Teams to Watch in 2017: Madisonville Mustangs
When the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey forced Diboll to cancel its week one game against Madisonville, it took all of about 10 minutes for coach Rusty Nail and the Mustangs to find a new opponent.
Caldwell was also forced to cancel its opener against Teague, so coach Donnie Osborn and the Lions reached out to Nail in hopes of getting a game on the schedule.
The short turnaround made the Madisonville win over then No. 7 Teague that much more impressive. The Mustangs were clicking on all cylinders, and kicked off the new season with a 24-0 victory.
"I was proud of the way our kids handled the sudden change and just the effort they gave Friday," Nail said. "The first game mistakes everybody has were there, but for Madisonville to pitch a shutout in the first game – that hasn't happened in a while. That was good for our kids."
It was the Mustangs' first shutout win since a 34-0 victory over Diboll in 2012, giving Nail a signature victory early in his second year as the school's head coach. Nail, who got his start in coaching at Madisonville as an assistant in 1992, returned to the Mustangs' sideline last year after an extremely successful run at Mart and a short run in the private sector.
After leading Mart to a 105-23 record with two state titles in his first stint as a head coach, Nail is eager to lead the team that helped him get a foot in the door to similar successes.
"There's nothing I want more," Nail said. "After all the successful years in Mart, you couldn't have written a storybook story better than that being my first head coaching job with the things my athletes got to experience. I would love for this community to get a taste of that."
It didn't take long for Nail to set that path on its course.
The Mustangs went 1-9 in 2015, but he took over and led the team to a three-win season and a berth in the playoffs last season. While the big win over Teague was another step in the right direction, Nail said Madisonville still has a lot of work to do this year to get where he wants to be.
Nail reminded the team this week they won last year's season opener as well, but went on to experience some first-year growing pains.
"It's not about what we did last week," Nail said. "It's about moving on, turning the page – we'll be tested again by Woodville."
Woodville will provide a different kind of kind of challenge for the Mustangs as they look to continue their momentum from week one. While Teague looked to spread the ball out to a dynamic group of skill players, Woodville will look to use an advantage on size in the trenches to attack the Mustangs.
There is still a long way to go this season, but it appears Nail has Madisonville prepared to compete with Bellville for the District 2-4A championship.
"I told our coaches after walking out of a scrimmage in August that we're a contender in this thing if our kids stay healthy," Nail said. "Our goal now is to compete for a district championship and get several rounds in the playoffs."