles, 2 sacks, blocked punt; Xavier Vasquez 5 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT; Michael Martinez 7 tackles, 2 sacks; Matthew Contreras 9 tackles.
What went well offensively (Comments from Coach Martinez)
“Offensively, we did a great job of staying with the game plan and taking what they gave us. Obviously we are disappointed with all of the turnovers and that is an area we will address this week, but I could not be more proud of our coaches and players for staying in the fight all night. We showed a lot of maturity Friday night.”
What went well defensively
“Our defense kept us in the game all night. They handled a lot of tough situations really well and were able to take away the same amount of possessions from them with turnovers or 4th down stops. We need to continue to improve in every area, but I am proud of the hard work the coaches and kids put in to be prepared for Jourdanton.
The Natalia Mustangs (2-2) will welcome the Poteet Aggies to town Friday for Homecoming 2018. See the Poteet game story for more details. Kickoff, as always, will be 7:30 p.m. at Mustang Stadium.
By Eric Smith