Hindered by struggling special teams and a scoreless first half, the 6A Stanhope Mustangs fell to 7A rival Prattville 29-0 in Prattville, Alabama on Friday night.
Stanhope’s Jackson Thomas broke away for a 74-yard touchdown rush in the second half that was eventually called back for an illegal block in the block. A flag that wasn’t thrown for well over 30 seconds after the rush. Misfortune; the story of the night for the Mustangs.
“I thought we played hard tonight,” Coach Brian Bradford said. “I thought we moved the ball hard, I thought we blocked good. We just didn’t sustain drives like we should have. Three or four yards a pop moving the football, we just didn’t convert on third downs like we should.”
Gaining yards on quick handoffs to open the first drive, Stanhope looked poised to gain some yards with the ground game. Prone carried the first rush of the night, gaining seven yards on his first touch. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the Lions were ready to counter and began flooding the right side of the field where the Mustangs were focusing their attack, forcing a punt on the first drive of the game.
The punter and starting quarterback for the Mustangs, Jacob Bryant, took the snap and booted the ball straight up into the air. The punt traveled just 10 yards, handing the Prattville Lions prime starting position in the opponent’s territory.
After 2 first downs, Prattville failed to capitalize on the field position pushing a 30-yard field goal past the right goalpost.
With the score still 0-0, a three-and-out ensued on the Mustangs next possession as three rushes led to less than 4 yards.
Punting again for less than 20 yards, the Prattville Lions started offense on their own 46-yard line, the second time in just 2 possessions.
This time, the Lions would make good for the chances they were given. Landing a 37-yard bomb to Parker in single-coverage go route and punching the ball into the endzone with a 7-yard rush by Jackson Taggart.
“It was the difference in the game. We lost the field position war, special teams,” Bradford said. “We didn’t execute like we were supposed to tonight and that really hurt us. Prattville is a great team; I’m not gonna make any excuses whatsoever because they’ve got a good football team. I think if we do stuff like that, if we don’t execute like we’re supposed to, it makes it really really hard.”
Trone made his mark to start the next Mustang drive rushing for 14 yards before getting held to zero yards on the Mustangs’ next rush attempt. Trone has shown flashes but a makeshift offensive line couldn’t get him open lanes. After QB Jacob Bryant completed his first pass of the game to Jackson for a 6-yard gain, Trone coughed up a fumble that was grabbed by Prattville in Mustang territory.
That marks three consecutive drives that started on the opponent’s side of the field for the Lions.
Taggart once again found the endzone for Prattville on a 14-yard wheel route and a lion 2-point conversion would prove to be successful, extending the lead to 15-0.
The Mustangs’ self-inflicted wounds wouldn’t end on just field position and punts. An offsides call would push Stanhope into a 2nd and 17 before letting up a sack, leading to a 3rd and 30. Following a small 4th down gain, the Mustangs once again took the field to punt.
This time, the punt failed to go further than five yards.
Prattville started this drive on the Mustangs’ own 29-yard line. Prattville running back Kameron Shanks was hit behind the line by two Mustang defenders but powered his way through the bodies to advance a first down on a 3rd and 6. Prattville would score on this drive too.
The Mustangs entered the half down 22-0.
Two consecutive stops on the defensive end gave the Mustangs some hope at the beginning of the second half. Stanhope would also enter the opponent’s field position in the first possession of the second half. This hope soon dwindled as the Mustang offense sputtered and stalled once inside Prattville’s field position.
One positive in the second half for Stanhope is the punting improved tremendously. A Bryant punt traveled well over 40 yards with a favorable Mustang bounce.
Getting pinned at their own 1 by a Prattville punt and giving up multiple explosive offensive plays leading to another Prattville touchdown, the Mustangs were getting outclassed by the 4th quarter.
The Mustangs tried to end the game on a positive note, forcing a Prattville fumble and advancing to the Lion 10-yard line in the matches’ final two minutes. The drive would end on a Bryant interception, but aggressive last-minute defense blew up the Lion’s quarterback and sent the ball flying into the endzone for a Stanhope touchdown.
“We just gotta align right and just quit making mental mistakes,” Bradford said. “We gotta start tackling a little bit better. I thought they played hard. No doubt Prattville’s good. We gave them too many snaps, offense should have done a little bit better, but we got a little tired there and missed some tackles we don’t characteristically do. I thought they played hard – and hats off to Prattville.”
Stanhope Elmore (1-1) moves on to face Benjamin Russell Football (0-1) for a regional game in Alexander City at 7 p.m. on Friday.