Mustangs prepare for district play with bye

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RUSK — The Madisonville Mustangs enter their bye week after dropping their first contest of the 2017 season 48-45.

Madisonville was effective offensively for the first half, but they could never put it all together and the Eagles made just enough big plays to scrape out the win.

“We never talked of an undefeated season so this isn’t a major concern of ours,” said Madisonville head coach Rusty Nail. “We just gave up too many big plays. We fumbled to give them points late and holding calls stalled deep, fourth quarter drives.”

The good news is that the Mustangs have a lot of time before they resume their season and start district play in Shepherd. The Pirates also enter the contest with just 1 loss in 1 less game. They will take on Tarkington this upcoming Friday before hosting Madisonville.

“We always just have our sites set on the upcoming game,” said Nail. “This bye gives us two weeks to prepare for Shepherd and rest some of our injuries.”

The Pirates have looked extremely impressive offensively this season. They have posted at least 30 points in every game but their loss and took down Huntington 54-20 last Friday. Their lone loss of the season came in Liberty.

The Pirates will be a tough road test for the Mustangs coming out of the bye week. They will have to play a more complete game, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The defense played considerably better in the second half of Friday’s loss than the first.

Offensively, the Mustangs sputtered a bit as the Rusk game went on. Still, it was a very impressive showing of 45 points overall. The rushing attack was dynamic as expected and Cornelius Merchant recorded 4 touchdowns.

Quarterback Ben Phillips also looked very sharp in Rusk. He completed 14 passes on the night, 2 of which found the end zone for touchdowns. A balanced attack of this offense could be problematic for Shepherd and the rest of the district moving forward.

“We’re confident in our ability to run and pass the ball,” said Nail. “The performance of the defense will dictate where we go in terms of play selection.”

Madisonville will practice in the same routine they have come accustomed to during the bye week. Other than getting guys some extra rest, Nail doesn’t believe it makes much of a difference.

Madisonville will resume play and seek their sixth win of the regular season when they travel to Shepherd on Oct. 20. They will return home to host Brookshire-Royal at Mustang Stadium on Oct. 27.

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