After struggling in weeks one and two, the Mustangs were not the favorites as they strapped on their helmets and battled the Pirates for the 58th time since 1933 last Thursday. Mother-Nature played nice by holding off and allowing the rival game to be played, although it took place one day earlier than scheduled.
The Natalia defense on the other hand, didn’t play quite as nice. They shut down a variety of offensive schemes the Pirates threw at them early and often including using numerous QBs in the back-field.
The boys in blue had more swag on the field than they had the previous two weeks, as they looked more like the Natalia everyone had seen a season prior when it came to physicality. In the end, it was Natalia who proved to be the better football program, for a 4th straight season against the boys in black and gold.
With their backs against the wall and down 6-0, Natalia got the football with 6:46 to go in the 3rd quarter from their own 6 yard line. Natalia put together the biggest drive of the season, as they needed 15 plays to march 94 yards downfield for the game winning touchdown and PAT.
“I am really proud of the way our kids competed Thursday,” Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “They handled the weather and the game change well. I felt like overall, we got better as a team.”
As a team Natalia did get better and it started up front where the offensive line opened holes for RBs Jimmy Ray Gutierrez (26-120-1TD), Jacob Jass (5-46) and allowed QB Wyatt Woodson to come thru in a number of big moments (9-19-86 yards) including a huge 4th and 6 during the game winning drive. On play number 10 of the drive, Natalia was faced with 4th and 6 at the Lytle 31. Woodson found Xavier Vasquez with a huge 1st down. This was one of five receptions on the night, as Vasquez led the receiving core with 63 yards in receptions on the night.
This drive had a number of big plays including a pass from Woodson to Gutierrez for 20 yards. A Gutierrez run for 25 yards, three runs by Jass for a combined 17 yards, followed by three straight Gutierrez runs setting Natalia up for a 4th down and 7 from the Lytle 12. Woodson found Diego Zapata, and thanks to a face mask penalty by Lytle, it gave Natalia a huge 1st down to the Lytle 4 yard line. This is where the Legacy Bowl Offensive MVP Gutierrez punched it in, from 4 yards out with 54 seconds to go in the 3rd quarter of action to tie the game.
With pressure on the PAT kicker Diego Hernandez, the young man who wears #51 put his first attempt of the season through the uprights to give Natalia a 7-6 lead over rival Lytle.
“Offensively, we are starting to string some drives together and are playing with more consistency,” Martinez said. “Daniel Ramirez was the tone setter on the offensive line and all night he was pancaking kids. Jimmy Ray Gutierrez was the spark we needed and he did a great job of using his vision and speed to keep our offense going.”
On the ensuing drive by the Pirates, the Natalia defense rose to the occasion again and came up big allowing the offense to get the ball back with 11:27 to go in the 4th quarter at their own 38. Natalia used eight plays to drive down field, before turning the ball over at the Lytle 18 yard line.
From here on out, both teams stumbled to produce much offensively as Natalia’s main vision was to play solid defense and keep the Pirates in check.
Lytle got the football back with 4 seconds to go following a Woodson punt and Thomas Dominguez attempted to return the football, but was met immediately by a herd of Mustangs.
Lytle had one prayer left, as QB Hunter threw the ball as deep as he could downfield as time expired, but Woodson sealed the deal for Natalia with a game ending interception as the Mustangs clinched their 4th straight Legacy Bowl Title in a row.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but I saw big gains in our play and competitiveness,” Coach Martinez said. “I am really proud of the staff and athletes for staying in it all night and winning a big game for our program and community.”
Martinez made mention of a number of athletes who stepped up that night and stood out for his program:
“Xavier Vasquez played like a senior on Thursday night, coming up with huge catches for our team when we needed them the most. He played fearlessly and it made the difference in the game.”
Natalia out-gained the Lytle Pirates 245-204 and really made adjustments defensively which kept the Pirates frustrated throughout the night.
“Defensively, I was pleased with the way we competed for most of the night,” Martinez said. “We did a great job of running to the ball and controlling their speed and athleticism. Matthew Manka was the anchor on our D-line and he did a great job all night of destroying blocks. (Defensive MVP-Legacy Bowl) Demetre Perez was all over the place coming up with some big tackles to help us get off the field and Manny Padilla made his presence felt all night with some big hit plays also.”
Final Stats: # of plays: Lytle 43, Natalia 59. Yards per play: Lytle 4.7, Natalia 59. Passing: Lytle 9, Natalia 86. Completion-Attempts: Lytle 4-9, Natalia 9-19. Rushing: Lytle 34-195, Natalia 40-159. Penalties: Lytle 6-29, Natalia 7-40. Turnovers: Lytle 1, Natalia 0. Time of possession: Lytle 20:55, Natalia 27:05. 1st Downs: Lytle 7, Natalia 14.
Lytle individual stats: Rushing: Joseph Perez 12-60-1TD, Hunter 8-58, Nakia Givens Jr. 7-50.
Natalia travels to Atascosa County this Friday to battle the Jourdanton Indians (3-0) for what will be Homecoming 2018 for Big Red.
Coach Martinez made sure to state the obvious to his ball club following their victory over Lytle. He made note that the boys in blue should take it personal when someone schedules you as their homecoming game as traditionally teams try to schedule a team they feel should be a “victory” per se.
“All areas of our team need to improve in order for us to compete at a high level week in and week out,” Martinez said. “We had some busted assignments and penalties versus Lytle that can’t happen and we will address those this week.”
Jourdanton is coming off a 35-28 win over LaPryor last week as that was win #3 following the season opener versus neighboring Poteet 29-0 followed by week two’s 34-6 win versus Dilley.
“Jourdanton is a good football team,” Martinez said. “They are playing good football right now and their advantage will be their depth.”
Jourdanton has over 45 on the varsity roster and the majority of their kids go one way which is not traditional for your average 3A squad.
“This allows them not only to be fresh all night, but to do a lot of other things,” Martinez said.”
Jourdanton will be multiple up front offensively and they like to find mis-matches on the field according to Martinez.
“They have a young QB who plays like a senior and throws the ball well,” Martinez said.
That young man is sophomore #9 Cole Andrus who happens to be the son of Head Coach Darrell Andrus.
“They are a 50-50 run/pass team and defensively they like to run a 4-3 cover 2 look. They are huge upfront and do a great job of coming off the ball.”
Natalia has been out-sized up front the first three games, so this will be nothing new for the boys in blue in terms of having a challenge.
“We will have to do a good job of getting their big boys blocked up front in order for us to string some drives together. We have to continue to improve and limit our mistakes to give ourselves the best chance to win. I am excited for the opportunity to face a good football team and see how our teams match-up. Coach Andrus and his staff have done a good job of having their team ready to play.”
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Natalia and Jourdanton will square off at 7:30 p.m. on the turf this Friday night in Jourdanton. This will be the first meeting since 2011 when Jourdanton won 31-8 in a district 15-2A (Div. I) battle.
Make the short drive to Atascosa County this Friday night and cheer on the boys in blue.
By Eric Smith