MULESHOE – Bushland opened up a 21-point lead in the first 12 minutes of the game which was more than enough as the Falcons handed upstart Muleshoe its first loss of the season in convincing fashion, 56-26, at Benny Douglass Stadium on a cold, windy, Friday night.
The Falcons (6-1, 1-0) offense was near perfect in execution throughout the first half leaving Muleshoe in a difficult position the Mules never could recover from.
Muleshoe (6-1, 0-1) had been one of the biggest surprises of the 2023 season off to a 6-0 start for the first time since 2009, and had a great crowd on hand hoping to see if this was the year they’d be able to be a legit contender in District 2-3A Division I.
Though the Mules hung tough and had glimpses of opportunity, the Falcons closed those windows in many different ways.
The Bushland offense wasted no time getting on the board on the opening drive when quarterback Dawson Jaco found Kade Gavina on a bubble screen. Gavina did the rest sprinting 55-yards untouched to the house putting Bushland up 7-0.
On the ensuing possession, Jaco went back to work finding a wide open Tanner Adams down the sideline for a 59-yard pitch and catch pushing the advantage at 14-0. Bushland then closed a near perfect quarter when the Falcons took advantage of a failed fake punt by Muleshoe, leading to Jaco calling his own number for a 4-yard QB draw making it 21-0.
“Our tempo early in the first quarter set the tone,” Bushland head coach Josh Reynolds said. “We were able to score quick on the first possession and we scored in two or three plays. We just executed and it led to the defense being able to be more aggressive.”
Here’s where the Mules showed life and had a chance to get back into the ballgame. In the early stages of the second quarter, running back Daniel Sianez broke free speeding to paydirt from 55-yards that cut the deficit at 21-6. After the Muleshoe defense got Bushland off the field for the first time, quarterback Nathan Martens and the Muleshoe offense went back to work. However, while driving inside the Falcons 35-yard line disaster struck when Martens looked for tight end Sebastian Kervin down the sideline but never saw defensive back Ty Purcell over the top. Purcell made the interception, running it back 85 yards before being tackled at the Muleshoe 2-yard line. That huge momentum swing led to an Easton Fuentes 3-yard plunge with the Falcons taking total control at 28-6.
“Ty is going to hear about it during film,” Reynolds said. “You run that far and get tackled at the 2-yard line you have to score. But Ty is a great player and a great free safety. He has great football instincts. It looked like he batted it in the air, and I thought it was incomplete. He ended up catching it and taking it back and it was a huge play for us.”
The contest wasn’t close from that point forward. Bushland built a 49-12 halftime lead and never looked back.
Bushland totaled 509 yards of offense behind a memorable night from Jaco and a superb performance from his offensive line. Bushland’s senior gunslinger accounted for seven Falcon touchdowns going 21-of-27 for 387 yards with six TD passes. Jaco also rushed for another score on 28 yards.
Adams speed was another level snagging seven passes for a game-high 189 yards with two touchdowns and Gavina added 103 yards receiving on only four catches with three scores.
“It feels great to start off district with a win,” Reynolds said. “This is a rivalry and has been since we started playing these guys. They were 6-0 and we knew it’d be a big game, so we’re glad to leave with a victory.”
Sianez led Muleshoe with 218 yards on 18 carries with two TDs. Martens finished 16-of-31 for 185 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.