By Delton Wilhite
Nothing makes a head coach smile and want to run than a 70-yard punt return. The Mules head coach, David Wood, was doing his best to cheer Yoel Reyes to the end zone midway through the first period Friday.
The Mules shutout the River Road Wildcats 40-0 Friday night in Muleshoe’s Benny Douglas Stadium.
The Mule defense held the River Road Wildcats to a three-and-out on the Wildcats first possession. The punter short-legged the punt and it did not go as far as Y. Reyes had anticipated.
He waited for the ball to hit the turf and bounce before grabbing the ball at the Mule 30-yard line. Y. Reyes headed toward the Wildcat side of the field and found his path blocked.
He reversed his field, broke an arm tackle, and raced back toward the Mules’ side of the field where Brady Martinez made a block that allowed Y. Reyes to turn up the field. The Mules had built a black wall of blockers along the sideline.
Y. Reyes and Wood raced together down the Mule sideline with Wood cheering Y. Reyes with every step. Thirty yards from the end zone Y. Reyes cut back to the center of field where Romeo Reyes made the final block that cleared a path to the end zone.
“That was a thing of beauty,” said Coach Wood about Yoel Reyes punt return. “He made all the right moves and found the blocks being made by his teammates. Something like that will ignite a team.”
Brady Martinez booted the ball through the uprights to give the Mules a 7-0 lead over the Wildcats with 6:30 left in the opening period.
Martinez kicked off to the River Road 22, and Zach Atwood zipped downfield to make the tackle at the Wildcat 31.
A high snap on first down ruined the Wildcat timing. Carlos Meza took advantage of the situation and crushed the River Road quarterback for a 10-yard loss. An incomplete pass on second down set up a third down and 20 yards needed for a first down.
Meza bull rushed the next play and almost blasted the offensive tackle back into the quarterback. Julian Astorga caught the fleeing quarterback from behind for another 10-yard loss.
River Road punted to the Mule 44 and Y. Reyes returned to the Wildcat 33.
R. Reyes was on the receiving end of a screen pass that went for seven yards. Luke Del Toro started left and then pitch to Mikey Lozano for seven yards and a first down at the River Road 22.
Del Toro passed to Isaac Mendoza in the left flat for three yards. The Wildcat defensive end came crashing into the Mule backfield and appeared to be on his way to a sack. Y. Reyes had quickly made a move on his defender, and Del Toro passed to a spot.
Del Toro and the defensive end went to the turf together, and neither could see what was happening downfield. But Del Toro knew from the cheer of the Muleshoe crowd that his pass had found Y. Reyes five-yards deep in the Wildcat end zone.
Martinez kick was perfect to give the Mules a 14-0 lead with 2:05 remaining in the first period.
Late in the second period, the Mule defense put pressure on the River Road punter. He punted the ball out of bounds at the Wildcat 40-yard line.
Moises Vasquez, the Mules’ center blocked the nose guard to the left, Rudy Ruiz tied up the outside linebacker, and Ryan Rodriguez slammed in the middle linebacker. Lozano took off up the middle for a 40-yard scoring run. Again Martinez kick was good, and the Mules led 21-0 with 1:43 left in the first half.
The Mules kicked off, and Jordan Vela made the stop at the River Road 28.
River Road gained five yards on first down. An incomplete pass left the Wildcats needing five yards on third down. Fernando Rivas packed the Wildcat quarterback down into the artificial turf and jarred the ball loose.
Jacob Kettner recovered the fumble at the River Road 27.
The Mules gained a first down at the River Road 18 with seconds remaining in the first half. Del Toro set two sniffer backs to the right side, took the deep snap and put a lot of air under the ball.
Y. Reyes ran his defender deep in the end zone and then turned around just in time to catch the fade for a 13-yard touchdown with five seconds still on the clock. Martinez added the point after to extend the Mule lead to 28-0 at the intermission.
The Mules converted a River Road fumble to points on an 18-yard scamper by Lozano just 38 seconds into the third period. The Mules led 34-0 with 11:22 remaining in the third period.
The Mules scored one last time on a two-yard toss from Del Toro to R. Reyes in the end zone.
The Mules had one last opportunity to score but took three victory knees to drain the clock.
The Mules rushed for 113 yards on 26 carries and passed for 186 yards for a total offense of 299 yards. Luke Del Toro completed 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards three touchdowns. Mikey Lozano completed four of five pass attempts for 64 yards and rushed 12 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Justin Carrion rushed five times for 10 yards.
Romeo Reyes caught five passes for 53 yards and one touchdown. Yoel Reyes made two receptions for 33 yards and two touchdowns. Isaac Mendoza had three catches for 32 yards. Brady Martinez had two receptions for 18 yards, and Matt Alarcon made one catch for 15 yards.
The Mule defense held the River Road Wildcats to just six yards of offense in the first half. The Wildcats finished with a total of 127 yards of offense with 18 yards being through the air and 79 coming on the ground.
The Mules combined for 87 tackles. 17 being for losses, 10 were sacks, 11 on special teams, broke up seven passes, caused two fumbles, recovered four fumbles and intercepted one pass.
Isaac Mendoza led the Mule defense with 13 tackles; four were for losses, three were sacks, made two big hits, broke up a pass, caused two fumbles and recovered two fumbles. Carlos Meza had 10 tackles; five were for losses, three were sacks, made one big hit, and hurried the quarterback three times.
Corbin Hardwick also made 10 tackles, one on special teams, three were for losses, one sack, and made one big hit. Fernando Rivas had eight tackles, one for a loss, one for a sack and hurried the quarterback four times.
Justin Carrion made three special teams tackles, and Mikey Lozano intercepted a pass.
The Mules are 2-0 in district action and will travel to Friona to battle the 2-0 Friona Chiefs for a share of the district lead Friday night at 7:30 PM.