Second-half gaffes prevent Nixon-Smiley upset

Mustangs end season as bi-district finalists


THREE RIVERS -- Nixon-Smiley (4-7) needed to play a near-perfect game to upset the Corpus Christi London Pirates (9-1) on Thursday in their bi-district game at Three Rivers. Down 7-6 at the half, the Mustangs gave up 28 straight points before getting back on the board, ultimately losing the game 42-14.

“The biggest thing was trying to survive in the first half, try to get number 11 [Xaiver Arias] back in,” Nixon-Smiley head coach Pablo Ybarra said. “I was really proud of our kids. Our kids did a great job, responded really well on both sides of the ball. We [gave up] a touchdown in the beginning but we never got scared, we just kept fighting. I’m really proud of that young man that stepped up to be that backup quarterback because he held his own. We just got in the second half and it seemed like our intensity didn’t get to the same level in the first half.”

Last week, Arias was disqualified from the game against Dilley midway through the fourth quarter, forcing the starting quarterback to be suspended the first half of Thursday’s game. Sophomore Mario Ponce filled in for the first half, scoring on a three-yard run late in the first quarter. The scoring possession came after a blocked punt, which gave the offense the ball on the London 30-yard line. The Mustangs defense also had a goal line stop earlier in the game, recovering a fumble on their own two-yard line.

But after surviving the first half without their starting quarterback, Nixon-Smiley started out the third quarter with multiple penalties on all phases, from bad kicks on special teams to false starts on offense and personal fouls on defense.

“I think after a while, our kids started to get a little doubt in the back of their head,” Ybarra said. “It’s a big experience that we didn’t have, but we’ll have for next year and we got a ton of returning kids, we only graduate three kids.”

“[London has] a senior ball club and those seniors woke up in the second half and decided, ‘you know what, we need to take the game over,’” Ybarra explained. “Our kids were resilient in the first half, our kids played hard. They gave everything they had the first half. I can’t ask for anything more than that. It’s just the second half, we woke the bear up and we didn’t respond to that intensity level of that bear. It kind of caught up with them. That’s a sign of a senior ball club. And [London has] that.”

Nixon-Smiley’s second score came on a fumble recovery that was returned by Arias.

The Mustangs are expected to return 26 out of their 29-man roster, losing just three seniors, two of which are starters.

“It was a good experience, we’ll learn from this experience,” Ybarra said. “Next year the bar has been set, we’ll have to get back into the playoffs and win one next year.”

The Mustangs end their season 4-7 overall, 2-3 in district, good for fourth in District 15-3ADII.