If 2020 was a high school football game, it just might have been the Taylor-Mayde Creek District 19-6A affair that took place on an otherwise unassuming Saturday morning at Legacy Stadium.
If 2020 was a high school football game, it just might have been the Taylor-Mayde Creek District 19-6A affair that took place on an otherwise unassuming Halloween morning at Legacy Stadium.
An emotional rollercoaster. Plenty of highlights. An unfortunate share of lowlights. Perseverance, resilience, grit, toughness. A lot of bizarre. A lot of ‘huh?’
All of that.
The Mustangs upended the Rams, 56-42, in an impressive showcase that featured 12 touchdowns, two field goals, 41 first downs and a special teams score. The teams combined for 930 total yards, four turnovers and 11 penalties. In all, 141 plays were run.
Taylor improved to 5-1 overall, 3-1 in 19-6A. Mayde Creek lost its second straight game, falling to 3-2, 0-2 in district.
“It was a battle, both teams working hard,” said Taylor junior running back Michael Whitaker III, who rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown to go with 71 receiving yards and another touchdown. “We finally picked it up there in the second half and got the win.”
Both teams were coming off ugly losses—Taylor via 28-0 drubbing by Tompkins, and Mayde Creek a lackluster 21-17 loss to Cinco Ranch—but it was the Mustangs who rebounded into the win column.
Taylor did so without the district’s top receiver in senior Tyrone Irving III, who is out indefinitely due to a probable concussion, and a depleted secondary that was worsened when steady veteran Camron Hennon left in the first half with a head injury.
But the Mustangs had Whitaker and a healthy Casey Shorter, and that was enough. Shorter, a senior running back and Army commit, looked right for the first time all season after suffering a hamstring injury in the season opener on Sept. 24.
Shorter had 117 yards and no touchdowns on 33 carries in four previous games. Against Mayde Creek, he had 159 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
“If I didn’t have my line … I couldn’t do it without those guys,” said Shorter, crediting the space-clearing ways of Hayden Conner, Bryce Foster, Abe Okezie, Landan Mowry and Nolan Hay. “I missed being out there with my boys and running the ball. They said, ‘Ol’ Casey is back.’”
The game was knotted at 42 after Mayde Creek’s Alpha Khan returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score with 11:32 left, adding to a list of SportsCenter-worthy game highlights that included Taylor’s Trevor Woods’ incredible juggling 25-yard catch seconds before he fell to the ground, Mayde Creek’s Jace Wilson’s twisting-and-turning 19-yard scoring run, a seamless 60-yard scoring hookup from Wilson to Khan, and Woods’ 65-yard punt return that came up just short of the goal line.
Following Khan’s kick return, Shorter capped a 3-minute, 32-second scoring drive with a four-yard scoring run to put Taylor back on top to stay. On the Rams’ next series, a little more than midway through the fourth quarter, Wilson was forced to sit out a snap after his helmet came off during a run play. It is a rule of the high school game. Mayde Creek backup quarterback Cardell Beard was sent in.
Woods, a safety, was on top of it.
“I was telling our safeties to play up on the bubble and I was telling everyone else it was a run,” Woods said. “They don’t want to throw with the backup quarterback on his first play of the game in that situation.”
The Mustangs swarmed Coyle, who fumbled the ball as he quickly tried to backpedal from disaster. Woods recovered it to set the Mustangs offense on the Mayde Creek 47-yard line.
“It was huge,” said Woods, who also had two catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. “We needed a big play, no matter who or what it is. We needed a stop and it turned the game.”
Not long after, junior running back Tyler Irving, called up from the junior varsity just a month ago, bullied and powered his way through a handful of defenders for a tough, and ultimately game-sealing, seven-yard score with 3:52 left to put Taylor up by two touchdowns.
“He refused to be denied,” Simmons said of Irving, cousin of Tyrone. “Heck of a run. You weren’t stopping him.”
Junior defensive back Jaden Burr’s interception of Wilson on the Rams’ final drive—Mayde Creek’s fourth giveaway of the game—shut the door for good.
“We talked all week about being resilient, and that’s what we wanted to do,” Woods said. “We have to be more physical, and we definitely were. We have to keep building.”
The Mustangs were outgained 474-456 in total yards. They survived an electric performance from the jaw-dropping Wilson, a Furman verbal commit. The precocious playmaker completed 15 of 27 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns and added 103 rushing yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
“He’s very efficient with the ball,” said Simmons, who said his team has to a do a better job of tackling. “He’s accurate. He’s a real dual threat kid, the type of player you want as your quarterback. Real athletic kid.”
Fortunately for Simmons, his team had enough to get by.
“This was big,” Whitaker said. “The Tompkins game was bad for us. We finished the game, played all four quarters. Made us feel good.”