Jumping out to a 12-0 advantage early on, the Overton Mustangs (5-3, 2-0) held on to upset the heavily favored Detroit Eagles 34-13 in District 10-1A play.
It wasn’t even supposed to be a close game. Coming in undefeated, averaging 35 points per game behind vaunted speedster Devonya Bell, Detroit’s potent rushing attack was expected to run Overton right off the field.
But the Mustangs didn’t get the memo.
Holding Detroit (8-1, 2-1) to less than 100 yards on the ground, while rolling up nearly 400 yards of total offense, Overton positioned themselves on the inside track of a playoff berth as well as a shot at their first district championship since 2005.
First-year Mustang coach Josh Barton praised his players for starting strong and finishing well against an aggressive offense and stingy defense.
“What can you say, it was an important win against a quality opponent,” he said. “Detroit’s an excellent program and a tough team. We’re glad to have been able to win this one at home.”
Barton was dismissive of several highly questionable calls from officials late in the game, saying it’s just a part of the game.
A Detroit fumble near midfield recovered by Overton that was given back to the Eagles, an interception by junior cornerback Damion Dennis that was ruled pass interference, and an Eagle fumble in the end zone that was an apparent touchback instead ruled a Detroit touchdown were a few of the more controversial calls that cost.
“It happens, it’s not something we’re going to concern ourselves with,” he said. “It’s like we tell the kids, we can control what we can control. Those kind of calls are going to happen but you can’t let it distract from what you have to do.”
The game had an auspicious beginning, when the Detroit players ran out onto midfield and planted a team flag on the 50-yard line.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” said senior H-back Alex Yancey with a laugh. “I don’t mind a little trash talk, but you’ve got to be able to back it up.”
On their first possession Detroit peeled off successive big gains before the Overton defense stiffened. Turning the ball over at the Mustang 30 yard line, K.J. Luster and the offense went right to work. Three plays later Luster fired a tight spiral to Damion Dennis for a 60-yard touchdown bomb. The conversion failed but gave the Mustangs a 6-0 lead with 8:04 in the first quarter.
Detroit halfback Bell tried to find running room but was met by a determined Mustang defense. Senior safety Tanner Rhodes killed one drive by nailing Bell 7 yards deep in the backfield. On Detroit’s next possession it was Roach knocking the ball loose from Bell. Freshman defensive end Julian Herndon scooped it up and it was Overton ball again.
Luster wasted no time, faking to sophomore halfback Eric Hatton on the play-action and hitting Dennis for 31 yards. Then rolling out and finding senior wideout Jeff Phillips for 30 more yards. A ten-yard bullet to Phillips capped the drive, and at the end of the first quarter it was 12-0 Overton.
Big defensive stops from seniors C.J. Long, juniors Jamal Kelly and T.J. Lewis, with sophomores Seth Garrett and Delsin Garner grounded the Eagles high-flying offense for much of the first half. As the run game looked futile, Detroit tried passing the ball downfield and it was Phillips snagging an interception and returning it 29 yards.
When a questionable call gave Detroit a touchdown, it seemed the Eagles were building momentum before halftime.
Overton went three and out, then Detroit did as well, but Hatton returned the punt 55 yards to the Detroit 15. The return set up a 3-yard TD plunge from Roach and a two-point pass from Luster to Yancey. The half ended with Overton up 20-7.
Coming back from the break the teams exchanged punts. Big runs by Hatton and Kelly gave Overton good field position but the Mustangs were unable to capitalize. The third quarter ended as it began, the Mustangs holding on to a 20-7 lead.
Overton started the final stanza with an impressive drive down to the Detroit end zone, but a missed handoff turned the ball over to Detroit at their own 1-yard line.
Detroit stayed with a conservative rushing attack, gaining yardage but losing substantial time off the clock. Reaching midfield with only 6:50 left an errant pass was picked off by Dennis. Officials flagged Dennis for interference, putting the Eagles in scoring position once again. Detroit scored three plays later and trailed 20-13 with 4:12 left.
Overton recovered the onside kick at midfield and let Jesse Roach lead them to paydirt. It was Roach lowering his shoulders and powering inside for runs of 5 and 10 yards, then tearing off a 35 yard touchdown run off tackle. Luster’s conversion pass to senior wideout Tre Thompson was caught in the end zone but ruled incomplete, giving the Mustangs a 26-13 lead with 3:42 left.
Detroit came out on the ensuing possession digging deep into their bag of trick, with a double-reverse pass and a “Statue of Liberty” play, but it was Overton who laughed last when Dennis picked off another pass and raced 56 yards for a touchdown
Barton said the most important thing for he and his staff was that the team continued to play hard in the second half.
“We’ve fallen into a habit of letting off in the second half and letting teams stay in it and start to come back,” he said. “Tonight we finished a lot stronger than we have in other games, so that’s encouraging going into next week’s game against Maud.”
Senior lineman Greg Moore agreed, saying the win was a huge boost for his teammates.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “We came in knowing we were the underdogs but also believing we could play with these guys. As the game got going we realized not only could we play with them, but we could beat them.”
Senior fullback/linebacker Jesse Roach, a four year starter, said the win shows the Mustangs’ recent past doesn’t determine their future.
“Our class has been through a lot, three different head coaches and systems, but we’re still here,” he said. “We don’t just want to get in to the playoffs we want to win once we’re there […] that’s what this is all about.”