APEX — It took a little while for the Middle Creek offense to heat up in Friday’s second-round 4AA playoff matchup with visiting Hope Mills South View.
But once it did, it propelled Middle Creek to a 28-20 victory against the Tigers and on to the third round.
Middle Creek (11-2) matched its deepest run in the postseason. The second-seeded Mustangs will host No. 6 Garner next week. The Trojans won their regular-season meeting
Mustangs quarterback Brant Grisel was 17-of-37 for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Grisel completed passes to seven different receivers and connected on touchdown passes to Jay Schuller, Rasheem Eaton and East Carolina-bound Curtis Burston.
“We knew we had to throw the ball in order to have a chance to win this game,” said Middle Creek coach Mike Castellano, whose Mustangs have won nine consecutive games. “South View is a tough, physical team who came out and hit us in the mouth, and it took us some time to get things going.”
Middle Creek trailed 7-0 after the first quarter, but scored 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to take command.
The Mustangs’ success followed a serious leg injury to freshman running back Josh Drake, who was hurt early in the second quarter after a 9-yard run. The game was stopped 25 minutes for paramedics to attend to Drake.
Grisel then tossed a 7-yard fade to Schuller to tie the game 7-7 at the 9:39 mark. On the Mustangs’ next drive, Grisel fired a 37-yard pass to Keon Smith that set up a 38-yard touchdown to Eaton to put the Mustangs up 14-7.
With less than a minute before halftime, Stuart Fine took a screen pass 35 yards from Grisel and then plunged into the end zone on the next play from 1 yard to give Middle Creek a two-touchdown advantage.
“Josh is a great kid and has meant a lot to us this year,” Castellano said. “Brant made some real good decisions with the football tonight.”
Burston scored on a 69-yard pass from Grisel in the fourth quarter.
South View (9-4) opened the scoring after capitalizing on a Middle Creek fumble. Xavier Robinson fired a strike to Jeremy Cox for a 21-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Cox led all rushers with 160 yards.