Mantachie started the 2019 campaign on a new foot and, as the coaching staff will tell you, they are attempting to establish a new identity after a couple of rebuilding years in the crowded 3A North.
After the bump down to 2A, the Mustangs started their season off right, last week, by throttling Oak Hill Academy on the road. This week, they traveled northward to Thrasher for a matchup with the runnin’ Rebels.
The boys in blue and gold assumed first possession and moved the ball well through their new air-raid passing attack, but the drive stalled at the Thrasher 12-yard line with a turnover on downs.
Minutes later, after forcing a three-and-out defensively, the Mustangs’ youthful special teams unit made the first of many dents on the scoreboard, as freshman return-man Luke Ellis made a quick move and galloped 44 yards for a touchdown, making it 6-0 early.
The two clubs traded empty series before Mantachie again forced its way deep into Rebel territory. The Mustangs turned it over on downs and the defense answered the bell again, this time with senior safety Payden Franks picking off an ill-fated pass over the middle and returned it 25 yards to the Thrasher 12-yard line.
This time around, the Mustangs changed their tactic and went with a steady ground strike. Mantachie ran three times in a drive capped off by a 9-yard bashing score by junior fullback Patrick Mangels to make it 12-0 with 23 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Just one play into the ensuing drive, Franks again reckoned with the Rebels defensively, picking up a fumble caused by the Mustang linemen and returning it to the Thrasher 41-yard line.
After setting up another excellent field position for the offense, Mantachie finally got the ponies firing on all cylinders, scoring from 9 yards out on a perfectly executed quick slant play from seniors Jacob Frazier and Jake Wiygul to push the lead to an 18-0 halftime score.
It didn’t take long into the second half before Mantachie again found pay dirt. Frazier found Wiygul again, this time from 19 yards out, followed by a successful 2-point conversion to slate the tally at 26-0.
The Rebels flipped into desperation mode on offense during their next drive, going for it on fourth down and short, but the Mustang defense came up big once more, getting the ball back to the offense who needed just one play to score on a 29-yard scamper by senior Matt Johnson, followed by Frazier’s extra point to make it 33-0 to close the third.
The score stayed consistent through the next several series of play, and both teams inserted younger players in to gain some experience. In the Mustangs’ case, these fresh faces will undoubtedly be crucial as some of them will be called upon in important roles as the season progresses.
Mantachie lit up the board one final time midway through the fourth with freshman quarterback Jaycob Hawkes leading the charge all the way down the field, eventually handing off to Austin Nichols for the score, giving fans a blue and gold wrapped final tally of 40-0.
Nichols also led the Mustangs defensively with 5 tackles, while Andrew Miller and Payden Franks each snagged interceptions and the latter added a fumble recovery as well.
On offense Jacob Frazier finished an efficient 14-of-22 for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns with 0 turnovers. Eight different Mustangs carried the rock with senior Noa Guess and Frazier being the high-men with 40 yards apiece. Senior Jake Wiygul was the top performer, with 56 receiving yards and 2 scores.
His solid 6-foot 2-inch frame and soft hands will be what Mantachie leans on offensively throughout this season along with the 6-foot 3-inch quarterback, Frazier, and the by-committee rushing attack.
At (2-0) on the young season there is a renewed sense of school spirit permeating with the players, staff, sidelines, and community for the Mustang football team. The blue and gold is again relevant and if the first two weeks can be an indication, this season could shape up to be a good one for Mantachie.
Next week: Mantachie will play its first home game of 2019 as the Smithville Seminoles come to Mustang Stadium. The ‘Noles are 2-0 this season after beating Hatley 33-25 Friday night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.