The season came to an end for the Mighty Mules Friday night when they fell to the Melissa Cardinals 49 to 36. And what a season it was! One loss the first game of the year to Shallowater, a 3A team that went deep in the playoffs, followed by a twelve-game winning streak filled with exciting moments and fun times.
In this game the Mules still supplied exciting moments, but it’s just not as much fun to lose. The weather was cold but nicer than the game last week in Midland, and a full moon watched over the large, loyal crowd that made the drive over to Sweetwater, including two full fan buses provided by Muleshoe ISD.
Melissa drew first blood with 6:56 on the clock, 0-7, and we answered with a strong drive down field that ended with a failed field-goal attempt.
Quickly into the second quarter, however, Isaac Baca tied the score running in for the TD, 7-7, but Melissa scored again making it 7-14, and we answer with a TD by Ryan Deleon, tying the score again at 14-14. But then we discovered they have their own version of an Isaac Baca bulldozer, their QB who just doesn’t go down easily. With 38 seconds on the clock, Melissa scores again, and it is now 14-21. When the Cardinals kick off, it is a short, dinky little thing that we suspect was designed to keep Saul Elizalde from running it back for a touchdown like he has been known to do. The Mules drive down for what looks like a touchdown before the end of the half and, alas, quarterback Beau Avila throws an interception with 8 seconds left, so we go into the half behind, not something we are accustomed to doing.
The third quarter looks more promising, however, as Isaac Baca quickly scores, runs for the two-point conversion, and we lead 22-21. Melissa answers by scoring again, 22-28, we have some troubles, lose the ball, and with 2:52 on the clock they score again, 22-35. Things are not looking good at this point. Based on their body language, I fear that this is when the psychology of the game is getting to the Mules. They have seldom had to come from behind like this, and I think the pressure of winning a semi-final game is almost worst than the tension of the final game-you are so close and yet so far from that last chance to shine-and I think it took its toll. With 2:21 left in the quarter, Avila loses another pass to an interception, and that seals the deal.
The fourth quarter starts with another quick Melissa touchdown, 22-42, which we answer with a good drive down close to the goal line when Ryan Deleon does not arise after the play. At all games, crowds usually do the right thing and are quiet our of concern for an injured player, but it seemed even more so this time, perhaps because of the stakes involved in a semi-final playoff. When he finally was loaded onto the cart and waved the high sign to everyone, both stands gave a rousing and relieved applause of approval. We were told he suffered an injured ankle. We wish him speedy recovery.
At 7:08 we are down close to their end zone, recover their bad punt snap and Isaac Baca runs it in for a TD; the score is now 29-42. I was hoping that would be the spark they needed. The band even tried to help by playing non-stop when Melissa was in the huddle to drown them with noise, but it didn’t work. Melissa goes on to score again, 29-49. With 1:01 left on the clock and two penalties in a row Jr. Baca is able to score, 36-49, but it is too little too late and the game is over. Final: Melissa 49-Muleshoe 36.
It was a night filled with explosive, exciting plays; they just had more of them than we did. But it was a memorable game, and I doubt there was a fan there that was sorry they had gone to the trouble to go and support the Mules, a bunch of “overachievers,” to quote Coach David Wood, who also said, “I would take a thousand seasons like this one. The kids always played all 48 minutes and left it all on the field every game.”
A season to remember.