Behind two first-half touchdown passes and a Fernando Van Hook scoring run just 47 seconds before halftime, the MUS varsity football team built a 20-0 halftime lead and held on to claim a 26-10 victory over Briarcrest to conclude the regular season at 7-3, 3-0 in division play.
The defense, particularly in the first half, continued to be the team’s strength as it dominated the Saints in the first two quarters. Briarcrest, averaging over 324 total yards per game entering the contest, was held to a meager 29 yards in the first half as the Owls built their three-touchdown advantage.
MUS defenders forced four three-and-outs and allowed Briarcrest to cross the Saint 36-yard line only once in the first half as the defense never allowed the Saints to garner any offensive momentum.
Meanwhile, the offense took advantage of several opportunities to take control of the game.
First, after a defensive stop had given the Owls possession at the Saint 33-yard line, MUS needed only two plays to score as Devin Perry made a spectacular catch in front of the Briarcrest defender to score and give the visitors the early 7-0 lead with 6:31 remaining in the first quarter.
QB Toby Baker threw his second touchdown pass of the evening in the second quarter as he hit Carlton McCord on a receiver screen, and McCord raced down the sideline, going 42 yards for the touchdown. Unfortunately, Gary Wunderlich, who had made 78 consecutive extra points, missed the PAT, but the Owls still had a 13-0 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the half.
And with the defense continuing to stymie Briarcrest, MUS added one final touchdown just before the half. Following a James Prather punt block that gave the Owls possession at the Briarcrest 23-yard line with just 1:15 left in the half, MUS needed only 3 plays to score. Baker’s pass to Shane Tucker moved the ball to the Saint 9-yard line, and from there, Van Hook scampered into the endzone to extend the lead to 20 at the break.
Briarcrest played much better in the second half and began to build some momentum behind its home crowd, yet MUS did just enough to maintain control. The Saints cut the lead in half at 20-10 by the start of the fourth quarter following a Thomas Farst 47-yard field goal and an Eric Foster 15-yard scoring reception from QB B.J. Nagle. The Saint defense forced the Owls to punt on all three of its possessions, giving the Briarcrest offense opportunities.
However, once cutting the lead to 10, the Saints could get no closer. MUS scored on its first possession of the fourth quarter as Tucker carried for 73 yards on 3 plays to get the ball to the 1-yard line. From there, the Owls overcame a penalty to score as Van Hook went in from 4-yards out. The PAT again sailed wide, but the visitors had regained control and went on for the 16-point win.
As the top-seed out of the West, the Owls earned a first-round bye and in two weeks will play the winner of this-week’s McCallie-BGA contest. That game will be at MUS and will kick off at 7:00 pm. Briarcrest, which finished the regular season at 4-6, 0-3, will travel to play at MBA in the first round.