Natalia Mustangs dominate Taft Greyhounds

QB #8 Ryan Rizo takes the snap protected by the offensive line, led by #62 Alonzo Aguinaga.

The Natalia Mustangs (8-3) snapped a two game skid with an impressive 35-7 Bi-District Victory last Thursday night over the Taft Greyhounds (8-3). The Mustangs dominated the Hounds in every aspect of the game, as they used 447 yards of offense and 27 1st downs to run past the San Patricio County squad. This marked the third straight year the Natalia Mustangs have won the Bi-District Title in Football.
“I am proud of our kids and coaches and what they’ve been able to accomplish here,” Natalia Head Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “I’m just humbled to be part of it and to see how far our program has come. I’m happy for our community. I never forget where we’ve come from and how hard it was to get here. A lot of people paid a price for us to have this opportunity. I’ll forever be grateful for them. This is just as much theirs as it is ours.”
The Natalia offense got the ball to start the game and wasted no time getting things rolling. What started at their own 34 yard line, resulted in an 8-play touchdown drive. Natalia scored on a Ryan Rizo QB keeper with 8:57 to go in the 1st quarter. The PAT by Manuel Garcia was good, as the Stangs took a 7-0 lead.
The Natalia defense did a great job of holding a talented sophomore QB grounded the entire night. Natalia was able to force two turnovers including one that came in the 2nd quarter with 9:01 to go. Acosta was able to complete a pass to Efrain Ozuna, but he fumbled the ball. Natalia’s Jaiden Burford recovered it as Natalia took over at the Taft 41 yard line.
Natalia used six plays to drive 41 yards with a rush heavy attack by Elijah Banda. Natalia capped off the drive with a Rizo pass to Burford for a 19 yard strike with 7:17 to go. The PAT by Garcia was good, as the Stangs took a 14-0 lead.
The game truly turned on the ensuing drive by the Greyhounds. Taft got the ball at their own 40 yard line and used 15 plays to march down field. The Mustang defense was able to rise and stop the Hounds on a 4th down and 2 plays at the Natalia 7-yard line. This allowed the boys in blue to take over at their own 9 yard line.
Natalia’s rushing attack took control, as E. Banda, Luis Buentello and Adrian Vasquez ran the ball well and marched down the field. The biggest run of the drive came on play one, as E. Banda broke loose for a 56 yard gain. Banda capped off the drive with a 3 yard touchdown run with 7 seconds to go in the 1st half. The PAT by Buentello failed, but the Stangs took a 20-0 lead into the half.
To start the second half, the Hounds found their only true success offensively on their opening drive. Acosta accounted for the majority of his passing yards, as he had five strikes during the drive including passes of 46 and 19 yards. The Hounds scored with 10:47 to go in the 3rd, as Acosta II found Tyrae Lockett for an 11 yard score. The PAT was good, as the Hounds cut the lead to 20-7.
Natalia wasted little time answering back, as they got the ball at their own 46 and went to work. The Banda brothers shared six runs in a row, before Rizo raced in showing he too could run the ball from 19 yards out with 7:29 to go in the 3rd quarter. The two point run by E. Banda was good, as the Stangs extended their lead to 28-7.
The final scoring drive for Natalia came on a drive that began with 5:13 to go in the 3rd quarter at their own 45 yard line. Natalia used nine plays to score on a N. Banda run with 1:10 to go in the quarter. The PAT by Buentello was good, as Natalia took a 35-7 lead that they never would relinquish.
Coach Martinez was asked his thoughts on a fast start by the Natalia offense.

The Mustangs celebrate after winning Bi-District.

“Credit to Coach Terry and his staff for having our kids prepared,” Martinez said. “After watching the film from last week there were some glaring areas we needed to improve and we challenged our kids and they responded. That’s a credit to them for going out and executing.
Impressive Offensive Showing
As mentioned, the Natalia Mustangs used 71 plays to produce 447 yards of offense which included 130 passing and a rush heavy 317 yards off 54 carries. QB Rizo finished the game 12-17-130-1TD-1INT. Garcia led in receiving yards with 2-58 as Gabriel Perez had 4-34. On the ground, E. Banda led with 12-121-1TD as A. Vasquez had 10-78 and L. Buentello 10-52.
Hard-nosed defense
The biggest difference between this ball game and the previous two was the level of intensity by the Natalia defense. There were no arm tackles vs. the Hounds, but instead solid hits, solid tackles that resulted in a number of boys in blue getting in on each and every tackle making the Hounds pay.
Natalia held Taft to 195 yards of offense on 53 plays including 53 yards of rushing and 142 passing forcing the two turnovers.
“Our defense has been the strength of our team all season long,” Martinez said. “I know they take it personally the way things have been the past few weeks. Coach Crowther and his staff put together a great game plan and our kids played to their ability and played the way they play. Flying around and being physical.
Defensive Leaders: Assists- Garcia 4, E. Banda 4, D. Perez 3, Paul Zapata 2, Rene Velasquez 2. Solo Tackles-N. Banda 8, D. Perez 5, Christopher Saldana 4, E. Banda 3. Tackles for a loss- N. Banda 2, D. Perez 2. Caused Fumble- D. Perez 1, E. Banda 1.
Natalia holds down the talented QB
Natalia held Johnny Acosta II to 15-30-142-1TD-1INT and sacked him a number of times and also pressured him throughout the night.
“It was a focal point for us going into the game,” Martinez said. “Our kids did a great job of shutting him down. They were all over him all night long.”
Final Thoughts
“Overall I am very proud of our team and their ability to find a way to come back and win the way they did after a two-game skid,” Martinez said. “It was important to them to bring home another gold ball and they did what they had to do to make that happen. The success is theirs and I couldn’t be happier for them. Seniors led out front and it was evident.”
Area Playoffs are set
The Natalia Mustangs (8-3) are set for the Area Playoffs which will be held this coming Friday at P-Field in Pflugerville against the Riesel Indians. See the playoff preview for more details.
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer