Down 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, the Overton faithful exchanged nervous glances up in the visitors stands of Maud Cardinal Stadium in District 9-1A action Friday night.
“Here we go again,” one fan muttered. It seemed the breaks would be against the boys once more, making for a long night for OHS students and fans alike.
That is, until the Mustangs suddenly exploded for 28 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead into the locker room at the half.
But there was still more fireworks in store.
With the Mustangs well in control, going into the fourth quarter still up by a 35-16 mark, the Cardinals started a furious comeback. After recovering an onside kick and hitting two quick scoring plays, Maud was within striking distance.
However, the Mustangs iced the game with a methodical 9-play 78-yard drive. Standout freshman halfback Jamal Kelly powered into the endzone from nine yards out, forcing his way through several Maud defenders.
With the win Overton improves to 2-6 (1-2 in district) before facing their perennial rivals the Carlisle Indians (7-1, 2-1).
The Mustangs rolled up more than 400 yards of total offense.
Junior quarterback and safety Austin McCasland had a standout performance, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for one, while returning an interception 55 yards for another score.
“Our backs are to the wall and we had to raise our game tonight,” McCasland said. “We’ve had a lot of challenges this season but we’re not giving up until the end.”
Kelly added three more touchdowns on the ground, reaching the century mark in rushing in only his third varsity appearance.
Junior wideout Derek Graham was on the receiving end of McCasland’s aerial, his first touchdown reception of the season.
Senior safety Tyler Rhodes once again scooped up a fumble, adding 9 tackles on the night.
Thrust into the role of kicker with the injury to sophomore Ryan Gonzalez, junior Spencer Wright nailed 5-of-6 extra points. One PAT was blocked, but junior Tim Hawkins contributed a 2-point conversion to the cause.
Senior linemen Levi West and Dae Dae Slaughter provided solid protection for McCasland, also enabling Mustang ballcarriers to gain more than 300 yard on the ground.
Defensively seniors Alex Meadows, Dylan Lantz, and Shelton Rogers harassed the Cardinal offense all night, forcing the Maud quarterback out of the pocket repeatedly and holding the running backs to only 12 total yards on the ground.
But despite their slow start this season the Mustangs playoff hopes remain very much alive, though they will need to win their next two games in order to secure a spot.
“We’re not even thinking about any of that right now,” said OHS head coach Bo Talkington. “We’ve got a really tough Carlisle team to prepare for, that’s the only thing we’re thinking about right now.”
However, they will have to do so without their leading rusher in halfback Forrest Lee and defensive standout in sophomore linebacker Jesse Roach.
The playing status for both players still remains up in the air at this point.