Published: Nov 11, 2011 11:10 PM
Modified: Nov 12, 2011 12:45 AM
Mustangs march to 3rd round
Six turnovers doom Bengals
APEX - Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina went blow-for-blow as expected during the first half of their second-round tilt in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA football playoffs.Then came a 66-yard kickoff return from Middle Creek running back Naylaan Lopez to start the second half. If that wasn't the knockout punch, then the next three drives were.The Mustangs scored two plays later on a 2-yard Lopez run. Fuquay fumbled on the first play of its next possession, which led to another scoring drive by Middle Creek.And just like that, the Mustangs had all the points they need to hand their Tri-Nine Conference rivals a 34-20 loss. Middle Creek (10-3) now heads to Fayetteville next week to play Jack Britt (10-2)."I was just trying to make an impact and let the team know this is our time and we need to win this," Lopez said. "We just had to make something happen."Lopez was making things happen for most of the night.The junior carried the ball 15 times, but moved the chains consistently, totaling 109 yards and two touchdowns. Although Middle Creek runs a pass-heavy spread offense, Lopez and Devone Johnson (18 carries, 75 yards) kept the chains moving on the ground.Couple that with six forced turnovers by the Middle Creek defense -- including four interceptions -- and the Mustangs had a much easier time holding off the Bengals (10-2) than in their regular-season meeting, a 48-47 double-overtime win by Middle Creek."The defense played lights-out," Middle Creek coach Sean Crocker said. "We did a good job on the run, which forced them to go to the air some -- which they've done a really good job this year, but it's not their forte. They made some plays in the air and our guys made some plays on the ball."The Mustangs will be in the third round of the playoffs for only the second time in school history.On the other sideline, Fuquay-Varina ended their sixth straight season with double-digit wins."You can't win a football game against a good football team like Middle Creek with six turnovers," said Fuquay coach Ryan Habich. "You've got to give them credit, but we had six turnovers and we didn't tackle well."Both sides entered halftime 13-13.Fuquay's Evan McNeil threw for two touchdowns in his first three passes, finding Jon McBride for a 12-yard score and Hayden Read from 23 yards out. He added a third on a 29-yard strike to Read in the fourth quarter.Middle Creek quarterback David Salmon found wide receiver Jon Moore for a 7-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the first half, then threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Quinton Ray in the third quarter.