By Julie Felgar
On Friday night, under perfect weather conditions and with the stands full, the Mustangs (6-2) broke a 14-year losing streak against the perennial football powerhouse, the Clarke County Eagles (5-0 going into this game). The score of 14-7 reflected a hard-fought win.
Both teams have a similar strategy, control the ball and control the clock. “Our goal going into the game was to match the physical level of play that Clarke plays with and we did a nice job of matching their toughness.” said Adam Amerine, Head Coach of the Mustangs. “I thought the offense and defense played well, we did a great job keeping the ball moving forward on offense and defensively made the plays when we needed to and forced Clarke to work for their yardage.”
The first quarter was marred by an enormous number of penalties thrown by the referees on both teams. Passions were running high on the field. By the end of the first half, the yellow flag had been thrown over 15 times. Major offensive pushes were called back for both teams on numerous occasions.
“I thought the team gave 110 percent and despite all the penalties we were still able to execute our game plan. I was also very proud of how well our defense completely eliminated their pass game.” said senior captain George Papadopoulos.
Striking early, Ryan Ibelli, number 58, scooped up a forced fumble after a punt attempt in the 1st quarter which ultimately led to a rushing TD by Graham Felgar, number 34. The extra point attempt by Patrick Whitaker, number 23, was blocked.
Clarke County’s QB Mathew Sipe answered in the second quarter on a QB keeper and the Eagles took a 7-6 lead into the half after an extra point by kicker Chris LeBlanc.
The Mustangs maintained control of the ball for most of the second half, allowing only 19 plays for the Eagles. The Mustangs had 14 plays alone in their game-winning touchdown drive that took up most of the third quarter. Patrick Whitaker capitalized at the end of that drive with a 13-yard run into the endzone late in the third quarter. He then took a shuttle pass from Griffin Harrison, number 24, to score the two-point conversion.
“The third quarter drive was old school Mustang football, set up by a nice interception from Patrick Whitaker, the offense then controlled the pace of the game and finished with a big eight points,” said Amerine.
The Mustang’s double-wing offense accounted for 296 total yards and Clarke was held to 176 yards. The Mustangs overcame 15 penalties for 132 yards. Rice was 5-58 in passing yards, Felgar added seven carries for 60 yards. Whitaker rushed for 80 yards on 17 carries. Defensive standouts included David Ziayee and Seth Stillwagoner who combined for 21 tackles.
The Mustangs look strong heading into the end of the regular season. “As for the playoffs, there is a lot to be determined, but right now we are in a good position. We just have to focus on Manassas Park and William Monroe and let the rest of the region play out and be healthy and ready for the tournament,” commented Amerine.
The team is very focused on what they need to do going forward. “For so many of us (seniors), this is our last run with Mustang football.” said Felgar. “We are playing to win. We are playing for each other and our coaches and will leave everything on the field each game.”