Mustangs make second half statement in opening victory - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Mustangs make second half statement in opening victory

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Posted: Friday, August 26, 2011 11:36 pm

Sunrise Mountain's young squad entered halftime at Greenway leading by one point, but knowing it should have been more.

Instead of folding on the road against an opponent with a better pedigree, the Mustangs seized control in the second half, shutting out the Demons and dominating along the line in a 46-19 victory.

"We had to correct a few things, the kids were lining up wrong. We made some substitutions and got after it in the second half," Sunrise Mountain coach Jim Carter said. "I'm proud of my defense. We shut them out in the second half. You couldn't ask for anything better." 

Midway through the third quarter, the lead remained 20-19 when the Mustangs recovered a punt that hit a Greenway player. Taking over at the Demons' 24, Sunrise Mountain went to its money play, a zone read option with senior quarterback Max Shepherd.

Shepherd ran 11 yards on the first play and capped the short drive on a two-yard option keeper to the left. A rushed snap led to a block of senior Ryan Hawkins' extra point.

"The offensive line played their hearts out," Carter said. "It was hot. Everybody was dehydrated, but Max is our senior and we wanted to put the ball in his hands in the second half."

The Mustang defense caused the third Greenway turnover, knocking the ball out of senior Keith Graham's hands after the quarterback scrambled for a first down.

Hawkins redeemed himself for the block and a missed extra point by drilling a 45-yard field goal.

Greenway responded with three first downs, but Sunrise Mountain forced an incomplete pass on fourth down, taking over at its own 28.

The Mustangs' offensive line went to work again as Shepherd (twice), sophomore Hayden Pate and sophomore Elijah Castro ripped off four consecutive first down runs. Shepherd then put the game away with another two-yard touchdown carry.

"We were in shape and that helped us. We were better conditioned than the other team, and that's how we pulled off the win," Shepherd said.

Shepherd nearly had a fourth touchdown run, this one for 37 yards, only to have it wiped out by a personal foul away from the play. So Hawkins added a highlight by making a 53-yard field goal.

Junior quarterback Dylan Touvell capped the scoring with a late one-yard touchdown run.

The quarterback keeper was a fitting end to a game that began with Shepherd's running. On the Mustangs' second play, he faked and took off up the middle for 43 yards.

Castro scored from six yards out on the next play.

Greenway regrouped behind the precision short passing of Graham, who threw for 181 of his 230 yards in the first half, and connected with seven different receivers.

Graham drew the Demons within a point by tossing a 12-yard screen to junior running back Zuba Wali. Shepherd hit his one big pass play, a middle screen that Castro scooted 34 yards on. That set up junior Colton Demers, who opened the second quarter with a five-yard touchdown through the gut of the defense.

On the Mustangs' next drive, sophomore receiver Nick Haleman raced for 31 yards on a fly sweep, followed by Shepherd's one-yard scoring run. Sophomores Haleman (42 yards) Castro (88) and Hayden Pate (55) prevented the Demons from focusing their entire defense on Shepherd.

"Our game plan was loading up the box and running outside. With the linemen blowing up the hole, I didn't have to do anything, just run the ball," Shepherd said. "The five guys up front were incredible."

Sunrise Mountain's chance to put the game away early evaporated two plays later, when Greenway senior running back Mark Rodriguez ran untouched up the middle 80 yards to draw the Demons within a touchdown.

Senior D.J. Velasquez finished the next drive from three yards out, but Greenway's only chance to lead went awry via a missed two-point conversion pass.

Then Sunrise Mountain took command and made a statement in the process. Division III Section II appeared to be a three-team race among district rivals Cactus, Liberty and Peoria.

If the Mustangs keep playing this way, there may be room for four.

"We wanted this first win more than anything this season to build their confidence because these kids have never played on a Friday," Carter said. "Now that we have that one game behind us, hopefully we get a streak going here."

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]