Mustangs hadn’t beaten Bulldogs in 18 years, then knocked them out of playoffs
Many of the players who took part on either side of Butler and Myers Park’s second round playoff battle Nov. 18 weren’t even born yet the last time a Bulldog football team had lost to the Mustangs.
The streak began Sept. 24, 1999, when the Mustangs pulled out a 17-14 win over Butler. They would lose to Butler later that year in the playoffs, and Myers Park would go 6,627 days – a span of 19 games in which Butler outscored them 674-176 – before putting an end to it in a statement-making 28-24 come-from-behind win on Butler’s home field.
They had been in this position before with a chance to beat the Bulldogs in 2016 – they lost 53-0 – and on Oct. 6 of this year.
“Where we are is a program, this is where we have to go to take the next step,” Chadwick said before the Oct. 6 matchup. “Last year, we won 11 games, but in our two opportunities (Vance in a playoff loss and Butler) against the upper echelon teams in Charlotte we came up short. We’re certainly knocking on the door of being in those upper teams in Charlotte – and I think if you’re an upper-echelon team in Charlotte, you’re automatically a top team in the state – and for us to put ourselves in that group, we’re going to have to beat these guys one time.”
Myers Park took a 7-0 halftime lead and appeared ready to end the streak the first time the teams met. But Butler scored on its closing four second half possessions, frustrating the Mustang defense and piling up mountains of rushing yards in the second half where they’d throw just one pass attempt in a 28-7 domination,
So as the teams prepared to play once again, in the biggest spotlight they’ve ever met in – at least was the case for Myers Park – Chadwick told his team in the pregame meeting something that stuck with them.
He said then that if they were to knock off Butler, it would be the best feeling they ever had. This is to a team that has won 11 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history and has set a school record with five shutouts while surrendering the fewest points per game for any Mustang team since 1999.
Butler coach Brian Hales knew this meeting would probably be a little different than the first one, but said his team would go into it with a business as usual approach.
“Maybe the only thing is we’re going to make our kids really aware that they’ve got the revenge factor on their side,” Hales said before the game. “Everyone always talks about how it’s hard to beat a good team twice this time of year and it is tough. But I think we’ve improved a great deal since the first time we played them, but we’re far, far from where we can be.”
The Bulldogs were the ones who would come out swinging first in the playoff showdown.
Nijere Peoples capped off Butler’s opening scoring drive with a seven-yard touchdown run to get his team out to a 7-0 first quarter lead.
Four minutes later, a Butler drive stalled in the red zone, but Alex Harrell connected on a 32-yard field goal attempt to put Butler up 10-0.
The Mustang sideline appeared lifeless at that point as they needed a spark of any kind to believe they could knock off the Bulldogs.
That would come two-fold in the second quarter, starting with a seven-yard touchdown run from running back Khamal Howard. Less than three minutes later, quarterback Brayden Hawkins connected with senior receiver Emanuel Alston on a 42-yard scoring strike that would put Myers Park up 14-10 with three minutes to go in the first half.
As the teams went into the halftime break, Chadwick said he was very much aware of how Butler had gouged his team in the second half of a close game in the first meeting, and along with defensive coordinator Andy Markatine, came up with a plan.
“We had a really good plan and we decided that we were going to try to do everything we could to make them throw the ball to beat us,” Chadwick said. “If they beat us throwing it, so be it, but we were going to focus in on stopping their run game.
“We told them that we were winning last time at the half and got pounded pretty good, so let’s turn the tide on them in the second half in this one.”
The plan worked to perfection as neither team scored in the third quarter and Myers Park outgained Butler 172-126 through the air and held Butler to just 164 yards of total offense.
The Mustangs defense limited Butler’s vaunted run game to 47 yards on 21 carries, but the Bulldogs were not going to go away.
Quarterback Christian Peters hit Keyon Lesane on a 51-yard touchdown score just 40 seconds into the fourth quarter to put Butler up 17-14.
Myers Park quarterback Brayden Hawkins, who completed 17-28 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns, found Muhsin Muhammad III on a 11-yard strike to put the Mustangs back up 21-17 with 6:28 to play.
After the Mustangs stalled on an ensuing drive, they punted to Butler’s TJ Cusick who ran back the kick 62 yards, putting Butler up once again, 24-21 with 3:31 left.
“Several times we could have hung our heads,” Chadwick said. “We were down 10-0 to start the game. They took the lead twice in the second half and our kids just kept fighting and kept fighting.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Josh Curry ran the Butler kick over midfield to set up the winning drive and shift the momentum back to Myers Park.
“The key play was Josh Curry, a senior who has been in this program for four years, makes a great play on that kickoff return to put us in good position and we finish off that drive,” Chadwick said.
The Mustang offense would take over from there and after a long drive Hawkins called his own number for a one-yard quarterback scramble that put the Mustangs up 28-24 with 1:42 to play.
Butler and Peters had to pass the ball from there, and after four straight well-defended incompletions, the Mustangs had finally got the monkey off their back.
“What does this look like?” Chadwick said to his team moments after the biggest win in school history as he imitated pulling something heavy off his back. “We got that thing off our back. I told you how this was going to feel in our pregame meeting and it beats everything you’ve ever done doesn’t it?”
The Mustangs erupted in cheers and celebration.
“I’m really happy for our seniors especially,” Chadwick said. “These are guys who walked into our program that when they got here had seven losing seasons out of the last eight. Why would you want to come here and play football here? But they took the leap of faith to come here and do what they did and they’re walking out of here with a school record for wins.
“Right now, this win just means everything. I can’t tell you how happy I am for our guys right now.”