CHARLOTTE — Myers Park got a bye in the first round of the NCHSAA football playoffs and opened its second-round playoff game in an unfamiliar position before righting the ship and routing Ardrey Kell 48-7 on Nov. 22.
Mustangs quarterback Drake Maye threw just his second interception of the season and lost a fumble, but he more than made up for it by going 22-of-30 through the air for 326 yards and three touchdowns while running for another touchdown.
On the Mustangs’ opening series, Maye fumbled the direct snap but the Myers Park defense forced a 3-and-out on Ardrey Kell’s ensuing drive.
The defense then picked off a pass from Knights quarterback Jared Joseph, setting up a Maye rushing touchdown to open the scoring.
.Maye would throw an interception on the Mustangs third drive, which was just his second on the season opposed to 48 touchdowns. But the Mustang defense would hold again.
The offense gained its composure and geared up for a run.
“It was the start we were hoping for offensively, but we recovered.” Myers Park coach Scott Chadwick said. “It was very uncharacteristic for us to turn the ball over, but our defense bailed us out early. I thought it was them having to get their feet under them as they adjusted to our pace of play, but it was us who had to get our feet under us there for a little bit.
“Our defense was great. Our offense gets a lot of notoriety and the credit, but we play pretty good defense, too.”
The Mustangs have been sensational on defense all year and limited the Knights to a season-low seven points even though Ardrey Kell came in averaging 33.2 points per game.
On the season, the Mustangs have given up 10 or more points in just five of their 12 games and only twice have they given up 20 or more although nobody has scored more than 21 points.
In all, they have allowed 95 points, which comes out to just 7.9 points per game. The school record defense is more than two points better than last year, when the Mustangs set the school record at 10.20 points per game.
The secondary with Jordan Brown and Blake Wicks joining Cameron Roseman-Sinclair, Tah El, Caleb Legrand and others is outstanding.
Linebacker Roe Chitwood is the unquestioned senior leader and tackle machine inside, but Jyileck Harrington and Joe Backhole have been exceptional playing much larger roles this season.
Andrew Bookman, Jordan Tinsley, Myles Jones and Jimmy Simpson are some of the stars up front, but the defense has been exceptional and underrated.
talk a lot about our offense, but our defense has done a great job
all year,” Maye said. “They make plays, they get us turnovers and
they’ve kept teams down all year. They did a great job tonight and
we know it’s impossible to win without them.”
The same can be said for Maye, the junior quarterback committed to Alabama.
After the sluggish start, he led six consecutive drives that resulted in touchdowns as the Mustangs turned an early 13-7 lead into a 48-7 blowout.
Maye connected with Moose Muhammad on a pair of touchdowns, and Muhammaed finished well over 120 yards and with six catches. He also connected with Porter Rooks on a touchdown, but while Maye was sensational he was helped by the running game, which pounded Ardrey Kell into submission during the second half as Tim Newman, Jacob Newman and K’daron Redfearn all scored rushing touchdowns in the win.
“When we can run it like that, it opens up the passing game a lot,” Maye said. “We have three good backs and we have them all in there. The (Ardrey Kell) defensive coordinator had a good game plan to try to get after me some, but getting after me comes with work to get open with Jordan (Bly), Moose, Patrick, (Twan) Flip and Logan (Mauldin). They all make plays out there.”
This week, the 12-0 Mustangs have to travel as the No. 4 seed in the NCHSAA 4A brackets to 12-0 and top-seeded Richmond.
The Mustangs went into Richmond last season and beat them 37-14 in the second round. Maye was terrific in that game (15-of-25, 322 yards, three total TDs), but the Mustang defense limited Richmond’s electric quarterback Caleb Hood to just over 200 yards of total offense.
This year, with another hostile crowd expected one round deeper in the playoffs, there will be a lot of hype surrounding the game but business as usual for Chadwich and his team.
“Our guys are not going to be intimidated by anything,” Chadwick said. “We’re going to show up and play. We’re not going to be intimidated, and we’re going to play well. We’ve got a good shot.”