Mustangs fall short in late comeback push

Posted 10/20/20

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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Mustangs fall short in late comeback push

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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.

“I was most excited about our effort,” said head coach Russell Urbantke. “Even being down a couple scores, they kept believing, stayed the course and gave ourselves a chance there at the end. Overall, our confidence level is good. They showed up (Monday morning) ready to go to work and that is all we can ask for.”

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.

“We are super excited about (Whaley’s performance),” said Urbantke. “We have known all year that he has had it in him, we just had to give him the opportunity to make plays in that position. When he was a freshman (last year) he did those things and we saw those things.”

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.

“Our pad levels (on the offensive line) have got to be lower, we got to come off the ball and we got to stay on our double teams more and work to the linebackers.”

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

The Mustangs will look to rebound Friday when they return home to take on Center (1-1) at MHS.

“Offensively, (Center's defense) does some things that we can take advantage of in the secondary as far as throwing the ball,” said Urbantke. “Our offensive line will have to pass protect really well.”

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