By Zach Adams
Itawamba County Times
MANTACHIE – It may have been the night after Halloween, but Lynn Moore’s Mantachie team had plenty of tricks for Walnut on Friday.
The Mustangs beat the Wildcats 41-12 to finish the regular season as the No. 2 team in Division 1-2A and earned the right to host a playoff game next week for the first time in 15 years.
Senior Dustin Carrell rushed for 62 and a TD, passed for 112 yards and a TD, made all six of his PATs and booted a 52-yard punt that pinned the Wildcats on their own 2-yard line.
“It’s a great feeling to be the first (Mantachie) team in a while to host a playoff game,” Carrell said. “Coach Moore preached on focus this week and that we needed to be the hammer and not the nail. We came out ready to play tonight.”
Mantachie (8-3, 4-1) had to overcome an early obstacle when the Wildcats (8-3, 3-2) recovered an onside kick to open the game. Walnut moved the ball to the Mustang 40 before Armani Linton was tackled for a loss on a fourth-and-4. After a couple of short pickups, Carrell called his own number on a read option for a 38-yard gain to the Walnut 15. Three plays later, Mac Grimes rumbled in a score.
On the ensuing drive, Linton picked up yards on the ground and eventually capped off an 11-play drive with a 1-yard sneak to make it 7-6 after a missed PAT.
Mantachie took control for good before the half when Carrell hit Andrew Malone for a 34-yard TD pass, Alston Dill broke free for a 27-yard scoring jaunt and Carrell kept on another read option for a 22-yard TD to put the Mustangs up 28-6 at the break.
Clay Johnson and Malone scored on rushes 20 and 3 yards for the Mustangs in the third quarter, while Linton found the end zone again from 2 yards out for the Wildcats in the fourth.
“It is great for the program and great for our kids, especially our seniors,” Moore said. “The guys played with passion and energy and now that they know they can, they have to do it again next week.”