By: Jim Steele
McKENZIE, Tenn. - You name it, McKenzie seemed to do it in its middle school football game with Huntingdon Thursday night.
The Rebels made big plays on offense, defense and in the special teams, minimized their mistakes and captured a 16-0 victory over the visiting Mustangs, a victory that was really much closer than the score. The victory was the fifth straight over the Mustangs and their third shutout in those last five meetings. The two teams didn't play two years ago.
MMS coach Brad Chappell, whose team jumps into the driver's seat of the county race for the sixth straight season, was elated with the victory.
"That's a good football team. This is not a cheap win by any stretch of the imagination and I'm proud of this one," Chappell said. "Coach Paul Carroll does a good job with his kids, but the one thing I've preached all week is that playing a close game last week was going to be to our advantage."
The Rebels faced a good Dresden team last Thursday and held on for a clutch 8-6 victory.
"Special teams, defense, offense, we got all of that tonight. The PATs were huge," said the coach. "Defensively holding them to a shutout was big because they have kids who can play."
McKenzie bent but didn't break in the first half and held off a pair of Huntingdon incursions. In the second frame, with Huntingdon driving, the Rebels got a pair of big tackles-for-loss from Mitch Merrick, who came in for the injured Breshaun Oglesby, who suffered a shoulder ailment on McKenzie's first drive, and from Brennan Marr, who was a beast. He had fumble recovery, a sack and two more tackles for loss.
"Marr had a rough spring, but really stuck with it and over the summer he got stronger and faster," said Chappell. "He had a good night, he is athletically gifted and he works hard."
Huntingdon was forced to punt, but a bad snap to Dylan Gurley hit the ground and was covered by Noah Lowrance at the Mustang 19. Five plays later, DeMarkeese Nolen fought his way into the end one from the 4. Tyree Owens scored the first of his two deuces to give the Rebels an 8-0 lead at the half.
Huntingdon an McKenzie basically played to a stalemate in the third frame. A Huntingdon 46-yard TD run by Derek Johnson was nullified by a motion penalty and the Rebels caught a break late in the quarter.
Early in the fourth, the Rebels stopped a Huntingdon drive on downs, and turned away a negative play when Holden Stanfill raced 66 yards for the insurance touchdown with 5:49 to play in the game. Huntingdon was in too deep a hole, plus, Owen's second PAT run really put the pressure on the Mustangs.
"The big play by Holden really put the nail in the coffin," said Chappell. "Tyree's two PATs was incredibly huge." The second conversion run started at the 8 after a penalty, making that score that much more improbable. Meanwhile, Holden had eight carries for 102 yards to lead all ballcarriers.
The Rebels persevered after losing a couple of players early. Clint Daily has his arm in a cast and was questionable to being with. Oglesby left the game and went to the hospital for x-rays after sustaining the shoulder injury. It's almost as if the Rebels were providential. They practiced without both Oglesby and Dailey this week. But Keenan Taylor and Merrick seemed to fill in without missing a beat.
"Keenan Taylor played well on both sides. We had injuries on both sides," the coach said. "We knew Clint was hurt and we weren't sure about him, but Breshaun surprised me."
Chappell said he liked the tempo his team presented.
"We played a complete game. It wasn't perfect, but with the effort and intensity and getting after folks, I thought we played from the first whistle to the final gun," Chappell said.
Derek Johnson led the Mustangs with 11 carries for 68 yards. Glynn Hilliard had 14 carries for 52 yards. Johnson and Hiliard had three tackles each.
McKenzie, 2-0, 1-0 in county play, will travel to Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central 6:30 Thursday night for another county showdown. Huntingdon will entertain Paris-Lakewood 6:30 Tuesday, Aug. 31.