These are the games coaches want to play prior to the start of district play.

Line up against good programs, play tough competition and prepare oneself for the season that matters.

For the second week in a row, the Seguin Matadors faced a senior-laden and experienced team, and as in week one, the result was similar, as the Mats fell to 6A New Braunfels, 45-26.

“That’s what we want, it’s going to make you better,” head coach Travis Bush said after the game. “We scrimmaged tough teams, we play tough teams. They are good teams, but at the same time, they are teams we can compete with.

“When you play good teams like that you can’t miss opportunities, and that’s what we’re learning right now — so we when hit those things in week six or week seven in district, we are able to capitalize.”

The Matadors were undersized on the defensive side of the ball once again, as the offensive line for New Braunfels averaged 270 pounds, but two huge turnovers early gave Seguin a 7-3 lead.

Matadors linebacker John Michael Mata picked off a pass in the end zone to stop the Unicorns opening drive, and on New Braunfels next series, defensive back Dillion Gutierrez stepped in front of the receiver, intercepted the pass and returned it 34 yards for the touchdown to give Seguin the lead.

“The defense made some plays early that kept us in the ballgame,” Bush said. “We knew they were a good team and were going to make plays on both sides of the ball, but the defense did a good job and gave us some opportunities early.

“We just didn’t take advantage of some of those opportunities in the first half like we want to.”

New Braunfels answered that score with two straight scoring drives, the first a 17-play, 94-yard drive and the second a 59-yard scoring drive to take a 17-7 lead.

Seguin came right back on the next series, as running back Marques Washington broke the Mats biggest play on the night.

Taking a handoff right up the middle, Washington squeezed through a small hole at the line, and was off to the races on an 82-yard sprint to the end zone to pull Seguin back within a score, 17-13.

“We hit a counter there,” Bush said. “They were big and physical up front on the defensive line and we knew we would struggle running the football. But Marques did a good job making the cut, and he had some good runs all night.

“He’s got that breakaway speed, we’ve just got to find a way to get him through those holes.”

Trying to get into the half just four down, the Mats gave up a score with seconds left in the first half after the Unicorns blocked a punt on the Mats end of the field with just 50 seconds left. New Braunfels scored on a 28-yard touchdown pass on the next play to go into halftime up 24-13.

But the Mats came right back on the opening drive of the second half. 

Quarterback Micah Rodriguez, who got the nod after starter Jhalen Mickles sat out with a hamstring, hit a wide open Clark Ullrich on a 48-yard strike on the Mats third play from scrimmage, and the Mats trailed by five, 24-19.

“We crossed our receivers there, so we knew that would be open,” Bush said. “We talked at halftime how we needed to take the opening drive down and score to get some momentum back in the ballgame, and it was good to see them come out and do that.”

It was as close as they would get for the rest of the game.

Rodriguez was thrust into the starting role and fared well after an early interception., completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing for two scores.

“He just needed to get into a rhythm,” Bush said. “He got his first varsity start against a really good defense. He’s about 5-foot-5, so he couldn’t see some things. But we talked at halftime about getting him a big play, and once he hit that touchdown, he seemed to be more relaxed and made some big plays in the second half.”

The coach was pleased with the effort he saw from his team.

“The thing you can’t coach is the effort,” Bush said. “They’re giving great effort, and the mistakes we made are fixable. It’s just a matter of playing, getting some games under their belts and the experience of making plays, and missing plays, and learning from that experience.”

For the game, Washington was over 100 yards again, rushing 13 times for 140 yards and the one touchdown. Ullrich had two catches for 53 yards and a score, and Trevor Waz caught four balls and caught a one-yard TD pass for Seguin’s last score of the night.

The Mats face Central Catholic next Friday night at Matador Stadium. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at .

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