Mustangs advance to Regionals, West Orange

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BRYAN — Madisonville jumped out to an early lead and managed to take down Lorena for the second time this season on Friday at Merrill Green Stadium in Bryan to win their Area Playoff matchup.

The 45-35 victory jumped the overall Mustang record to 11-1 and ensured a Regional Playoff date with West Orange on Friday.

“Hats off to Lorena,” said Madisonville head football coach Rusty Nail after the win. “They never make anything easy.”

Madisonville took a 14-0 advantage in the opening quarter thanks to two touchdowns runs over 50 yards by Cornelius Merchant. Merchant went on to score five times and totaled 314 yards against the Leopards.

Despite the hot start, the Mustangs surrendered back-to-back touchdowns to the Leopards to even the score. Madisonville had to find a way to reclaim the momentum. Kendell Moffett didn’t make them wait long for this as he took back a kickoff 96-yards to take the lead. Moffett also secured a key interception on the very next drive to set up a Merchant touchdown reception from quarterback Ben Phillips. Mauricio Aceves tacked on a field goal before the half to put the Mustangs on a 17-0 run.

The Leopards never stopped their fight and strung together a few more productive drives in the second half, but they just took too long to ever seriously get back into the game. The Mustang offense had an answer for everything and Lorena could never make it a one-possession game late.

All told, Madisonville ran for 353 yards on 42 carries in the win. The ground game continues to give Mustang opponents nightmares and makes it nearly impossible for them to come from behind in the second half.

Defensively, Moffett’s interception was the lone turnover that didn’t occur on downs. The Mustangs brought pressure and hurried the quarterback six times. Trae Smith and Tommy Holiday each recorded sacks. Holiday also deflected three passes at the line of scrimmage. Aaron Nellums led the unit with 12 tackles followed by Tyrese Brown with 10 and Marcus Dorman with 8. Chris Scott recorded two tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Madisonville has now turned their attention to the West Orange Mustangs. West Orange boasts one of the top defenses in the state under longtime head coach Cornel Thompson and present the toughest challenge yet for Madisonville. Thompson’s squad has remarkably won 39-straight football games.

“Tradition, discipline and defense makes this team so hard to stop,” said Nail on his team’s next test. “They have tremendous athletes and Cornel’s a staple there.”

Nail stressed that his Mustangs aren’t going out there to keep it close or give them a good game, but to win. Programs like West Orange are the class of high school football and a model for what Madisonville strives to become. Whatever happens, the Mustangs will find out how they stack up with one of the best teams in this state.

“The biggest thing we need to realize is that this team is beatable,” said Nail. “We can’t get intimidated by the fact that they’ve won 39 games in a row or that they’re West Orange. Sometimes it just comes down to who believes they’re going to win.”

The daunting West Orange defense has really come on as of late. They surrendered a total of 3 points in their first two playoff games against Royal and Mexia. They have not allowed an opposing team to reach the end zone since Hardin-Jefferson did it on Oct. 20.

The Regional Semi-Final Playoff game between Madisonville and West Orange will take place at New Caney Texan Stadium on Friday night at 7 p.m. Whoever prevails will advance to face the winner of Salado and Bellville in the Quarterfinals.

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