By: Jim Steele
McKENZIE, Tenn. - McKenzie Middle School scored on two convincing drives in the first quarter and essentially cruised to a 29-6 victory over Ridgemont in the Fifth Annual mckenzierebels.com Bowl Thursday night at Bethel College.
Janson Davis had a big night passing, completing 5-6 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He set bowl records for completions in a game (5), passer rating (310.93) and tied a mark for TD passes (2). Keenan Taylor set marks for receptions (4) and receiving yards (72).
It was a big night for the Rebels, who controlled the line and the tempo in the first half.
"Like last year, we saved our best for last," said MMS coach Brad Chappell, who won his third bowl title in five trips. "Instead of having that lull in the middle, I wish we had played like this all year."
The Rebels improved to 5-3 on the year while Ridgemont evened its mark at 4-4.
Mustang coach Lance Gray liked the way his team settled down after suffering the early, quick deficit.
"I think we were a little blitzed and stunned at first, but at halftime we made some adjustments and it was just a good showing for our kids because it showed they were coachable and made a pretty good showing in the second half," he said. "We made some adjustments at halftime. They did some things that we weren't really prepared for, like throwing the ball and making some good catches. Their No. 3 (Keenan Taylor) is a beast."
It was a record-setting night for the Mustangs as well. Jacob Sisk and Hayden Cary set a mark for longest pass play (56 yards) and Sisk combined with Roberto Vasquez for 127 passing yards, another bowl mark. Sisk had an indvidual passing mark of 115 yards.
The Rebels took the opening kickoff and kept the ball for 3:51, going 50 yards in eight plays. Davis lined up Taylor for a 15-yard TD pass with 4:09 to play. Jack Surber tossed the PAT pass to Chase Norden and the Rebels led 8-0.
After forcing a punt, the Rebels needed only three plays to canvass the 49 yards to paydirt. Taylor, out of the wildcat formation, raced 54 yards for the score with :56 to play in the first. Surber scrambled on the PAT attempt, but located Montryll Robinson in the end zone for two and MMS led 16-0 after one.
"Coach (Zach) Renfroe suggested we put Taylor in the wildcat. we were brainstorming about getting the ball in his hands and normally I'm not a big fan of the wildcat," said Chappell. "But I looked at it, started drawing up some things and realized we could put folks in a bind with it and I think we scored a touchdown on it and got yards out of it."
The Mustangs looked like it was developing some tempo on offense when two plays cost them 23 yards. They were stopped on downs and the Rebs took over, scoring at the 3:29 mark. Davis, fading back to pass, found a gap and rambled 7 yards for paydirt. Melvin Belong booted the PAT for a 23-0 lead. at the half.
Ridgemont took the ball in the second half and moved it across the midfield stripe. McKenzie's Clint Dailey, on fourth down, swatted away a pass thrown by Ridgemont's Jacob Sisk and the Rebels took over.
Mixing up the attack, the Rebels marched to the 12 when Davis hit Noah Lowrance for another score. Belong's kick hit the crossbar, but with 2:07 to play in the third, MMS led 29-0.
"I was certainly happy with the way the kids played tonight," Chappell said. "We did what we needed to do offensively and did well enough on defense and special teams made some plays."
Rigdemont's Sisk set a record for longest pass in the bowl game by hitting Hayden Cary for 56 yards. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the drive did not sustain. Taylor picked off a pass in the end zone to end the quarter.
The Mustangs did get on the board when Sisk led Seth Collins for a 44-yard TD pass with :12 to play. That ended an eight-play, 81 yard drive.
"Jacob Sisk is a two-year quarterback for us and I am pretty confident he'll be a good quarterback," said Gray. "Obion central runs the spread under coach Jackson. Sisk is absolutely our MVP on offense."
Gray liked the way his team played in the second half.
"Our defensive guards and tackles made big impacts,' said the coach. "In the first half, we were getting blown off our heels, but in the second half, we made some tackles in the backfield. I just wish we could have adjusted a little bit quicker before halftime."
The spread offense required a bit of work for the Rebels.
"We don't ever see anything like that and the kids aren't used to defending anything like that," Chappell said. "It certainly has merits. We as a staff have studied it and we kind of knew what might give it problems and I thought we executed those things pretty well defensively."
Taylor had 74 yards on the ground and 72 yards receiving to lead the Rebels. He was the Ross Martin Offensive MVP. Mitch Merrick had five tackles to earn him the Ross Martin defensive MVP for the Rebels.
"Janson threw the ball well tonight. He threw one incompletion. I was proud to see him have a good game," Chappell said. "Keenan had a good game and our offensive line played well. Holden ran well and hit it hard for positive yardage."
Sisk, who was 4-11 for 115 yards, the yardage a bowl mark. He was the Ross Martin Offensive MVP for Ridgemont. Roberto Vasquez led the Mustang defense with five stops and earned the Ross Martin Defensive MVP for his team.