On senior night the Independence football seniors had the taunting task of tackling the #3 ranked team in the state and 100th ranked team in the nation. Only two other teams are ranked above Myers Park statewide, they include perennial powerhouses Richmond Senior, ranked # 1 and 62nd nationally, and Mallard Creek ranked #2 and 94th.
The Patriots entered the game with a 6-4 overall record, and 4-2 in the highly competitive Southwestern 4A Conference. Myers Park was 10-0 overall, 6-0 in the conference, and will remain undefeated entering the state playoffs.
In the first quarter, the Patriots took the opening kick-off to drive down the field to take an early 7-0 lead. The drive began on their own 35 yard line, the offense came out onto the field with a different look, the coaching staff decided to use a jumbo formation, the Pats have not shown this wrinkle previously which seemed to surprise the Mustangs defense. The Patriots would obtain two quick first downs on big runs by Davion Nelson and Shai Wheeler. A personal foul penalty on Myers Park would move the ball down to the 31 yard line. On a second and 9, Nelson would break a tackle find some daylight and rumble down inside the one yard line for a huge 29 yard gainer. On the next play, he would bust into the end zone to put the Patriots on top. Ryan Howe drilled the PAT through the uprights and the Pats were quickly ahead in a nicely executed 5:51 scoring drive.
However, the Patriots are playing an offensive juggernaut led by a top nationally ranked and highly recruited quarterback Drake Maye with a strong and extremely accurate canon for an arm. The drive would begin on the Mustangs 27 yard line. A combination of solid run plays, a couple of pass completions would put the ball on the Pats 5 yard line. Sirr Robison and Ethan Safriet would chase down Maye forcing him into an intentional grounding penalty pushing the Mustangs back to the 20 yard line. On the next play, Maye would find a wide receiver with a step on the defender, he would throw a strike in the end zone to tie the score with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kick-off the Patriots would start from their own 15. They came out in the same jumbo package formation and picked up a quick 24 yard dash by speedster and elusive Shai Wheeler to the 39. The second personal foul call on the visitors came after a 5 yard gain by Nelson moving the ball down to the Mustangs 43 yard line. On first down with 17 seconds remaining in the quarter, Wheeler would take the hand-off, break two tackles, weave his way past two more defenders with a nice shake and bake move, then scamper the distance to pay-dirt putting the Patriots on top. Howe easily cleared the PAT attempt putting the home team up 14-7.
In the second quarter, the Mustangs started to take control of the game as their offensive line coached by Hal Brown owned the line of scrimmage scoring 21 unanswered points. First on a 45 yard touchdown run by K’Daron Redfearn, and followed by a touchdown pass from Maye to his wide receiver for 44 yards, and a special teams touchdown on a punt return by Muhsin Muhammad for 80 yards as he turned on the afterburners with 1:20 remaining in the first half. At the intermission, the Mustangs held a 28-14 advantage.
In the second half, during the third quarter the Mustangs showed their offensive dominance while defensively making the necessary adjustments to the Patriots jumbo package formation strategy forcing the home team to throw the ball more often while shutting down the run game.
Maye continued his precision passing performance leading his team downfield with a good balance of rushing and passing. He completed a 40 yard touchdown pass to Porter Rooks, a 32 yard touchdown to Logan Mauldin, and another 11 yard scoring pass to give the Mustangs a commanding 49-14 lead. The Patriots punter Alex Brutsman could not handle a poor snap from center giving the visitors a first down on the 11 yard line. The high scoring Mustangs struck quickly.
In the fourth quarter, Myers Park would complete a 55 yard drive when Maye tossed his sixth touchdown of the game on a 5 yard completion into the end zone putting the Mustangs up 56-17.
The Patriots never quit and still had some fight left in them. They would put together a nice drive which featured an option pass from Nelson to Wheeler for 30 yards, then Wheeler who lined up in the slot, would scamper for another 15 yards. Finally, on a second down inside the red zone from the 7, Wheeler would bust off tackle into the end zone for the touchdown with 3:50 remaining in the football game. The 2-point conversion failed making the score 56-20.
There is no doubt, the Patriots have two outstanding athletes in Nelson and Wheeler. However, they have fine receivers in Trevor Bryan, Brian Morgan, Brevin Caldwell, along with tight ends Tyson Clawson and Ronnell Garrett. But, without the services of junior quarterback Arnold Taylor who was having a solid season until suffering a knee injury. Their offense has become heavily dependent upon the run without a passing attack firing on all cylinders giving them the balance they need to be successful.
Myers Park ended the season 11-0 overall, and 7-0 in the Southwestern 4A Conference. While Independence had a 6-5 season overall, and were 4-3 in the conference. The Patriots qualified for the playoffs and will play Ardrey Kell in the first round.
Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Mustangs 7 21 21 7 56
Patriots 14 0 0 6 20