Natalia picks up huge win vs. Randolph

The Mustangs celebrate the recovery of a turnover.

Emotions were flying high and the Natalia home crowd had come alive as the Randolph Ro-Hawks were faced with a 4th down and a long 1 with just under 1-minute to go in the game from their own 43 yard line. The Mustangs were clinging on to a 27-21 lead in a game they had had the upper hand in throughout the second half.
There was an obvious mix-up in communication and a bit of panic on the Ro-Hawk sideline, as numerous coaches signaled what they had hoped would be a huge play with only one time-out left.
What happened next has never been seen in recent memory in a game, as the Randolph QB J. Athrur spiked the ball, resulting in a turn-over on downs. Two plays later and the Mustangs were celebrating, as they had defeated a heavily favored Randolph squad 27-21.
“I am very proud of how our team was able to win in a tough game,” Natalia Head Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “This was a great, tough team win for our program and I could not be more proud of how our kids and coaches never stopped fighting.”
This game had a huge turn in momentum, as the Ro-Hawks came out sporting plenty of speed and ability to begin the game. Randolph began their first drive at their own 22 yard line and their talented and quick RB #43 Moore, was able to take the first play around the right side of the field and headed west 73 yards to the Natalia 1 yard line. One play later and QB Arthur was in for the Randolph touchdown with 11:23 to go in the 1st quarter.
Natalia got the ball back, but on the 5th play of the drive, threw the first interception of the game allowing the Universal City squad to take over at the Natalia 49 yard line. Randolph marched down eight plays and 51 yards for a second Ro-Hawk touchdown, with 5:07 to go in the opening quarter allowing for a 14-0 lead which had a sense of shock and silence on the home-side of the stadium.
“We told our boys before the game it was going to be a heavyweight fight,” Martinez said. “We challenged them to stand in the middle and keep throwing no matter what happens. Randolph came out and gave us their best shot early and we had two choices: We could stick our foot in the ground and fight our way back, or shut it down.”
The Mustangs stuck their foot in the ground and consistency began to come on both sides of the ball thanks to major improvements every play by the offensive and defensive line.
More adversity would hit Natalia later in the second quarter, as Natalia threw their second interception, but the defense began to battle and never gave in for the remainder of the half.
Natalia was able to get on the board with 2:18 to go in the first half. Natalia capped off a six play drive which included heavy doses of runs by senior RB Jacob Jass and junior QB Wyatt Woodson. Woodson ran in from 1 yard out to put the Stangs on the board. Diego Hernandez put the kick thru the upright and Natalia had cut the lead in half. Natalia’s defense held and this is how the game stood at the half.
Natalia received the football to begin the second half and they wasted no time going to work. Natalia started at the Natalia 39 yard line. They used runs by Jass and two big pass plays from Woodson to Diego Zapata including a big 3rd down and 7 from the Randolph 42. Woodson found Zapata over the middle; he shook off two defenders and raced in from 42 yards out for the Natalia TD. The Hernandez PAT was on target, as Natalia tied the game 14-14 with 10:30 to go in the 3rd quarter.
Randolph got the ball back, but turned the ball over on downs after a seven play drive stalled out at the Natalia 19 yard line in what was a huge stand by the Natalia defense.
Big Blue used sixteen plays and over 5-minutes to march down 81 yards for a touchdown thanks to Jacob Navarro running in from two yards out. During this drive, it was more Jass, Woodson as well as two pass plays to Zapata with all of this being made possible thanks to the offensive line who was winning a battle for a second straight week vs a bigger defensive line.
The Hernandez PAT was good, as Natalia had stormed back to take a 21-14 lead with 1:09 to go in the 3rd quarter.
The Mustang defense rose to the occasion again in the 4th quarter, forcing Randolph to punt the ball back on their ensuing drive.
Natalia put the dagger in on a nine play drive that went 98 yards and over 4-minutes. Natalia used a Woodson 12 yard run, a Jass 4-yard run, a Jass 22-yard run, a Jass-13 yard run, a Jass 3-yard run, a Woodson 12-yard run, a Jass 4-yard run and a Woodson 10 yard run to score with 7:29 to go in the game. The PAT was no good, but Natalia’s lead was now 27-14.
Randolph got the ball back at their 34 and wasted no time marching down the field. This is when controversy happened, as the Ro-Hawks Arthur raced into the end zone from 8 yards out on the eighth play of the drive. He fumbled the ball prior to crossing the goal line and Natalia picked it up and raced 20 yards before being caught. No official truly had a good view, yet one called it a touchdown after discussing the play. Film would prove it was not a touchdown, but this made for an interesting finish.
On the ensuing drive, Natalia stalled out offensively, giving Randolph the ball back at their own 21 with 1:56 to go in the game. Natalia had forced a 4th and 1 and well, the rest was history as the football Gods reversed a bit of luck with allowing Randolph to spike the ball down, ending their own contest after the previous touchdown should not had counted. In the end, Natalia had picked up a huge 27-21 win, one of the rare vs. this Universal City squad in the history of the two meeting.
“We showed great maturity and growth during this game,” Martinez said. “Offensively, our staff had all hands on deck looking for the adjustments to get the ball moving. Our kids did a great job of executing the adjustments and making the big plays when they needed. Wyatt did a great job of managing the game and made some big plays for us. Senior Jacob Jass stepped in when needed and really took the game over. He had a senior type game and helped us get the win.”
Offensive Stats: Natalia finished with 406 yards of offense on 59 plays. This included 171 passing and 235 rushes on 40 attempts. Jass rushed 22 times for 132 yards as Woodson rushed 13 times for 83 yards. Adrian Vasquez rushed 2-10 at the beginning of the game before going out with a nagging issue. Woodson was also 9-19-171-1TD-2INTs as Zapata led the receivers with 5-121-1TD.
“Our defensive staff did a great job of making adjustments and finding a way to stop their offense after they got two quick scores on us,” Martinez said. “Our defense was led by defensive back Saul Valadez and our defensive line. Our line did a great job coming off the ball and making some big plays. Saul had some big plays for us with an interception and some big hits.”
Randolph finished with 366 yards of offense which included 47 passing and 319 rushing.
One area Natalia improved on drastically was penalties. Natalia cut their penalty yards way down with just 4-30 compared to over 130 yards a week ago.
“It was purposeful approach this week for us after a sloppy game one,” Martinez said. “I was proud of our kids being intentional in their focus on Friday and we had a much cleaner game.”
Legacy Bowl Game
Natalia turns their attention to the 59th rival meeting with Lytle which will be the 10th annual legacy Bowl. This game is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Walter Joyce Stadium in Lytle. See the preview story for more details.
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer