APEX — Middle Creek coach Mike Castellano lamented how deep into the bag of tricks the Mustangs needed to reach in Friday’s 28-14 victory against Fuquay-Varina, but everything they pulled out not only worked, but also worked at the perfect time.
“We try to be good in all phases of the game, and if we think we have an opportunity to make a play, we trust our guys are going to make in that situation,” Castellano said.
Deadlocked at 7-7 late in the first half and facing a fourth-and-6 at the Fuquay 33, Middle Creek (9-2, 7-0 SWAC 4-A) opted for a fake field goal. Isaiah Herring completed a 10-yard pass to Warren Messer to revive the drive. That led to Curtis Burston’s 23-yard touchdown reception from Brant Grisel with 31 seconds remaining in the half to give the Mustangs a 14-7 cushion at the break.
But Fuquay (6-5, 3-4) answered in the third quarter with arguably one of the most absurd plays ever pulled off. Facing fourth-and-goal from its own 40 after penalties backed them up 51 yards, Tyler MacBride faked the punt and raced 60 yards to the end zone to tie the game at 14-14.
But Middle Creek came right back, thanks to Yorick Sands kickoff return to the Fuquay 44. Six plays later Burston scored on a 5-yard run and Middle Creek regained the lead 21-14.
“That just made me want to go harder, get in the end zone and make something happen for our team,” Burston said of the feeling on the sideline after Fuquay had tied the game.
The Mustangs, as they’ve done all season, opted for an onsides kick and managed to recover it. That eventually led to Jay Schuller’s 10-yard TD reception with 11:55 to play and sealed the Mustangs’ perfect run through the SWAC 4-A.
As the Mustangs head into the playoffs winners of seven in a row, Castellano deflected thoughts of a perfect run through the postseason. Middle Creek remains focused on being perfect each week.
“If we can get a win, we’re happy,” Castellano said. “And we move on to the next one.”