By Zach Adams
Itawamba County Times
MANTACHIE – Coach Lynn Moore and his Mantachie Mustangs weathered a bad first half Friday to beat Strayhorn 41-14 in the first opening-round home playoff game in school history.
Strayhorn used a powerful rushing attack to lead 14-12 at the break, but Mantachie stormed back and scored 29 unanswered points.
Senior quarterback Dustin Carrell passed for 166 yards and accounted for five total TDs, two passing and three rushing. Versatile running back Clay Johnson added 127 all-purpose yards and a rushing TD.
“They came out and whipped our tails in the first half,” Moore said.
“We came out not ready to play and they ran the ball at us … Thank goodness we decided to play in the second half.”
Mantachie (9-3) recovered a Strayhorn (2-9) fumble on the opening drive, but came up short on a fourth-and-8 inside the red zone.
Led by running back Jordan Pinion, Strayhorn embarked on a drive that chewed up yardage and clock with 10 straight running plays. On the eleventh, quarterback Brandon Kilpatrick got the defense to bite on a play fake and found Mason Overall for a 20-yard TD strike to take an early lead.
Johnson and Andrew Malone carried the load for Mantachie on the ensuing drive before Carrell faked out everyone with a 24-yard read option carry to cut the deficit to one-point after a missed PAT.
Cortez Davis later broke free for a 36-yard score for Strayhorn, while Carrell hit pay dirt from 1-yard out. A failed two-point conversion and a missed opportunity by Mantachie in the red zone allowed Strayhorn to go into the half with a two-point lead and a lot of momentum.
Everything changed on the opening second half kickoff when Mantachie’s Nick Burns returned the kick 75 yards to the Strayhorn 10.
Johnson rumbled his way into the end zone on the next play and home Mustangs never looked back.
Carrell led his team three straight scoring drives, calling his own number from one-yard out before later connecting with Malone and Chris Bruff for strikes of 10 and 11 yards.
“Next week we will be in for a fight (at West Bolivar),” Moore said. “We have got to come out and play a complete game like we did (against Walnut) and not like we did tonight.”