Marble Falls Mustangs
2018 OUTLOOK: When thinking of the Mustangs, most immediately go to Andrew Stripling, the team’s 6-foot-5-inch senior quarterback entering his third season as a starter.
But Stripling represents a senior class that features multiple classmates with two years of varsity experience who have played in the same offensive and defensive systems for five years. They include Cooper Wilson, Dillon Mayberry, Zach Fearn, Brock Linder, Jayden Bridges, and Reece Vanhoose.
The experience and depth are what excites head coach Mike Birdwell and his coaching staff.
“They love each other,” he said of the coaches and athletes. “We feel like it can pay dividends on Fridays.”
But what people might not know is how much time the veterans have spent working with the underclassmen. A great example is Stripling, who made sure he invited backup quarterback Luke Nail, a sophomore who spent last season as the junior varsity signal caller, to join him for lifting and conditioning sessions. The two have great rapport, Birdwell said.
“We have depth at quarterback, and it’s something we’ve lacked in the past,” the coach said. “They’re fighting for the same spot, but they support one another and do everything in their power to help the other get ready to go in and play. It’s really refreshing when you have kids who want to compete and lead.”
People also think of senior running backs Mayberry and Wilson, but they should add Hayden Wells and Josh Whitecotton to the mix, two players who will provide diversity to the running attack as all four bring something unique coaches can use in a variety of ways.
Four starting offensive linemen return: Genaro Arreguin, Braiden Whiteside, Chance Haley, and Andy Arreguin. The new starter is Mauro Palacio. Alumnus Cyril Lemon, who spent time in the NFL, is the new offensive line coach, and he is constantly teaching, correcting, encouraging, and demanding the players’ absolute best.
“We’re trying to get good in regards to the running game,” Birdwell said. “We want those five guys to have a relationship with the running backs. They’re feeling the hole, not just seeing it.”
The defense will be set by inside linebackers Vanhoose and Fearn, who has started at least 20 games, and linemen Sam May, Whitecotton, and Ernesto Castenada, all returners who logged significant minutes last season.
“It’s critical to have that continuity with those kids,” Birdwell said.
He noted defensive backs are battling for starting positions.
“It’s the one where the competition is on fire,” he said. “We have no significant starters. The kids individually are hungry to prove themselves. Our coaches are stroking the fire.”
The Mustangs will compete in a new district in Division II. Four playoff spots are still up for grabs, and most believe Brenham is the odds-on favorite. Marble Falls has played district members Georgetown East View and Bastrop Cedar Creek before. The Mustangs are expected to finish fifth.
Marble Falls opens the season Aug. 31 at Canyon Lake. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Listen to the game on KBEY 103.9 FM or at KBEYFM.com starting with a pregame program.
All games kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday unless otherwise noted.
Aug. 31 at Canyon Lake, 22-0 loss
Sept. 7 vs. Burnet, 34-14 win
Sept. 14 at Navarro, 42-32 win
Sept. 21 BYE
Sept. 28 at Georgetown East View, 38-14 loss
Oct. 5 vs. Elgin (homecoming), 57-50 loss
Oct. 12 vs. Brenham, 41-21 loss
Oct. 20 at Bastrop, 34-7 loss
Oct. 26 vs. Leander Glenn, 20-7 win
Nov. 2 at Pflugerville Weiss, 38-6 win
Nov. 9 vs. Cedar Creek, 21-20 win