Mustangs Corral Harmony In Lackluster Victory
By Jeff Navin // September 10, 2012
Merritt Island Still Unbeaten
HARMONY, FLORIDA – Merritt Island remained unbeaten, but Saturday’s 14-0 victory against Harmony wasn’t a win to remember for Mustangs coach Jeff McLean.
“We made too many mental and physical errors,” said McLean, whose squad improved to 2-0. “You’ve got to be careful if you let these teams hang around and hang around long enough to come back and win. This is one of those days to put behind us, learn from it and hope to get better.”
The non-district game originally was supposed to be played Friday night, but lightning and the poor condition of the field because of heavy rain forced the game to be rescheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.
Players from both schools also were scheduled to take the ACT, a standardized test required by many colleges for admission, on Saturday morning.
“We had 14 kids out of 35 on the roster take the ACT,” Harmony coach Jerrad Butler said. “At least eight of those took the writing part of the test, which went until 1 or 1:30 p.m. We have to take care of that – it’s a responsibility as a student-athlete.”
Harsh weather also hampered the Longhorns last season.
“We’re used to it,” said Butler, whose Longhorns fell to 0-2.”We understand the challenge of playing on Saturday. We had five games affected by weather last year, and we played two or three of those games on Saturday.”
Clinging to a 7-0 lead as the third quarter ended, Merritt Island quarterback Nic Smith faked a handoff to Jon-El Battle on a run up the middle on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Harmony’s defense converged on Battle, but he did not have the ball as Smith ran untouched down the left sideline for a 37-yard touchdown.
The fake even fooled the referees, who did not immediately raise their arms to signal a touchdown until Smith showed them the football. Dylan Barnas kicked the extra point to give the Mustangs a 14-0 advantage with 11 minutes, 52 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
“We had talked about that play and knew they hadn’t shown it yet,” Butler said. “They’re an option team and you’ve got to stick to your assignment. When they scored that touchdown, it was the difference in the game.”
On the previous possession, Harmony took over at its own 20-yard line after Barnas’ 28-yard field-goal attempt hit the left upright and fell backward. The Longhorns were unable to obtain a first down as a penalty, a run for a loss and a bad snap sent them back to their own 7.
Despite a short gain and a 15-yard penalty assessed against the Mustangs, Jason Hundley was forced to punt from his own 25. A 30-yard kick gave Merritt Island the ball at its own 45.
Two runs netted just 1 yard, but Smith’s 17-yard pass to Michael Owens on the left side gave Merritt Island a first down at the Harmony 37 on the final play of the third quarter.
Smith’s scoring run on the ensuing play then gave the Mustangs a commanding lead on a day where the defenses dominated.
Earlier, John Batch intercepted a pass by Harmony’s Jeremiah Murray at the Merritt Island 28 and sprinted 72 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. The score with 7:55 to play in the second quarter was highlighted by a nifty fake at the Harmony 30, where Batch’s elusive move sent a Harmony player falling out of bounds. Barnas kicked the PAT to give the Mustangs a 7-0 advantage.
“Thank God for our defense,” McLean said. “Our defense stepped up to get us some breathing room.”
“Our defense stepped up to get us some breathing room.” Merritt Island football coach Jeff McLean
Merritt Island held Harmony to 24 yards rushing on 33 carries. Murray completed 8 of 16 passes for 85 yards.
Taquan Kelly led the Mustangs in rushing with 61 yards on 13 carries. Merritt Island totaled 133 yards rushing on 28 carries. Smith completed 6 of 14 passes for 68 yards.
The Mustangs drove from their own 30 to the Harmony 10 after the opening kickoff, but a personal foul call was assessed against the Mustangs after an incomplete pass in the end zone on second down. The officials inadvertently placed the ball at the Harmony 30 instead of the 25.
After two more incomplete passes, Barnas’ 47-yard field goal attempt had the distance, but it was just wide.
Smith completed his first three passes of the game – 16 yards to Ryan Huppert, 8 yards to Ryan Zacrep and 14 yards to Huppert. The second pass to Huppert moved the ball to the Harmony 10.
After next week’s road game against East Ridge of Clermont, the Mustangs face a four-game stretch where they will play Titusville, Cocoa and Rockledge on consecutive weeks. After a week off, they then will take on Astronaut.
“We’ve got to be prepared and strong during that stretch,” McLean said.