Mustangs earn first win to celebrate Homecoming
Nixon-Smiley’s Tom Palacio (44) and Jared Van Auken (32) trail the play as sophomore safety Tristan Newman (8) tackles a Bloomington Bobcat last Friday night.
NIXON -- The Mustangs have been struggling this season, but after a 28-21 Homecoming win over Bloomington last Friday night, the Nixon-Smiley football team is hoping to get back on track as it closes out the season.
The game started well for Nixon-Smiley, as the opening kickoff barely made it off the tee, and the Mustangs started inside Bobcat territory at the 44-yard line. Miguel Hernandez had a big run to get the Mustangs to the Bloomington 28, and then Jared Van Auken set the team up on the Bobcat 15-yard line. Unfortunately, the drive ended there, as a poor handoff exchange was fumbled, and Bloomington recovered at its own 15.
The Bobcats picked up a first down and moved the ball out across the 30, but the Mustang defense stopped Bloomington there, and the Bobcats were forced to punt.
After starting the drive at their own 47, the Mustangs needed just two offensive plays before Van Auken found running room along the visiting team’s sideline and raced his way to a Nixon-Smiley touchdown. The point-after attempt was wide left, but the home team was on top 6-0 with 4:03 to play in first.
After a Bobcat three-and-out, the Mustangs took over at their own 36-yard line and drove all the way to the Bobcat 16-yard line, where the drive stalled out. Nixon-Smiley quarterback Nick Pena was then caught behind the line of scrimmage on a fourth-down play, and the Bobcats took over at their own 27.
Although the Bobcats made it out to midfield, their drive ended with another punt. The Mustangs had a first-and-10 from their own 26, but a fumble on first down was scooped up by a Bobcat defender and returned 20 yards, officially, for a Bloomington touchdown. The Bobcats added the extra point, and just like that, Bloomington had a 7-6 lead.
Nixon-Smiley started its next drive at its own 25-yard line following a touchback, but quickly made its way to midfield. Tristan Newman then made his own way through the Bobcat defense, avoiding a host of would-be tacklers, racing 45 yards for a touchdown. Van Auken powered his way across the goal line for a 2-point conversion, and the Mustangs assumed a 14-7 advantage.
Looking to keep the momentum going, the Mustangs attempted an onside kick and then celebrated as the blue shirts came up with the ball at the Bloomington 43-yard line. Unfortunately, the drive went nowhere, and the Mustangs turned the ball over on downs at the Bobcat 46-yard line. Two plays later, Bloomington scored on a 20-yard run, and the score stood at 14-13 until halftime.
The Bobcats received the kickoff to start the second half, but eventually punted the ball back to Nixon-Smiley. The Mustangs drove the ball to midfield and soon found themselves in a fourth-and-1 situation. The handoff went to Van Auken, and he easily powered his way to a first down. A penalty then backed Nixon-Smiley up across midfield, but Hernandez took the ball 51 yards on the next play for a Mustang touchdown. The conversion attempt was no good, and the score stood at 20-13 with 5:53 to play in the third.
A few minutes later, the Bobcats scored their third touchdown of the evening on a 48-yard passing play. Bloomington added the 2-point play, and the Bobcats retook the lead at 21-20 with 2:14 to play in the third.
Garrett Earlywine set the Mustangs up with great field position at the 44-yard line with a terrific runback on the kickoff. Unfortunately, he also suffered a hard helmet-to-helmet impact that took him out of the game for the remainder of the evening.
Nixon-Smiley’s offense went back to work and Newman quickly picked up a big run to the Bobcat 25. Van Auken then took the Mustangs to the 12-yard line, and two plays later, Van Auken capped off the drive with a touchdown run from 4 yards out. Newman ran in the 2-point conversion, and the Mustangs went back on top, 28-21, with 11:21 to play in the game.
Possession went back and forth from there, and each team made defensive stops where it needed, including some key interceptions by Mustang defense, and a potentially game-saving pick by Pena. The Mustangs eventually took a knee to kill the clock, and then celebrated a 28-21 victory.
Van Auken had a monster night, rushing for 195 yards on 30 carries. Newman added 110 yards on 15 carries, and Hernandez tacked on another 109 on nine touches. Pena completed one pass on the night to Newman for 9 yards.
With the win, the Mustangs improve to 1-6 on the year and 1-3 in district play. Nixon-Smiley will travel to Cotulla this week to face the Cowboys. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.