Facing a 2020 state semifinalist team ranked No. 4 in Class 2A this season, it was important for the Three Rivers Bulldogs to establish some positive early momentum against the powerhouse Falls City Beavers.
Unfortunately for TR, the Beavers rolled to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter before the Bulldogs settled down and were able to dig themselves out of a hole. Three Rivers battled back and allowed only one more Falls City touchdown after that, but the Beavers held on for a 27-12 win in the season-opener in Falls City.
Sophomore quarterback Caden Soliz scored the Bulldog’s first touchdown on a 67-yard run, and also had a strong passing performance against the Beavers. Soliz later connected with sophomore D.J. Lancaster for a touchdown.
“Caden turned on the jets and was able to outrun the Falls City defenders to get us on the scoreboard, and he had a big night,” said TR defensive coordinator Kevin Sheppard.
“D.J. had a great night and there was another play where he got to the 1-yard line of Falls City – we thought he got into the end zone – and the ball got knocked away. It was a tough break because he was so close and he really did a fantastic job for us.”
The Bulldogs later recovered an onside kick, but the play was negated because a TR player had been offside.
The Beavers held a 27-6 lead in the second half before the Bulldogs were able to connect on the touchdown pass from Soliz to Lancaster.
“Caden was really balanced at running and throwing the ball, and it’s tough to run against a team like Falls City,” Sheppard said. “They are stacked and have some great players and a huge defensive line.
“(Lancaster) and Jacob Amaro had some great catches for us.”
Amaro also had a fumble recovery for TR and was among the Bulldogs’ defensive leaders.
“On defense, Kaiyden Inman (another sophomore) had a good game and played defensive end very well,” Sheppard said. “Zach Davis and Amaro did very well and helped contain their option game after the first quarter.
“Ethan Castro (also a sophomore) didn’t start for us but he played very well and may have earned himself a starting spot. Rigoverto Sanchez (as senior) did a great job for us at linebacker.”
Falls City’s talent, combined with missed assignments by the Bulldogs, helped the Beavers establish their commanding lead early.
“After that we settled down and played a good football game,” Sheppard said. “I’m really proud of our kids and the way they fought back. They didn’t give up when they got down early and that says a lot about them.”
The Bulldogs will play one of only four scheduled home games this season, hosting the Nixon-Smiley Mustangs at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3.
The Mustangs are led by Troy Moses, in his first year at Nixon-Smiley. Moses previously served as head coach at Lockhart in 2007-2008, leading the Lions to an 8-4 record the second season. From 2009-2012, Moses was head coach in Beeville. His best record during that stint was a 6-6 mark in 2011.
Moses, who was named Nixon-Smiley’s head coach in May, had served as offensive coordinator at Canyon Lake High School from 2013-2020. The Hawks most recent seasons with Moses guiding that offense resulted in finishes of 6-6 in 2020, 6-5 in 2019 and 7-4 in 2018.
The Mustangs went 3-6 in 2020, including a 1-5 mark in their Class 3A district. This year, the Bulldogs have switched to the slot T offense, which emphasizes physical play and usually a heavy focus on running plays.
Nixon-Smiley’s offense is led by quarterback Bradyn Martinez, who rushed for 449 yards last year and also started at defensive back for the Mustangs. He earned all-district honors at both positions. The backup to Martinez, a junior, is sophomore Luke Moses.
Last year, Three Rivers battled past Nixon-Smiley 27-21 on the road.
In the 2021 season-opener, the Mustangs topped the Bloomington Bobcats, 14-6.