Natalia football kicks off fall workouts

Mustangs practice wrap-up and hold on drills on padded tires during the first week of practice.

Coming off a frustrating and disappointing season, the boys in blue led by a great coaching staff came into this past Monday’s workouts focused and determined to get the most out of their 2019 football season. 53 young men showed on day one ready to work under 2nd year Head Football Coach Ilyan Martinez who enters into his 8th season with the program overall.
Expectations are high around Mustang Country and despite their 4-6 season, coaches in 15-3A (Div.II) know the potential as well, as they have the Stangs picked to finish 2nd in the pre-season poll in Dave Campbell Texas Football magazine behind traditionally tough and defending district champion Poth.
The following are questions and answers that were asked of Coach Ilyan Martinez about the status of Natalia Mustang Football:
What are your thoughts on last season?
“Obviously I was very disappointed in the season we had last year. Going 4-6 is not the expectation here and we know we had a better team than our record showed. While I was disappointed in the outcome of our season, I couldn’t be prouder of our young team and the resiliency they showed throughout the year.”
What were the positives from last season?
“I feel like we grew as a team and really developed some kids we are going to count on in the future. We went through some growing pains for sure, but I feel like they are going to pay dividends this fall.”
What were areas that held you back a year ago?
“Just being young and inexperienced in some key areas. Anytime you lose as many talented seniors as we did two seasons ago you are going to have some growing pains. I think that was evident in the beginning of the year.”
What are your thoughts on this season?
“ I am excited about the season and the expectations of getting back to the playoffs. We know we are going to have to replace some talented seniors from last year but we feel like we have the depth to compete at the highest level.”
How did day one of two-a-days go?
“Really impressed with how are kids looked on day one. We know we have a long way to go but I’m excited with what I saw today.
Disappointed in the numbers we had out today only having 53 show for day one of camp. I was always about big numbers but I realized more today than ever that it’s not always about how many you have but having the right ones.
The ones who want to be here and be part of something special. So we are really excited about the kids we have out today we know we got a special group and can’t wait to start the season.”
Writer’s note: One area that held Natalia back with #s is the fact only five freshmen came out after their 8th grade team struggled a season ago.
What are early Areas of strength you see?
“Our offense will be our strength this year. We bring back 9 guys on the offensive side and they’ve had a great spring and summer. The timing and the fluidity of the system is really rolling right now and I’m excited to see us put it all together at fall camp.”
What are some areas of see that need improvement already?
“We will need to replace some veteran leadership on the defensive side. We have some young guys we think that can help in those areas but we know we’ll go through some growing pains trying to find the right pieces. I feel like our offense is prepared to carry us during those times.”
Do you have any early team goals?
“Our team goals never change. We just want to continue to get better every game. We always want to stay healthy and be peaking by the time we get to district. The goal is and will always be to win a district championship.”
Thoughts on being picked 2nd by DCTX Football?
“I usually pay no mind to those types of things, but I think it’s important to our kids and community. Rightfully so, we have been picked last more times than not and to see what our kids have been able to build here is humbling.We understand that we have a lot of work to do in order to live up to the expectations that have been placed on us and we are excited about the opportunity. I think it’s important to point out that we don’t get these recognition without the teams and staff that have come before us. I make that point clear to our staff and program that we have a responsibility to do our part in protecting the culture and tradition being built here in Natalia. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been here as long as I have and to watch our program grow like it has.
We are looking forward to continuing the Championship Culture being built here by Trusting The Process and going to work every day for the name across the chest.
Writer’s notes: Natalia is picked to finish in 2nd behind Poth, but ahead of Skidmore-Tynan, Stockdale, Dilley and Nixon-Smiley. The Mustangs return 19 athletes including eleven lettermen. This includes 8 offensive starters and six defensive starters. Natalia will strap on their pads this coming Friday, August 9th for their first full contact day. The season gets underway on August 16th as they travel down US 90 west to long time former district foe Brackett for scrimmage #1.
I am always asked my opinion (un-bias) of the season and the following is my prediction: I predict the Mustangs will go 7-3 on the season and advance to the football playoffs for the first time in two seasons. Look for a high scoring offense led by QB Wyatt Woodson and his receiving core as well as some youthful, yet hard-nosed Rbs. I also look for a much improved offensive and defensive line and of course, a down and dirty defense who will hit you in the mouth. This will be a fun season for Natalia Mustang Football and if things go just right, it could turn into an 8-2 season, or even a 9-1. Heck who knows. If the Football Gods give us breaks they normally don’t, maybe even a 10-0 year, but there is plenty of work ahead as well as health and grades that play factor. #GoBlue
Natalia’s final scrimmage will be on August 22nd at home versus the Sabinal Yellow Jackets who have a brand new head coach. We will have more on the Mustangs in next week’s Devine News.
By Eric Smith