Special to The Times
MANTACHIE - High school football players around the country dream
of being able to play football on Saturdays. Though these aspirations pertain to college, the Mantachie and East Union teams got the opportunity to fantasize a little after their Friday night matchup was pushed back due to a colossal amount of rain and lightning.
On sunny Saturday, the Mustangs secured their third playoff berth in four years, thrashing East Union's playoff hopes in the process.
East Union scored first on the strength of fullback Craig Hutchens, who tallied the game’s first touchdown on a 7-yard scamper following a 70-yard breakaway early in the game.
Mantachie waited exactly eight seconds to answer back, as Trey Hughes hit his all-too-familiar "turbo" and returned the ensuing kick 75 yards for a Mustang score that was followed by a 2-point conversion run by quarterback Tristan Daniel to give the Mustangs an early 8-7 lead.
On the Urchins' next offensive series, Mantachie senior Alston Dill stepped up big on defense by intercepting his fourth pass in two games, sending the Mustangs back into attack mode.
The first play of the drive couldn't have gone better for the Mustangs: Daniel connected with Hughes on short screen pass. Hughes' legs did the rest of the work, galloping all the way to the end zone for a 66 yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion was unsuccessful, so the Mustang lead stood at 14-7 in the first quarter.
East Union attempted to get back into the game after a 53-yard completion to fullback Chase Hall, and a 7-yard touchdown rush by Joel Wilkinson. But the extra point attempt was no good, leaving the Urchins trailing 14-13 midway through the second quarter.
On the ensuing Mustang drive, junior speed back Bryce Parker took a pitch around the left side and remained untouched en-route to a 65-yard touchdown run that extended the Mantachie lead to 21-13, following a successful extra point kick by Andrew Dill.
The Urchins, having been out of the water for a few hours, began to look discombobulated in the warming Mantachie sunshine. They turned the ball over on their next offensive drive when Daniel helped his own cause by intercepting an East Union pass deep in Mustang territory.
Alston Dill carried the ball twice and scored on the latter run from 12 yards out, and leading rusher Logan Pettigo converted on a two point attempt to push the lead to 29-13, where it would stay heading into the break.
The third quarter was exceptionally quiet for both teams. To bring back some excitement, the always charismatic Daniel broke a 51-yard run on an option play, adding another Mustang score to the board. Following another successful kick by Dill, the score tallied 36-13 with a minute-and-a-half to play in the third period.
The Urchins, obviously embarrassed by the lop-sided score following a week of lengthy trash talking, added some "garbage" points by airing the ball out before quarterback Cade Bell scrambled in for a 7-yard touchdown run.
Just to make sure East Union had no plans of making the game appear close, Logan Pettigo added another Mustang score following a fourth-and-two conversion, succeeded by a 6-yard batter that saw a series of Urchins fall victim to Pettigo's right shoulder before he broke the end zone's plane.
Pettigo then converted on another 2-point rush attempt to wrap the game in blue and gold, 44-19 Mustangs, in a game that never really felt close.
The volatile rushing attack by Mantachie was balanced by Daniel and Pettigo each carrying the ball 11 times and the former leading the team with 71-yards. Parker added 65 yards on two carries, and four Mustang ball-carriers tallied a touchdown.
Daniel also threw for 137 yards on 5-for-11 attempts. Hughes hauled in the bulk of completions with three for 112 yards and one score. Hughes also had his special teams score that gave him 187 total yards on the day, while Daniel's combined rushing and passing yards gave him 208 all purpose yards.
This win not only gave Mantachie a playoff birth but also extended their current winning streak to five games, four of which by at least four scores. The entire coaching staff is impressed with how the team is playing right now. Offensive coordinator J.T. Thompson was especially vocal about his satisfaction with Mustangs squad.
"If we can keep playing like this we're poised for a big showdown with Baldwyn come season's end," Thompson said. "But we aren't really worried about that. We take it a week a time, one opponent at a time. The win streak is awesome but right now we're just focused on Potts Camp."
Potts Camp being the team Mantachie plays next, at home. In fact Mantachie will play all of its remaining games at home as H.W. Byers agreed to move venues in two weeks meaning the Mustangs will end the 2015 season on a four-game home stand.