APEX — Middle Creek used outstanding play from its special teams and a couple of big offensive plays to remain undefeated in the Southwest Wake 4A Conference with a 26-14 victory over Green Hope on Friday night.
The Mustangs (4-2, 2-0 Southwest Wake), ranked No. 7 in The News & Observer poll, scored a touchdown on a blocked punt and got four field goals from Michael Rubino as they held off the No. 12 Falcons (4-3, 1-2).
Middle Creek took a 20-0 halftime lead, getting a jump-start with a blocked punt on the first possession of the game. Rasheem Easton burst through the line and blocked the Green Hope punt just 52 seconds into the game and chased the ball down in the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 Middle Creek lead.
Rubino field goals of 28 and 32 yards were sandwiched around a 64-yard touchdown jaunt by Elijah Perry, and the Mustangs were up by nearly three touchdowns at halftime.
Green Hope roared back with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns, getting a 31-yard TD pass from Luke Massei to Daniel Gretsch and a 25-yard interception return for a score from linebacker Jason Yu.
It was 20-14 and the Mustangs were in bad need of some big plays early in the fourth quarter.
They got one of defense when they stopped Green Hope on a fourth-and-4 from the Mustangs’ 9, forcing an incomplete pass. Then they got the offense they needed – moving from their 9 to the Green Hope 1-yard line.
Green Hope held on third down, and Rubino trotted out for an important field goal. His 19-yarder made it 23-14 with 5:51 left after a drive that took almost five minutes.
“We made plays when we had to,” Middle Creek coach Mike Castellano said. “When you get ahead of a good field football team like they, you want to be able to finish it off. We just couldn’t do it.
“But I thought our offense and offensive staff did a good job on that drive. They got together on the sideline and talked about going in the right direction. That is when you have to make plays, when the game gets tough. Our guys made some plays there and our field-goal kicker did a good job there.”
Rubino added a 33-yard field goal with 3:22 remaining to salt it away.
Green Hope quarterback Massei, who came into the game with 1,571 yards passing and 21 touchdowns through the air, was forced to throw from the start when the Falcons fell behind. As a result, the Falcons ran the ball just 21 times for only six yards and Massei threw 52 passes, completing 24 for 222 yards with two interceptions and the one touchdown.
Perry finished with 114 yards on 13 carries to lead the Mustang offense as Middle Creek picked up a big league win.