By Delton Wilhite
The freshmen Mules took the best the Friona Braves had to offer Thursday afternoon, then turned the table on the Braves and came back from a 14-0 deficit in the opening quarter. The Mules outscored the Braves for a 30-26 win. Friona returned the opening kickoff 83-yards to take an early 8-0 lead over the Mules.
The Mules first drive reached the Friona 17 before a fumble returned the ball to the Braves. Friona scored eight plays later to extend their lead over the Mules 14-0.
Victor Velasquez covered the Braves’ onside kick at the Mule 48. Riley Kettner tossed to Joey Martinez at the Friona 46 and then battled his way to the Friona 39-yard line. Kettner again found Martinez open for 16 yards.
Kettner called his own number on back-to-back plays and scored on a 10-yard scamper up the middle. Joe Gutierrez ran through a hole off left tackle for the two-point conversion to cut the Friona lead to 14-8 with 1:26 remaining in the opening period.
Friona returned the ensuing kickoff to the Mule 45.
The Braves fumbled once and recovered for a three-yard loss. The Braves were separated from the ball a second time, and J. Martinez recovered at the Mule 44-yard line.
J. Martinez dragged Friona tacklers forward for an 11-yard gain on the final play of the first period. Gutierrez passed to Kurt Rodriguez for an eight-yard gain on the first play of the second quarter. Gutierrez kept the ball wide around the Mules’ left end for a 13-yard pickup.
J. Martinez broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, and then raced untouched the final 19 yards for a touchdown. Gutierrez kept wide left for the two-point conversion to put the Mules on top 16-14 with six minutes left in the first half.
Friona again took the lead on a five-yard run with 43 seconds remaining in the first half. Ricardo Martinez broke into the Friona backfield to stop the two-point conversion. Friona led the Mules 20-16 at the half.
The Mules and Braves exchanged fumbles during the third period, and neither team could reach the end zone.
Matthew Fabela intercepted a Brave pass at midfield on the first play of the final period. Gutierrez kept wide right for 11 yards. Gutierrez then tossed to J. Martinez for seven yards and was tackled by his facemask. The penalty advanced the Mules to the Friona 17.
Gutierrez rolled left and tossed to Rodriguez in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Mules again led Friona 22-20 with 6:39 remaining in the game.
Friona turned the ball over on downs at the Mule 39. Gutierrez kept up the middle for 17 yards. J. Martinez carried up the middle for 13-yards to the Friona 26. Gutierrez kept the ball on back-to-back plays for 10 yards and scored on a 15 yard run up the middle with 2:06 left in the game. J. Martinez tacked on the two-point conversion to end all scoring.
Joe Gutierrez rushed 15 times for 125 yards and completed five of 15 passes for 56 yards. He passed for one touchdown and ran for two two-point conversions. Riley Kettner rushed three times for 28 yards and completed two of three passes for 24 yards. He completed one touchdown pass.
Joey Martinez carried seven times for 72 yards and made three receptions for 41 yards.
He rushed for one touchdown. Kurt Rodriguez made three catches for 47 yards and scored on touchdown. Cesar Enriquez made one catches for nine yards.
Joey Martinez led the defense with 11 tackles and recovered one fumble. Joe Gutierrez made nine tackles. Matthew Fabela made five tackles and intercepted one pass.
The freshmen Mules do not currently have a game scheduled for Thursday evening as the Littlefield Wildcats cannot field a freshmen team.