When Middle Creek blew out Garner in September, the Trojans were shorthanded due to injuries. This time around – with both teams at full strength – the Mustangs showed there’s no reason an undefeated team can’t continue to improve, thrashing Garner 49-30 at home in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Middle Creek will host Wake Forest at home next Friday in a re-match of the 2013 4AA East final, which Wake Forest won.
“We played as well as we could’ve tonight, defensively we got after them pretty good and forced a lot of turnovers,” Middle Creek coach Randy Ragland said. “Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence right now … if we keep the momentum we have right now, we can play with anyone.”
After scoring at least 50 points in six of its last seven games, it looked like Garner’s offense was going to keep rolling after Braxton Brokenborough hit Chester Crowder Jr. for a 47-yard score on the opening drive.
The quarterback on the opposing sideline, Dominique Shoffner, proceeded to have his way with the Garner defense after that, throwing two touchdowns and running for another in a 4:02 span late in the first quarter.
Garner’s offense was stifled after the opening scoring drive and coach Thurman Leach tried to find ways to get his two stars, Brokenborough and Collin Eaddy, into open field, even running the wildcat until Eaddy threw an interception.
The pick turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though, as Garner’s Jaydin Dixon sacked Shoffner for a safety two plays later.
The Trojans capitalized on a short field on the ensuing possession as Brokenborough completed every pass attempt en route to a 2-yard score from Eaddy.
Shoffner, who completed 12 of his 15 passes in the first half, found Shammond Hicks for a 30-yard touchdown down the right sideline to extend the Mustangs’ lead to 28-15 entering the intermission.
Garner turned the ball over four times in the third quarter alone.
The Mustangs’ offensive stampede continued as Shoffner completed every pass on a 53-yard scoring drive capped off by a 5-yard throw to Jordan Mitchell.
Middle Creek is known for spreading the ball on offense, but not many expected an offensive lineman to be getting his points until Zack Keck recovered a DeAndre Jones fumble in the endzone to make it 42-15.
Linebacker Michael Russell wreaked havoc in both coverage and at the line of scrimmage for the Mustangs. Russell had a pick-six touchdown to close the third quarter that ended the scoring run for Middle Creek.
Three other Middle Creek interceptions for touchdown were called back.
“You can’t turn the ball over against a good football team,” Leach said. “That dug a hole that we hadn’t been in all season … this was two good football teams tonight that played and unfortunately we made too many mistakes.”
Garner made the score respectable with a Dalton Counts punt return score and a goal line rush from Brokenborough, but never had the Mustangs on their toes.
J. Mike Blake contributed.