The Nixon-Smiley High School football team opened 2020 season with a 43-7 rout of the visiting Bloomington Bobcats on Aug. 28 in Mustang Stadium.
The Mustangs attempted just one pass – a completion for six yards – while running the ball 51 times for 374 yards.
Quarterback Xavier Arias led the team with 148 yards on 12 carries and four touchdowns. Fullback Mario Ponce finished with 106 yards on nine carries. Seven players ran the ball for Mustangs, including a 69-yard, one-touchdown performance by Jesse Riojas – who also had the team’s lone reception. Bradyn Martinez added a touchdown.
“We need to get the younger kids experience,” said head coach Pablo Ybarra. “We are fortunate that the running game is one of our strong points. We were very pleased with their effort.”
Ponce also recorded an interception.
Week 2 preview
The team will try to open the season with two consecutive wins for the first time since 2011 when they host the Three Rivers Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4 at Mustang Stadium.
It will be the second consecutive week that 3A-2 Nixon Smiley will face a team from 2A-2 District 15. Three Rivers dropped its opener, 41-20, to Falls City, which reached the state 2A-2 semifinal game last year. Three Rivers went 8-4 last year and reached the area round of the playoffs.
Freshman quarterback Mark Morin will present a different challenge to the Mustang defense, Ybarra said.
“That quarterback runs well – he’s shifty,” Ybarra said. “That quarterback (Bloomington’s) sat in the pocket last week. (Morin) is going to stretch the defense a bit. This one is a threat that requires big adjustments.”
Ybarra said that Three Rivers’ defense is more aggressive than what the offense saw against Bloomington.
Like most teams, the Mustangs are playing catch-up on being in game shape after an offseason affected by COVID-19 issues.
“We’re coming along,” Ybarra said. “Being a smaller school, we have seven or eight kids going both ways. We’re going to focus more on conditioning this week to get into a little more football shape.
“We’re definitely playing some more kids this week to give players a breather in between – especially on special teams.”
A competition is still going for the left tackle spot.
The team will be without Jeremy Van Gundy for at least five weeks after the senior starting linebacker broke his arm in the Bloomington game.
With school starting Sept. 1, Ybarra hopes the return to routine will help the players settle down after what has been anything but a business-as-usual start to the year.