NIXON — The Nixon-Smiley Mustangs (4-6, 2-3) are in the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and just one year after a winless season. The Mustangs overcame a slow start to overwhelm Dilley (0-10, 0-5) in the second half, winning the game 29-14 to move to 2-3 in District 15-3ADII and clinch fourth place.
“We were excited, that’s been our goal since day one,” Mustangs head coach Pablo Ybarra said of the win. “We knew that we had the team to get to the playoffs this year. It was just a matter of getting over that hurdle. We knew that if we stayed on the same path with the same goals and worked really hard and got after it, we were going to get to the playoffs. We’re excited, it makes it even sweeter because you go from 0-10 to getting into the playoffs. It’s a real sweet feeling. We’re going to see how it goes from there.”
After a 7-6 first half, the Mustangs offense came alive in the second half, with a quick three-play, 53-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 17-yard Mario Ponce touchdown. Ponce scored two more times, once from one yard out and another from 73-yards out to get the Mustangs to 29 points.
“It’s a big game, our kids don’t know how to win certain games and this was a playoff atmosphere,” Ybarra said of the sluggish first half. “It was an experience they hadn’t seen before. Now they’ve experienced it and they understand the experience and know how to deal with that experience.”
“We came out a little flat,” he added. “I think we took [Dilley] for granted and we thought just because they were 0-9 they were just going to roll over and die for us. They came out and I tip my hat to them for doing a good job and coming out and taking it to us.”
But even then, the Mustangs allowed just one offensive touchdown, a first-quarter score that came after Dilley recovered a fumble.
“We played with some excitement that second half,” Ybarra said of his defense. “We got some good turnovers, we had some key plays [with our] defensive linemen, had some good sacks. We played well.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, up 29-6, the Mustangs defense forced another turnover, and Xavier Arias jumped on it to recover. But after the play was called dead, players on both teams began to shove each other, which led to Arias’ ejection. Freshman backup quarterback Bradyn Martinez took over, which then led to back-to-back mishandled snaps, ending with a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown for the Dilley Wolves.
Penalties began raining down on the Mustangs, but the team was able to hold off a potential Dilley comeback.
“We’ve been playing well the last couple of weeks,” Ybarra said. “We just hope that momentum carries on and see what happens. In the playoffs, anything can happen.”
Due to Arias’ ejection, the junior quarterback will have to sit out the first half of the game against the London Pirates out of Corpus Christi.
As of posting this story, playoff details have not been announced between Nixon-Smiley and London.