The Minarets Mustangs (2-6, 0-2 West Sequoia league) had a tall order to fill last Friday, taking on the Riverdale Cowboys (6-1, 1-0 WSL). Once the door mats of the league, Coach Bryan Close has turned the Cowboys program around in two short seasons.
Coming into the game Riverdale was averaging 40 points a game, and they improved that stat, putting up 55 points against the Mustangs, winning 55-24.
Minarets played tough the first half, going to the break matching the Cowboy’s at half, tied 14-14. And while the Mustangs managed 10 points in the second half, the Cowboys lit up the scoreboard with 41 second half points.
Playing without wide receiver E.G. Walden due to team rules, the Mustangs lost one of its leaders on defense as well as offense.
Despite the loss, Mustang quarterback Jacob Cullen had a big night, connecting on 12 of his 24 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted by the Cowboys defense twice.
With Walden on the sidelines, Cullen and junior Preston Conti hooked-up on 7 passes for 208 yards and all three of the Mustang touchdowns.
Zack Redman had three receptions for 48 yards, while TJ Garner hauled in two passes for 54 yards.
The Mustangs running game was stymied by Riverdale’s swarming defense. Tyson Ellis led Mustang running backs with 16 carries for 50 yards. Cullen had 10 carries for negative yardage.
On defense, Garner led the team with 9 tackles, and Phillpis had 8.
Senior Chase Hatleli had two blocked field goals, while Ellis had a fumble recovery.
“We played hard the entire game and in the end we were down to many players,” Coach Becher Marr said after the game. “It’s tough knowing when three quarters of the game is over, depth becomes the biggest problem.”
The Mustangs play the Fowler Red Cats (5-2, 1-0 WSL) Friday, who are coming off a 23-7 win at Orange Cove, and hoping to stay in the league title race with Caruthers and Riverdale. On paper the two teams line up well against each other, with Fowler averaging just 6 points more a game than the Mustangs.
Starting quarterback Noah Fulton may return to the Mustang lineup this week following a broken collar bone three weeks ago. If Minarets gets the services of Walden and Fulton back this week, the Mustangs just might surprise Fowler.
Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Minarets with JV playing at 5:30.