When football coaches get an extra week of practice they are known to throw in some new wrinkles, schemes or even totally revamp their offense or defense.
And when that break comes right before the start of district games and the head coach is MacArthur’s Brett Manning, you can bet that he’s going to throw something at Duncan, which came to Cameron Stadium Friday for the District 5A-1 opener.
Then you have to know when to expect something out of the ordinary, which is another thing which is tough to plot. If it hadn’t been for a veteran coach, a sports writer and former band director would still be scratching their heads on the sidelines trying to figure out why Mac was willing to give the ball and wind to the Demons for the opening kickoff.
Mac’s Miguel Martinez approached the ball on the opening kickoff and dribbled it just over the 10 yards needed and the Highlanders recovered just 48 yards from the Duncan end zone.
Three plays later quarterback Dane Edwards threw a strike to Dominic Collins from 26 yards out and the Highlanders owned the lead.
“We had been practicing that the past couple of weeks and we were going to see how they lined up and then make a call,” Manning said. “Our kicker (Miguel Martinez) has been doing a good job and we knew if they weren’t bunched up there on the front line it would work and sure enough we got it and were able to score.”
While Martinez was unable to sneak the PAT kick inside the left upright, he came back later with a 27-yard field goal for a 9-0 Mac lead with 1:41 left in the first quarter.
But while the Demons may have been napping on the opening kickoff, Matt Terry’s club forced a Mac fumble that led to one touchdown and a blocked punt gave Duncan another short field and after pushing a pair of touchdowns across after the two Mac mistakes, the visitors owned a 14-9 lead.
Preston Bruel scored the first Duncan TD on a 2-yard run and then after the blocked punt, the Demons moved 30 yards on eight plays, the payoff being a 7-yard TD pass from Preston Giles to Bruel that arranged the Demons’ only lead of the game at 14-9 with 9:36 left in the first half.
With the gusty 22-mph-hour wins howling from the east, Mac was finally able to get a nice drive together, moving 68 yards on eight plays, the TD coming when quarterback Aivan Locklin fired an 11-yard pass to Josh Rushing and Martinez made it 16-14 with 8:04 left in the half.
That was more than enough time for Mac to put two more TDs on the board, the first being a 16-yard TD pass from Locklin to Rushing and then a 25-yard scoring run by Marquis Harris with 2:29 left in the half. Martinez made both PAT kicks and it was 31-14 at the break.
“Our offensive line did a pretty good job and gave us some time to throw the football,” Manning said. “We did play a little sloppy at times so we still have things to work on going forward. Our defense was able to make some big plays until our offense figured out a few things. We made a few adjustments that helped move the ball more consistently but it’s great to have a defense that makes those big plays and gives us good field position.”
One of those sluggish offensive possessions came on Mac’s first series after halftime which started at the Highlanders’ 19-yard-line. Four plays failed to gain a first down and the Demons took over just 26 yards from the end zone. Two plays later Tavion Holland scored and the PAT made it 31-21.
Then the Mac defense took command. The Demons started their second drive of the third quarter at their own 10-yard-line but on the first play the Highlanders’ Marquis Harris saw the ball bouncing on the turf, scooped it up and raced into the end zone and Martinez kicked the PAT for a 38-21 lead with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then came the next big defensive play as a big rush by four Mac defenders force the Demons to try and pass but it was batted up in the air and intercepted by Trae Kibble who got the touchdown. Martinez was true again and it was 45-28 and the fans started heading to the exits.
“Our secondary is really making some big plays for us,” Manning said. “Boothe, Collins; all of those guys in the secondary are really quick and they just have a knack of.being in the right place. They have really bought into our defensive schemes and are really knowledgeable.
Manning also says his secondary coach Walter Neil is doing a great job.
“Walter has been really good,” he said. “He knows he has to learn and is eager to watch film and get his guys ready. When you have former players come back as coaches you never know if they will be a good one but Walter relates well to the kids and he’s very knowledgeable. We have several good young coaches.”
The Highlanders will take a 4-0 record into next week’s road game at Altus which lost to Midwest City, 55-6. The Demons will have to face the Bombers next Friday in another tough matchup.