Late comeback effort falls short in Rusk

Posted 10/17/20

Sophomore Xzavier Whaley crossed the goal line for the third time in Friday’s 37-29 loss in Rusk to give Madisonville a chance to cut the deficit to one possession late. He then found Doug’kyrn Johnson in the end zone through the air to convert a two-point try and bring the Mustangs within eight points in the waning minutes.

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Late comeback effort falls short in Rusk

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Sophomore Xzavier Whaley crossed the goal line for the third time in Friday’s 37-29 loss in Rusk to give Madisonville a chance to cut the deficit to one possession late. He then found Doug’kyrn Johnson in the end zone through the air to convert a two-point try and bring the Mustangs within eight points in the waning minutes.

“We talk to our guys all the time about believing,” said head coach Russell Urbantke on the comeback effort. “We had a chance on the last drive to go down and possibly tie the game up. That’s why I am so proud of our guys: not one of them laid down and quit.”

The Mustangs trialed 37-14 with less than five minutes to play in the district matchup before quarterback Armando Juarez found a leaping Jer’mal Holland in the front corner of the end zone from 25 yards out.

“(Juarez) threw a good ball and I just had to go up and catch it,” said Holland. “We had been working on that play in practice all week, we just had to execute it.”

Holland then recovered the ensuing onside kick to set up the third Whaley score. Kicker Vladimir Morales converted three onside attempts on the night, including a surprise attempt to open the game and two late to keep the Mustangs afloat.

Holland was also responsible for the third onside recovery, which gave the team a chance to tie it with another touchdown and two-point conversion.

“We just had to fight to the end and finish the game,” said Holland.

In the team’s final chance on the ensuing fourth down, Juarez and Johnson could not connect on a deep shot down the sidelines, which drew a flag for offensive pass interference regardless.

“I like the way the team motivated me to help us come back and at least put us in a situation where we could win," said Juarez.

With the exception of a pair of drives, the Mustangs had trouble moving the ball throughout the first three quarters. Whaley was far and away the team’s leading rusher with 100 yards on 24 carries.

Whaley took direct snaps from shotgun on multiple occasions in the loss, including each play of a 63-yard scoring drive in the first quarter.

“I just had good blocks and wanted to be a leader tonight,” said Whaley. “We fought to the end, and we got to do that everyday.”

“The game plan was we felt like we could move the ball on the ground,” said Urbantke. “We didn't play as well up front and our backs didn't block as well. We went with some different formations in the second half. (Rusk) only had a three-man front in the second half, so we felt like we could pass protect and move the ball through the air.”

Juarez threw for 101 yards on the night, the vast majority of which came in the fourth.

The Mustangs took an early 7-0 lead after Rayce Hudson recovered a first quarter fumble to set up Whaley’s scoring march.

The defense went up against a number of playmakers on the Rusk offense and managed to bottle up highly-touted running back Joseph McGowan for the most part. Alex Jones, however, broke a number of big plays and recorded 189 rushing yards on 17 attempts.

“I give it up to (Rusk head coach Thomas Sitton) and his guys, they had a really good plan,” said Urbantke. “I thought our defense did really good in keeping (McGowan) at bay. But now you got to stop the other guys, and that was the hard thing because (Jones) is a really good back. I felt at times we tackled him well but other times we didn't get off our blocks up front and when he squirts through a hole, he is gone.”

Rusk quarterback Owen McCown added another 115 yards on the ground, fueled in large part by a 63-yard score in the first quarter, and 103 yards through the air.

Madisonville (1-1) will return home to take on Center (1-1) at MHS Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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