Fourth quarter explosion secures Mexico win

By Dave Faries, Editor
Posted 9/10/21

For three quarters Mexico and Southern Boone were locked in a terse defensive stalemate. The final period turned into a scoring frenzy, as the Bulldogs piled 26 points on the board to claim a 32-7 …

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Fourth quarter explosion secures Mexico win

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For three quarters Mexico and Southern Boone were locked in a terse defensive stalemate. The final period turned into a scoring frenzy, as the Bulldogs piled 26 points on the board to claim a 32-7 home win on Friday.

Afterwards linebackers Matt McCurdy and Morgan Grubb struggled to narrow down the defensive highlights. Deacon Haag scythed down Baden Glass on third and sixth late in the third quarter. Grubb hit Glass like a lightning bolt to snuff out a drive. Kendyr Taylor repeatedly stopped runners in their tracks. When Southern Boone’s Chase Morris looked to break free on a kickoff return, Graydon Sewell forced him out of bounds to prevent a score.

“It was all those defensive stops,” quarterback Ty Sims chimed in. “They saved our offense a lot.”

The visitors threatened to get on the board first driving to the Bulldogs’ 10 yard line with time running down in the opening period. Twice linebacker Andrew Runge hammered Southern Boone ballcarriers, dropping Jacob Bowles for a loss and – with the help of Taylor – stopping Ben Taylor for no gain.

When the Eagles’ prolific quarterback Hayden Steelman tossed outside to Glass, Grubb pounced and hauled him down for a one yard gain. Stalled on the 10, Southern Boone let the clock run out and lined up to try a field goal to open the second quarter.

But Conner Johnson flashed through the line and blocked the attempt. The Bulldogs responded with an 8 play, 79 yard drive capped by a Michael White 22 yard sweep to go up 6-0.

It was still 6-0 in the third when a Mexico turnover gave Southern Boone a first and goal on the Bulldogs’ 7 yard line. But three runs only yielded two yards. On fourth and goal, Steelman turned to the air.

His pass was broken up by a lunging McCurdy to end the threat.

“We practiced against the deep slant all week,” McCurdy said. “I wanted the pick, but I’m glad I broke it up.”

Steelman and the Eagles were able to move the ball through the air all evening. He completed 20 of 32 attempts for 213 yards, targeting seven different receivers.

But the defensive backs – particularly corners Kanye Nunnelly and Anthony Shivers were there immediately to prevent further yards after the catch.

“It was bend but don’t break,” Grubb observed. “We played as a team.”

Caleb Prater set the tone on the first play of the game, bulldozing Eagles running back Ben Taylor for a loss. Mexico head coach Steve Haag praised the defense for blunting Southern Boone’s running game. Yet apart from White’s touchdown, the Bulldogs found the going equally difficult.

With White momentarily sidelined, Mexico turned to defensive stalwart Jaden Hatfield to spur the offense. Early in the fourth quarter Hatfield plunged through the line for runs of 11, 5 and 28 yards to give the Bulldogs a first and goal from the 7.

“I had to step in,” Hatfield said. “We weren’t letting up.”

Runge scored on a counter to increase Mexico’s lead to 12-0. And the Eagles were forced to hand the ball back after a three and out highlighted by a William Dobyns solo tackle that prevented a first down.

Hatfield, Runge and Shivers traded carries, moving the ball deep into Southern Boone territory. Sims took his turn on second and four from the 15 and burst through a big hole for Mexico’s third touchdown.

Runge added the extra point and it was 19-0.

Haag says that Southern Boone’s defense began to wear down under the relentless pressure of the option attack. Sims agreed.

“That’s the point of the option,” the Mexico quarterback said, noting that fatigue can be mental as well as physical. “At the end we did an amazing job of fooling their linemen.”

But Steelman has a trigger arm, making Southern Boone dangerous. On the ensuing series he found Kellen Ash running free and connected for a 68 yard score. The kick was good and the score stood at 19-7 with 5:13 still remaining.

Momentum was with Mexico on this occasion. With Sims and Hatfield shouldering the burden, the Bulldogs drove into Southern Boone territory again. Sims scored from 28 yards out to extend the lead to 25-7.

“We rallied to the ball, we tackled well,” Haag said. “Our kids are getting better each game.”

Hatfield led the way offensively with 118 yards on 7 carriers. White gained 58, Sims added 50 and Shivers 48. White, Runge, Sims and Hatfield each reached paydirt.

The passing game generated results for Mexico. Sims was 5 of 7 for 47 yards on the night. Johnson, White, Shivers and Ryder Staddie each had catches.

Fittingly, the final points of the game came on a defensive play. With just over a minute to play, Runge picked off a Steelman pass and returned it 57 yards for the final touchdown.

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