Natalia football will graduate 10 seniors

The 2018 Natalia Football season did not come to an end many had hoped it would. The Mustangs found themselves on the outside looking in, in what turned out to be a very competitive 15-3A (Div. II).
After week one of the Texas High School Football Playoffs came to an end last weekend, the lone 15-3A (Div. II) team that remains alive and well in the playoffs is the District Champion Poth Pirates who are under-dogs this week vs a talented Van Vleck squad.
Although Natalia graduates ten talented seniors from their squad, Coach Ilyan Martinez along with his staff are hopeful the Stangs will be playing a year from now in week two of the TXHSFB Playoffs
The Natalia Mustangs concluded their season 4-6 overall record and a 1-4 district mark. They finished with 2,950 yards of total offense on the season while giving up 2,783 yards on defense.
Offensively, Natalia accounted for 407 rushes for 1,473 yards and were 102-193-1,477 passing. Natalia struggled with turnovers, as they gave up 9-11 fumbles and threw 13 interceptions. Natalia ran a total of 600 plays offensively and accounted for 172 1st downs.
When you look at individual stats, Jimmy Ray Gutierrez led rushing with 207 attempts for 867 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Stangs. QB Wyatt Woodson was next in line with 122 rushes for 376 yards and 8 touchdowns. Rounding out the top three rushers was Jacob Jass with 35 carries for 183 yards and 1 touchdown.
Passing, Woodson was 93-167-1,365 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Juelian Armendariz was 9-25-112-3INTs.
Receiving, Xavier Vasquez led Natalia with 33 catches for 506 yards and 3 touchdowns. Evy Curiel had 14 catches for 337 yards and 4 touchdowns as Diego Zapata rounded things out with 13 catches for 268 yards.
“Overall, this was not the season we expected or this community deserves,” Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “We let too many games get away from us and that can’t happen if we are going to be a championship program. We will go to work this off-season and the details of our program will be the focus, because when you lose close games and can’t finish, that comes back to the little things.
As mentioned, Natalia will graduate a total of ten seniors and here is what Coach Ilyan Martinez had to say about the group as a whole.
“What a great senior class,” Martinez said. “This senior class didn’t have a JV team its freshman year and a lot of these guys were thrown into the deep early in their careers. It’s shown with their maturity and leadership all year. They are very unselfish that gave the program everything they had. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of seniors. I am disappointed for them mostly, because everything we asked of them they did the right way and the results weren’t there.”
Coach Martinez also spoke about each senior individually:
#4 Ryan Juarez
“Ryan was a big part of our team and we will miss his reliability in the secondary. Ryan was a quiet leader, but always stepped up and spoke at the right times. Ryan is someone we could always count on. His reliability is what made him such a great player. He played at a consistent level all the time.”
#8 Oscar Martinez
“Oscar joined us this year for his first football season. He did a great job of contributing wherever we needed him. We will miss his athleticism on the defensive line.”
#9 Matt Contreras
“Matt is not just one of the unselfish leaders in our team, but in our program. He has done everything we have asked of him and never questioned our intent. We had to move him around a lot in his career and he has always handled it with first class character. We will miss his leadership.”
#11 Jimmy Ray Gutierrez
“I am really proud of Jimmy this year. He was a big part of our offense and did a great job of carrying the load for us. Jimmy had a season ending injury last year and I am really happy to see him make the most out of his senior season. We will miss his toughness and ability to run the ball so well.”
#22 Manny Padilla
“Manny has been playing varsity ball for us since he was a freshman. Manny embodies what Natalia Mustangs are about with his work ethic and commitment to the process. We will miss not only Manny’s ability to lock down the secondary, but his leadership and passion for Mustang Football. Manny led by example every day and it will be hard pressed to find anyone who works as hard as he does. That’s what makes him such a great leader, his work ethic which is second to none.”
#24 Demetre Perez
“Demetre has always had a great understanding of the game. It always came natural to him. That’s what made him such a great player for us. He wasn’t the biggest kid or the fastest, but he always found ways to make plays.”
#27 Brad Martin
“We will miss Brad’s unselfish commitment to our team and his ability to step in anywhere we needed him. Brad always set a great example of what a great teammate is with his unselfish work ethic. Brad worked extremely hard for us and always did things the right way.”
#56 Matthew Billalobos
“Matt battled injuries all year and did a great job of never letting it be an excuse. He showed great toughness throughout the year and I know that set a good example for so many young players on our team.”
#60 Joel Rios
“Joel did a great job of stepping in for us this year. We had to move him around to fit the needs of the team and Joel always handled it so well and contributed at every instance. We will miss his work ethic and commitment to the team. He was someone we could always count on to be here for whatever we needed.”
#72 Daniel Ramirez
“Daniel is going to be a big hole to fill next year as he did a good job of dominating the left side of our offensive line. Daniel took a great deal of pride in being big and physical. We are going to miss his physicality and toughness on our offensive line. Daniel’s toughness and work ethic is what made him such a great leader for our program.”
Looking ahead
The Natalia Mustangs did have a number of talented stat leaders that will return next season as well as a junior varsity squad who won 8 games and tied two.
“We are just ready to get back into the grind,” Martinez said. “We are focusing on the details and getting stronger and faster every day. We will have another young class next year and we will need to spend a lot of time preparing them. I am excited about the future of our program. I am proud of our athletes and coaches. I know they worked extremely hard to be better, but sometimes things didn’t go as planned. We will be better for it and I am certain for that.”
By Eric Smith