[BALTIMORE] Coming off their undefeated regular season and Baltimore City championship, beating undefeated Edmondson-Westside High school in a thrilling 9-8 victory, Mervo has high expectations in 2014.
A change was needed in their football culture after they went 4-6 in 2013, and from the results of last season, it seems Mervo is getting back to their winning ways.
The question coming into this season would be, was last year a fluke or lucky season or could the Mustangs repeat as City Champions? Maybe take the next step in capturing the school’s first state championship in school history.
As we all know Talk is cheap. What really matters and what gets remembered is what happens on the field.
Their first test of the season would come against the South Hagerstown Rebels. A team that is accustomed to winning, only losing three games or less each of the last four seasons. The Rebels are led by their QB, Tim Peer, and workhorse running back, Jordan Douglas, does not make this an easy test for the Mustangs.
Coaches love to preach to their team, “Set the Tempo”. Well ladies and gentlemen, meet Nas Dockins—senior cornerback, wide receiver, and kick returner for the Mustangs. The all-around skilled player took the message of “set the tempo” and on the first play of the season, Dockins took the opening kickoff 80 yards to the house, getting everybody in the stadium, especially his team, fired up for the rest of the game.
The play was electrifying and made everyone who didn’t know wonder, who was that? A great introduction for himself and for the Mustangs 2015-16 campaign.
After failing the two point conversion, Mustangs led 6-0. Mission one to “Set the Tempo” was complete. The defense, led by senior DE Malcolm Ali, carried the momentum and stuffed the Rebels offense, causing a quick three and out, forcing them to punt. Mervo special teams made another big play, as they rushed the kicker and blocked the punt, returning it for another special teams touchdown. After another failed two point conversion, the Mustangs led the crazy sequence of events, 12-0 at 7:20 in the first quarter.
Special teams for the Mustangs weren’t done yet though. The Mustangs had to punt after a quick three and out but, got the ball right back after a strip fumble gave them great field position at the Rebels 20-yard line.
The Rebels could have easily given up as they were victim to a horrendous first quarter performance but it’s four quarters of football so there’s always time.
The Rebels defense locked down, forcing their own turnover off a botched read option play. Douglas of the Rebels was running the rock viciously, getting the ball down the 1-yard line, knocking on the doorstep of the Mustangs defense. The Mustangs' veteran defense played tough, stopping the Rebels on the goal line, only allowing a field goal.
Mervo's defense forced multiple turnovers on downs to keep the game 12-3 until the 4th Quarter. After countless drives getting stopped by the Mustangs defense, Peer lead his offense down the field and scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Jones, cutting Mervo's lead to 12-10 with 9:11 left in the game. In a game that Mervo dominated throughout, it became a tight ballgame in the 4th quarter.
Coming up with multiple big stops, Mervo's defense kept the Rebels out of field goal range to hold on to the small lead. The defense set up senior quarterback, Gavin Nicholson, with 2:55 remaining to clinch the game, moving the chains to kill the clock.
The Rebels felt good about their chances to get a stop and put the ball in Tim Peer hands to win the game, with Nicholson being hobbled by an ankle sprain he suffered late in the 3rd quarter. Resilience and toughness have to be in a football player’s DNA and Nicholson showed that with the game clinching play.
3rd and 10 with less than two minutes remaining, Nicholson eluded the blitz by the Rebels, scrambled to his right, threw it down-field, the ball was tipped by a Mustangs player, only to fall gracefully into Brandon Ben’s hands sealing the first down and the victory. A little lucky, Yes maybe, but Nicholson could have easily sat out the rest of the game, but instead chose to fight it out with his team.
It was a thrilling way for the Mustangs to clinch their first win of the season and heartbreaking loss for the Rebels.
Mustangs Win 12-10
Up next for the Rebels a game against the Urbana Hawks of Ijamsville, Md while the Mustangs prepare for their conference opener with City Championship implications on the line against Poly.