It's not every Friday night when you play a team that has won seven consecutive state championships and has the nation's longest winning streak at 55 games, but that was the task facing the McDonald County Mustangs on Friday night at MCHS.
McDonald County gave a good account of itself, eventually dropping a 45-13 decision to the Lamar Tigers, who have now won 56 in a row.
"I thought the kids battled all night," said coach Kellen Hoover. "I mean even the blocked PAT after their final touchdown was a testament to us not quitting. I thought it was a big step forward, really. That team walks into our place and there was no fear -- at no point before the game, at the beginning of the game, at any point during the game or during the whole day did I feel our kids were afraid. We came out on the short end, but we definitely can take the momentum of battling for four quarters and move forward."
Lamar forced punts on the first two times the Mustangs had the ball and turned both of those possessions into touchdowns. The first came on a six-yard run by Cage Jordan and the second on a 37-yard pass from Duncan Gepner to Landon Hardman. A fumbled snap on the second PAT left the Tigers with a 13-0 lead with 3:56 left in the first quarter.
McDonald County then put together its best drive of the game, possibly of the season, marching 80 yards in 15 plays to cut the lead to 13-7 with 9:17 left in the first half. Quarterback Ben Mora keyed the drive, carrying four times for 41 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown. Oakley Roessler added 44 yards on 11 carries.
Lamar took just two minutes to regain its 13-point lead, marching 59 yards in five plays, capped by Gepner's 15-yard touchdown, for a 19-7 lead.
A missed opportunity on the Mustangs' next possession cost McDonald County a chance to cut the lead to a single score before halftime. Instead, the Tigers' scored with less than a minute to go in the first half to take a 25-7 lead into the locker room.
Lamar opened the second half by scoring two touchdowns in less than three minutes. The Tigers' first score came on a 43-yard run by Trevor Medlin on Lamar's first possession of the half. Travis Bailey then returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown on the Mustangs' first possession to stretch the Tiger lead to 39-7 with 9:16 left in the third quarter.
Lamar scored its final touchdown on a Gepner to Jordan two-yard pass on fourth down early in the fourth quarter to cap a 12-play, 56-yard drive.
McDonald County followed with a 78-yard touchdown drive to make the final score 45-13. Mora completed two passes for 50 yards to key the drive, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Micah Burkholder.
"We made a couple of big mistakes and, against that good of a team, if you don't play close to your best game, you are not going to have a chance at the end," Hoover said. "While we never questioned our effort, we didn't make all the big plays to put us in that position. That's something we can learn from."
Roessler finished with 88 yards on 28 carries, while Mora added 47 yards on the ground on 10 carries and 120 yards through the air on five of 10 passing. Burkholder had two catches for 62 yards, while Reece Cooper added three catches for 58 yards.
"I thought Ben took a good step forward this week," Hoover said. "We were finally able to throw something other than screen passes. We were able to get into some of our more complicated concepts, and there is a lot more reading of the defense going on now. The game is slowing down a little bit for him at this point."
McDonald County finished with 297 total yards. Lamar had 337, led by Medlin with 75 yards on six carries and Gepner with 71 yards on 14 carries.
"Anytime you hold Lamar to just 40 more yards than you have, your defense played well," Hoover said. "I thought our defense played fast and really played hard and battled against a good team."
Michael Williams led the defense with 12 tackles (8 solo), while Jack Teague had 11 (8 solo) and Junior Eliam had 10 (7 solo).
McDonald County falls to 3-4 for the season heading into its Oct. 12 game at Monett. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.Sports on 10/11/2018
Print Headline: Mustangs Unable To End Lamar's Streak