Natalia Mustangs open UIL workouts

The summer of020 m be one for the ages when it comes to anything but normal routines, but needless to say football is back, at least for now. Numerous local and state mandated protocols have been installed, as 51 Natalia Mustangs were up bright and early Monday for day one of UIL workouts as the hopeful season nears.
Natalia Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Ilyan Martinez was excited to get things rolling Monday morning, as the boys in blue are coming off a successful season in which they finished 8-4 overall 3-2 in district and advanced to the Area Playoffs before bowing out to East Bernard.
Sixteen starters from their playoff squad a season ago along with twenty-one letterman are back, as the Stangs will prepare for what will be a very unique yet tough season that could literally change week to week with the battle against the invisible virus as well as the physical opponent.
“Covid is something that has changed the way of life for us all,” Natalia Head Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “While it has impacted athletics small when you put it into perspective compared to how it has impacted lives in a much larger sense, it has still left its mark. Our message has been one of assurance and a positive mindset to our athletes.”
Overall high school program numbers did not dip much compared to day one a season ago, as Natalia had 55 out prior to Covid.
“We expected out 50-60 and we have a few more kids we expect to come out when it is all said and done,” Martinez said. “We can’t control what is going on beyond doing our part, but the things we can control we are very intentional about making the most of these opportunities.”
Monday morning workouts began just after 6:00 a.m. and ran until 11:00 a.m. where the Stangs were up running and gunning thanks to the veteran experience that returned to the squad.
“Our early strength I believe will be our offense which returns eight starters headed up by a very talented skill group along with big strong linemen,” Martinez said. “Our defense will not be far behind, but we will have some key spots we have to fill due to graduation.”
According to Martinez, the early weakness will be the same every other district around is facing.
“Our weakness will be a lot of schools weakness and that is our strength and conditioning,” Martinez said. “We are behind, but so is everyone else. Our program has been built on hard work, toughness, strength and endurance. Those are things we spend a lot of resources on in the spring and summer, but not having a spring or summer really has us behind.”
According to the staff, they are confident the kids will respond like they should and be ready when the season arrives.
When it comes to the actual season, the schedule for Natalia has changed three different times due to Covid related issues. We will go over the schedule next week as we get an update on the Mustangs after a full week of practice.
“Our goal this season is to have a season and keep everyone safe while doing so,” Martinez said. “Of course, we want to win and compete for a gold ball, but I think the mere fact we are playing football am dist the chaos is not something we intend to take for granted. We know every day we get to be together on the field is a blessing.”
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer