Mustangs take control vs. Randolph Ro-Hawks

Ryan Rizo and Elijah Banda

The Natalia Mustangs were able to overcome a slow start in the opening quarter vs. Randolph, by scoring in each of the next three quarters en route to a 24-6 home victory. The victory allowed the boys in blue to improve to 2-1 on the season, as they prepare for their 61st meeting vs. rival Lytle this coming Friday at Walter Joyce Stadium.
“I am proud of how our team responded last week vs. Randolph,” Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “I felt our kids played a physical ballgame and played the game to our standard.”
The Ro-Hawks were able to strike first in the second quarter of action, as they used an 11-play drive to march 46 yards downfield before settling for a 36-yard field goal by Marion Williams. This gave the Universal City squad a 3-0 lead on Natalia with 8:52 to go in the first half.
The Stangs didn’t strike, until their 6th drive of the first half. Natalia used a 6-play drive that was highlighted by Ryan Rizo passes to Gabriel Perez and Nate Banda to set up a 2nd and 16 at the Randolph 35 with 1:43 to go. Natalia’s QB Ryan Rizo was able to find Adrian Vasquez on a 35-yard route to give the Stangs the 7-0 lead following a PAT by Manuel Garcia. This was Garcia’s first game back from a pre-season injury and a welcomed sight by Mustang fans.
Randolph responded quickly, as they used an 8-play drive to march downfield. Williams was able to put a 22-yard field goal on 4th and 5 at the Natalia 5-yard line through the up-rights allowing Randolph to close in on Natalia 7-6 at the half.
Randolph received to start the second half of play and the Natalia defense came out looking sharp forcing the Ro-Hawks to punt after running five plays. Natalia got the ball back at the Randolph 47-yard line with 10:14 to go in the 3rd quarter and they went to work. Rizo connected on passes to Jaiden Burford and Gabriel Perez to move into Natalia territory before a run by Elijah Banda. Natalia ended up facing a 4th and 6 at the Randolph 6-yard line with 7:51 to go in the 3rd quarter. Garcia was able to come onto the field and boot a nice 23-yard field-goal through the up-rights allowing Natalia to extend their lead to 10-6.
The Natalia defense helped spark the true game changer on the ensuing drive. On the 5th play of the drive by Randolph, Aaron David was sacked on a 1st and 10 at their own 42 as Gaylen Garcia forced and recovered a Randolph fumble.
Natalia took over at the Randolph 20-yard line and used back-to-back runs by QB Rizo to set up 1st and goal at the Randolph 8. Adrian Vasquez, who took the field for the first time this season, was able to run it in from 8-yards out for a huge Natalia touchdown with 4:54 to go in the 3rd quarter. Garcia was able to put the PAT through the up-right, allowing Natalia to take a 17-6 lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Natalia defense came alive once again on the 4th place of the drive by the Ro-Hawks. On 2nd down and 9 from the Natalia 38, Gabriel Perez was able to intercept an Aaron Davis pass. This allowed Natalia to take over at their own 23-yard line. Natalia used 14 plays to march 77 yards down the field before Rizo scored from 1-yard out for a huge statement touchdown. The PAT was good by Garcia, as Natalia had extended their lead to 24-6. During this huge drive, big plays included a run by Burford along with passes from Rizo to Vasquez, Gabriel Perez and David Silva.
Natalia was able to hold off the R-Hawks for the remaining 10-29 to secure a 24-6 victory as Natalia took a knee at the Randolph 4-yard line to end the game instead of scoring again.
Defensive success
The Natalia defense was able to hold Randolph to 190 yards on 44 plays including 2-8-20 yards passing and 36-170 yards rushing on the night.
“Our defense had another great week of play,” Martinez said. “They kept us in the game early on until our offense got rolling. They ran to the ball well and punished the ball carriers. It was nice to have some guys back that added a lot of athleticisms on the edges for us while our interior guys dominated in the middle. I was really proud of our defense.”
Defensive Stat Leaders: Solo Tackle Leaders- E. Banda 7, Silva 6, G. Perez 5, Gabriel Perez 5, Garcia 5, Nate Banda 3, Josh San Miguel 3. Assists-E. Banda 5, Garcia 4, D. Perez 3, G. Perez 3, Silva 3, Rene Velasquez 3. Tackles for a loss- D. Perez 2, N. Banda 1. Sacks- D. Perez 1, N. Banda 1. Caused fumble- Banda 2, G. Garcia 1, N. Banda 1. Recovered fumble- G. Garcia 1, E. Banda 1, San Miguel 1. Pass Break-up- Silva 2, Burford 1, Banda 1. Caused INT- Adrian Vasquez 1. Interception- G. Perez 1.
Offense turns it up
“Offensively, we struggled early to find our groove,” Martinez said. “I thought as the game went along, we started to develop some rhythm and made plays. Ryan did a great job of extending plays and our receivers had some great catches. Our offensive line did a great job of protecting and our back-field was running down-hill all night.”
Offensive Stats
The Natalia Mustangs finished the night with 323 yards of offense off 64 plays which included 15-25-206 yards passing and 39 rushes for 117 yards. Natalia also only surrendered one turnover compared to four total by Randolph.
Natalia also had 20 1st downs compared to 9 by Randolph.
Rizo was 15-25-206-1TD-1INT. G. Perez led the receivers with 4-81 as Silva was 5-43 and Vasquez 2-40. Rushing, Rizo led 10-31-1TD as Vasquez was 10-27-1TD and Burford 7-26.
Final Thoughts from Coach Martinez
“I am just really proud of our kids and how well they played,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t just about the win which is of course nice, but the manner in which we played. Last night they represented what our program has been built on for the last ten years as they played with a lot of toughness and never flinched in those tough moments. I am proud of how they stayed together and never drifted from the game plan.”
Injuries continue to nag
According to Martinez, Natalia remained without a few guys due to injury which has been the case in each of the three games this season.
“We have had a lot of guys banged up right now, but I was proud of the next man up mentality,” Martinez said. “The kids are buying in and we are closer to being a complete team. Hopefully we get all of our guys back real soon.”
61st Meeting between Natalia and Lytle Next
The Natalia Mustangs (2-1) travel to Walter Joyce Stadium to face the Lytle Pirates (0-2) for the 61st time in program history this Friday Night in the 2021 Legacy Bowl. See the preview story for more details.
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer