Natalia wins battle at Ft. Sam 21-9

The Mustangs salute their fans after their victory over Cole.

The Natalia Mustangs did something not many boys who have put on the Mustang helmet have in the history of the football program. They were able to defeat the Ft. Sam Houston Robert G. Cole Cougars at Cougar Stadium last Friday night 21-9. This marked only one of a handful of times that Natalia has defeated the Army base squad throughout the history of the two meeting on the field. Big defensive stops helped the Mustangs overcome a number of moments in which the Cougars could have taken charge. They also overcame a large amount of penalties that plagued progress throughout.
The boys in blue will now turn their attention, to a high flying 1-0 Randolph Ro-Hawk squad that comes to town Friday coming off a big win over District 15-3A (Div.II) favorite Poth.
“I am always happy to get a win,” Coach Ilyan Martinez said. “Winning is hard and learning how to win is part of the process. I felt like our kids found a way to win and overcome adversity. I was most pleased with how we handled adverse situations.”
Adversity hit the Mustangs at various times last Friday night, including on their opening drive when the Natalia defense was on their heels and not very aggressive. Cole used thirteen plays and just over 3:00 minutes to march 58 yards downfield before Natalia rose to the occasion on a crucial 3rd down play to hold the Cougars on their 12-yard passing attempt. As a result, Cole settled for a 29-yard field goal that just went over the bottom bar of the uprights giving the home squad a short lived 3-0 lead. This was one of three different moments in which the defense truly rose to the occasion when their backs were against the wall.
Offensively, the Stangs were slow out of the gate as well. They were not winning the battle up front for much of the first quarter, as Cole’s defensive linemen were chasing down QB Wyatt Woodson and staff early and often. As a result, the Natalia offense truly didn’t settle down until their 4th drive of the game thanks to three great defensive stands by the boys in blue.
Natalia got the football on their 4th drive at their own 31 yard line with 7:06 to go in the 2nd quarter of action. Natalia used a mixture of runs by Adrian Vasquez as well as passes from Woodson to Michael Martinez, Xavier Vasquez and Diego Zapata to help the Stangs march downfield. Facing 4th and 6 at the Cole 28, Natalia came thru with one of those big plays on a Woodson 10 yard pass to Zapata for the 21st down. One play later, Natalia took the lead on an 18 yard run by QB Woodson with 3:06 to go in the first half. The PAT by Diego Hernandez was good, as the Stangs took a 7-3 lead.
This is how the lead would stand at the end of the first half of football on base.
To start the second half, the Mustangs got the football and were hoping to add to their lead, but instead were forced to punt four plays in, stalling out at their own 48 yard line. One punt later and Cole got the football at their own 26. Cole began another long drive, this time one that went sixteen plays and stretched from their 26 yard line to the Natalia 5 yard line. Once again, with their backs against the wall, the Natalia defense came up with a huge stop as QB Walker Cunningham ran to the right side of the field in desperate need to find the endzone.
The ensuing drive was the true point in which Natalia took over this football game. They got the ball with 6:38 to go in the 3rd quarter. Natalia used 17 plays to march 97 yards eating up over 9:00 minutes on the clock. During this drive, there were huge runs by Adrian Vasquez, Woodson, Jacob Jass, and Jared Stallworth before Natalia struck on a 4th and goal at the Cole 1. This is when Natalia’s Jacob Navarro bulled his way in behind great blocking up front for the Natalia touchdown. The PAT by Hernandez was good, as Natalia led 14-3 with 8:39 to go in the game.
The Cougars got the football back at their own 31 with 8:39 to go. The Cougars used eight plays to march downfield before Natalia finished what they had started. On a 2nd down and 9 for the Cougars at the Natalia 9 yard line, RB Brooks was racing around the left side when defender Michael Martinez was able to force a fumble on Cole. Natalia’s Diego Zapata picked up the football and race 75 yards for the Natalia touchdown which put the Natalia fans who packed the visitor side of the stadium into a frenzy. The PAT by Hernandez was good, as Natalia led 21-3 with 3:50 to go in the game. This was the cherry on top of the cake for the boys in blue, as they could smell blood.
The Cougars caught the Mustang defense on their heels, as they were able to march down and score their first touchdown of the game with 10 seconds to go, but it didn’t matter. The Natalia Mustangs were on their way to a rare victory over the Cougars, 21-9.
“We had our backs against the wall many times defensively and we found ways to make big stops and forced turnovers,” Martinez said.
Coach Ilyan Martinez was asked the following questions about the game:
“What went well offensively?”
“I thought our offensive line led by Senior Uriel Arellano was dominant all night long. Our run game was very impressive for game one of the season. Our offense really imposed their will up front and I was really happy about that. Our offensive work horse was sophomore Adrian “AD” Vasquez. AD ran the ball hard and physical. I was really proud of the tough runs he had and the consistency at which he played all game. He really moved our offense. Our receivers were led by (Jr) Xavier Vasquez who came up with big catches down the stretch to really keep our offense alive. What I was most pleased with was how our wide-outs blocked all night. We didn’t throw much so they didn’t get much love but they did their part and it was an unselfish effort all night. (Jr) QB Wyatt Woodson showed he could really lead our team. He put our offense in a great situation all night making smart decisions and running the ball hard when his number was called.”
“What went well defensively?”
I was really happy with how physical our kids were defensively. They bowed their necks when they needed to and got the stops to really help us get the win. Our defense was led by (Sr) Lineman Mike Martinez. Mike was around the ball all night and created two turnovers that were big for our team. (So) Manuel Garcia was solid for our defense by making sure our defense was set and working sideline to sideline all night. Highlight of the night was (Sr) Diego “Dre” Zapata took back a fumble recovery to get a defensive score. Dre is the leader of our team and he came through in some big moments on both sides of the ball. The scoop and score was the nail in the coffin and I couldn’t be happier for how it played out.
“What areas held us back?”
Penalties were the glaring issue for us on Friday night. We had 17 penalties for about 150 yards. That is unacceptable and we have to be better. We won’t be successful if we don’t clean up those mistakes. Penalties are things we can control and we did a poor job of that. I think defensively we did a poor job of tackling. Tackling is something we take a great deal of pride and we didn’t compete in that area to our standards. We know we have a lot of work to do and we will use what we learned from Friday night’s game to help us be better. We will be very intentional about that.
Final team #s
The Natalia Mustangs ran 48 plays for 261 yards as Cole ran 55 plays for 314 yards. Natalia passed for 36 yards as Cole passed for 117. Natalia ran the ball 35 times for 225 yards as Cole ran 39 times for 197 yards. Natalia had the 17 penalties for 150 yards as Cole had 12-95 yards. Natalia did have 0 fumbles, but two interceptions as Cole lost two fumbles on the night. Natalia finished with 16 1st downs compared to 15 by Cole.
Individual #s
Natalia’s Woodson was 4-13-36-2INTs. Xavier Vasquez caught two passes for 22 yards, Zapata 1-10 and Martinez 1-4. A. Vasquez rushed 18-136, Woodson 13-66, Jass 2-17, Stallworth 1-5.
Defensive Leaders: Manuel Garcia led the team in tackles with 7 assists and 8 solo tackles totaling 15 on the night. Michael Martinez had 4 assist, 6 solos and caused 2 fumbles. He was also the Mustang Defensive Player of the week. Zapata had an 75 yard fumble recovery.
Upcoming Game
Natalia welcomes 1-0 Randolph to town Friday Night at 7:30 p.m. See the Randolph story for more details.
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer