No more moral victories for Mules ahead of district openerNathan Giese, Muleshoe Journal October 7, 2021 0 COMMENTS
Snyder was a 30-point favorite. The Tigers had just taken the top-ranked team in Class 3A Division I to the limit the week before, have 25 seniors on the roster compared to Muleshoe’s 28 total players, and looked early on ready to walk to another blowout victory.
Instead of rolling over, the Mules fought back. Down 19-0 in the first quarter, the Muleshoe football team orchestrated stellar second and third quarters and had the ball with 2:54 on the clock and a shot to take the lead.
Everything looked ready for the Mules to bring in a dramatic and emphatic victory. It wasn’t to be. Snyder held picked off Zach Hasley’s deep pass attempt to Irvin Torres – a connection that worked all game long – and added a late touchdown for a 45-33 win.
Some teams would consider the effort to get back in the game, and the narrow defeat to a great team, a bit of a happy loss. That’s not the case for Muleshoe (2-4 on the season) head coach Jason Richards.
Yes, he’s happy with the way the team responded to adversity, thrilled with scoring more points against Snyder than any team so far this year – the Tigers were averaging 8.8 points allowed per game before Friday – but the homecoming loss isn’t one Richards wants to be the standard.
“I’m done with moral victories,” said Richards. “I’m tired of that term. I think the kids have to understand that we can play with anybody on our schedule. Spotting them 19 points…we should’ve won the football game, in my opinion.”
Both teams and the swarm of fans attending the game had to wait for the dramatic. The rainstorm that swept through the area on Friday night forced the kickoff of Muleshoe’s homecoming game to be delayed 90 minutes – and kept players off the field for two hours.
It was Snyder that looked the readiest as the ball was kicked around 8:30 p.m. The Tigers forced the Mules to punt on their first three offensive drives of the game and turned each of their possessions into points.
Things looked bad to start the second quarter. Hasley’s pass attempt was picked off by Jorge Olivares around midfield. Already down 19-0, it was a bleak outlook.
Suddenly, the Mules found life. The defense forced a three-and-out. With the passing game not working, Muleshoe decided to get its running game some action. Sophomore Daniel Sianez took the opportunity and ran with it – literally. He burst up the field for a 26-yard gain on the first play of the drive and instantly became a focal point of the Mule attack. The drive ended when Hasley connected with Torres on a 20-yard score to make it 19-6.
The defense came through again, getting a stop on fourth down to halt a long Snyder drive. Four plays later, Hasley hit Torres on a 52-yard touchdown. In the blink of a eye, the Mules were only down six points at halftime.
All of this set up the third quarter, which was the equivalent of injecting a shot of Red Bull mixed with Pop Rocks. Each of the first five possessions of the second half resulted in touchdowns. Hasley connected with Sebastian Kirven on two scores – a 64-yard catch-and-run and a 2-yarder that was set up by a 52-yard connection from Hasley to Torres.
The Tigers scored again early in the fourth quarter to go back up by 11. Muleshoe’s ensuing drive fell short at the Snyder 14-yard line. With an offense that hadn’t been stopped so far, the Mule defense needed to step up again, and it did.
Snyder fumbled the ball on its first play of the drive and Jacob Reyes pounced on it, giving Muleshoe possession back. Two plays later, Hasley found Torres on a wheel route, their third touchdown connection of the game.
Sensing the game getting away from them, the Tigers tried to run as much clock as possible, constantly looking at the clock and waiting until the last second to snap the ball. The Mules had them right where they wanted them, but they needed the ball back.
Snyder couldn’t run the whole clock down, so Muleshoe got the ball back at their own 25 with 2:54 left. Following a pass incompletion, Zeke Kasel carved out 34 yards on three straight carries to get the ball into Synder territory. The next play looked open and destined to be the go ahead score. Instead, Snyder’s 6-foot-4 defensive back Tim Henderson used his length and speed to close the gap and pick off Hasley’s pass attempt, effectively ending the game.
“That second to last drive, probably should’ve ran the football a little more early,” said Richards. “I thought they were tired in the secondary and that kid came over and made a great play when he had a chance to go score and go up.”
Torres – Muleshoe’s Offensive Player of the Game – caught eight passes for 192 yards and his three scores. Kirven finished with six catches for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sianez ran for 106 yards on 17 attempts. Hasley was 17-of-33 for 324 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Brennen Davis was the Defensive Player of the Game with 15 total tackles. Victor Morales – the Special Teams Player of the Game – had a sack and Davian McMullen finished with 12 tackles.
It was a thrilling game to be sure, but to Richards, it was the wrong result.
“I think we should’ve scored two more touchdowns,” said Richards. “It probably should’ve been 47-45 Mules. Ifs and buts, right?”
One of the reasons Richards isn’t interested in moral victories anymore is because they don’t win district titles, and they don’t get teams into the playoffs. Only actual wins can get that done. That’s the focus now as the Mules open District 2-3A Division I play this week.
The Mules will get to stay home this week as they host Bushland. The Falcons kicked off a three-game winning streak by beating state-ranked and reigning state champion Canadian. The run-heavy team is Muleshoe’s first crack and getting into playoff position.
“Year in and year out they’re the standard in our district,” said Richards. “My staff has had a year to play them, to study them a little bit more, I feel like we have a really good plan for Friday night. We’ve got to start, sustain and finish, for sure.”