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High School Football

Rebels Stun Mustangs in Thrilling Season Opener

By Brad Sam brad@mckenziebanner.com © 2020 Tri-County Pub., Inc.
Posted 8/25/20

HUNTINGDON (August 21) — After a summer of uncertainty due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the high school football season got underway on schedule Friday, including the classic Carroll …

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High School Football

Rebels Stun Mustangs in Thrilling Season Opener

Posted

HUNTINGDON (August 21) — After a summer of uncertainty due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the high school football season got underway on schedule Friday, including the classic Carroll County rivalry game between the Huntingdon Mustangs and McKenzie Rebels. The Rebels shocked the host Mustangs for a 31-22 victory.

Usually, the contest is played before a capacity crowd, but safety guidelines forced attendance on both sides to be limited for an oddly understated atmosphere.

McKenzie got off to a hot start, capitalizing on back-to-back Huntingdon fumbles for a quick 14-0 lead. The Mustangs battled back to tie the game with under a minute remaining in the first half, but the Rebels stormed down the field to regain the lead with a field goal as time expired. Huntingdon scored on a McKenzie fumble to start the second half, but the Rebels took the win with 14 unanswered points down the stretch.

Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the loss meant the end of several impressive streaks. It was their first loss to McKenzie since 2014, their first regular-season loss since 2016 and their first back-to-back losses (going back to last year’s playoff loss to Lake County) since 2014.

Huntingdon received the opening kickoff, but the first snap from scrimmage resulted in a fumble, recovered by Rebel Brandon Boaz and returned to the Mustang 15. Rebel Logan Lyles ran for two yards, then quarterback Eli Surber kept for five. On third down, Caleb Gill found a gap up the middle for an eight-yard touchdown. Zach Aird kicked the point-after, and McKenzie led 7-0 with 10:17 to play in the first frame.

Aird kicked off for a touchback, and Huntingdon started at the far 20. It was quickly third down, but quarterback Blake Bradley kept for 29 yards across midfield to the 37. Two plays later, a holding penalty set the Mustangs back to midfield. A host of Rebels broke up the next play for a loss, and the next resulted in another fumble. Boaz again made the recovery, and McKenzie took over at the Huntingdon 38.

Gill gained seven on first down, then Surber kept for a 31-yard touchdown. Aird kicked the PAT, and the Rebels led 14-0 halfway through the first quarter.

Aird again kicked for a touchback, and the McKenzie defense pushed the Mustangs back on three straight plays. Bradley punted from the end zone, and the Rebels took over near midfield.

The first snap resulted in a fumble, and Mustang Cade Wood recovered at the McKenzie 47.

A first-down penalty set Huntingdon back five yards, but Bradley gained eight on a delayed run. Wood carried twice to move the chains, but it was soon fourth-and-four. The Mustangs came up short on the try, and the Rebels took over at their own 23. Gill made a short gain as the quarter ended, then slipped and lost a few yards on the first play of the second. Two plays later, Aird’s punt was downed at the Mustang 34.

Huntingdon kept it on the ground during a seven-play, 66-yard scoring drive. Bradley and Aiden Hutcherson took turns with the ball, culminating in a six-yard score by Hutcherson. Bradley threw to Luke Furr for two points, and the Mustangs cut the deficit to 14-8 with seven minutes to play in the half.

Mustang Blake Reeves kicked off to Rebel Will Latimer, who made a solid return to the 30. Gill made two short gains, then Surber threw to Lyles for a first down. The QB then tossed to Marquez Taylor for another first, but followed with an incomplete pass on the same play. On the next play, Bradley stripped the ball to give Huntingdon possession.

The Mustangs failed to capitalize and went three-and-out, but Bradley’s punt took a favorable bounce to pin McKenzie back deep.

The Rebels also went three-and-out, and Aird’s punt went out of bounds at the McKenzie 44.

Hutcherson ran for five, then caught a 22-yard pass from Bradley. After a false start penalty, Bradley kept for a 22-yard touchdown. The two-point attempt failed, but Huntingdon knotted the score at 14-14 with 46 seconds left in the first half.

Reeves opted for a squib kick, and the Rebels started at their 47. Surber threw to Latimer for four yards, then tossed to Gill for a first down at the 39. The QB followed with a long pass to Lyles for a 35-yard gain with time winding down. After a quick timeout, Aird nailed a 21-yard field goal as time expired to give McKenzie a 17-14 lead.

The Rebels received the second-half kickoff and started at their own 40. A promising drive turned to disaster after six plays when a fumble was recovered by Huntingdon’s Tayshawn Rivers and returned 77 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Bradley ran for two points, and the Mustangs enjoyed their first lead, 22-17 with 9:29 left in the third quarter.

McKenzie answered with a nine-play, 67-yard drive, all on the ground to eat up as much clock as possible. Rashad McCreary ran three times for 33 total yards, Lyles carried four times for 16 yards, and Taylor finished the drive with two runs for four yards and a 14-yard touchdown. Aird hit the PAT, and the Rebels regained the lead at 24-22 with five and a half minutes to go in the third.

Huntingdon ran out the quarter with a long drive that extended into the final frame. Ten plays, all on the ground, ended the third on a first down at the Rebel 26. Bradley threw incomplete to start the fourth, and it was quickly fourth-and-nine at the 25. Bradley’s throw to the end zone fell incomplete, and McKenzie took over with just under eleven minutes to play.

Gill pounded the ball for a first down and followed with a seven-yard gain. Surber moved the chains again on a delayed run, then Gill gained nine on three tries. McCreary converted the fourth-down, and McKenzie kept it on the ground, mixing in runs by McCreary, Taylor, Lyles and Gill before Surber kept for a two-yard score. Aird finished a perfect night on PATs, and the Rebels had a comfortable 31-22 lead with under three minutes to play.

Aird’s squib kick set the Mustangs up with good position near midfield, but two runs netted just a yard. On third down, Bradley’s pass fell incomplete. On fourth, he dropped back deep and was sacked by Boaz.

The Rebels took over with a minute to go, and Surber took a knee twice to seal the win.

McKenzie produced 324 yards of total offense, including 80 in the air and 244 on the ground, while holding Huntingdon to 186 total yards (22 passing and 164 rushing).

This week, the Rebels (1-0) host West Carroll (0-1) while the Mustangs (0-1) host Waverly (1-0).

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