As Mauricio Aceves’ 56-yard field goal attempt to tie the game fell onto the end zone turf, Madisonville’s hopes for an undefeated season fell with it.
A missed kick that, if converted, would’ve been almost unheard of at the high school level was hardly to blame for the 48-45 meltdown in Rusk. The Mustangs had multiple chances to close out the game but kept giving the Eagles opportunities to make explosive plays.
“We played terrible defense tonight,” said Madisonville head coach Rusty Nail after the loss. “We have a lot of stuff to fix heading into our bye week and district play.”
Madisonville’s defense struggled against Rusk quarterback Darrian McDuff, but actually played considerably better in the second half. Contrary to earlier weeks, however, they gave up the wrong plays at the wrong time including a touchdown drive in the final minutes.
Offensively, the Mustangs were a force to be reckoned with in the first half. They had 38 points and a 10-point cushion at the break, but only found pay dirt once in the final 24 minutes. Running back Cornelius Merchant showcased another remarkable performance with 4 touchdowns on the night.
The Mustangs couldn’t close out the game on offense on their final two drives. The unit was advancing with a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter and a chance to ice the game with a score. Running back Aaron Nellums then lost the football and Rusk defensive back Damion Freeny scooped the ball and scurried 85 yards for the score.
From there, the Eagles owned the momentum.
The offense would have another chance to put the game away, but quarterback Ben Phillips’ pass to Johnny Simpson on fourth down was knocked away. McDuff and the Eagle offense then took the momentum and used it to slice the Madisonville defense en route to what would prove to be the game-winning drive.
Despite the loss, this might’ve been the most effective air attack we’ve seen from the Mustangs in 2017. Phillips consistently found Simpson, Brandon Larson, Kasey Williamson and Kendell Moffett downfield to extend key drives. This included an impressive couple of completions in the final minute to even give Aceves a chance at the miracle boot.
Madisonville made plays in spurts, but the timing was never on their side.
The 5-1 Mustangs will have a long time to work out the kinks before they take on their district schedule. They will hit the road once again when the season resumes and take on Shepherd on Oct. 20.