APEX — Middle Creek is in the driver’s seat to claim its third consecutive conference title after beating Holly Springs 35-14 Friday.
Both teams entered the night unbeaten in SWAC 4-A play, and the Mustangs are now in control thanks to the ruthless efficiency with which they put away the Golden Hawks.
Quarterback Brant Grisel threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns, and he ran for one more. Defensively, the Mustangs (6-2, 4-0) forced three turnovers that led to two touchdowns.
The Mustangs started the game by kicking and recovering an onside kick. They needed 85 seconds to turn it into a touchdown. Deante McDonald scored on a 6-yard pass from Grisel.
“It’s a major uplift,” Grisel said of the start. “You always want the ball, and that was great field position.”
Holly Springs (4-4, 3-1) responded, tying the score at 7 on Jordan Kornegay’s 72-yard touchdown reception.
But Grisel went right back to work on the ensuing Middle Creek possession, guiding the Mustangs 51 yards on eight plays. Jay Schuller caught an 8-yard touchdown pass for a 14-7 lead.
Rakjuan Hutchins’ interception in the end zone got the ball back for Middle Creek, and Grisel capped the ensuing 80-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
On the next play from scrimmage, Middle Creek’s Thomas Hartshorn recovered a Holly Springs fumble, and on the next play, Grisel hooked up with Schuller for a 31-yard touchdown pass and a commanding 28-7 lead.
Twelve Mustangs players touched the ball on offense, a diversity that flummoxed Holly Springs.
“There’s no one person we go to,” Grisel said. “We keep rotating receivers and getting everyone the ball. Everyone can make plays.”
In addition to turnovers, Holly Springs was undone by penalties and mistakes. The Hawks had 10 penalties for 65 yards, and two fumbles in the second half that lost a combined 50 yards. The Golden Hawks still managed 274 rushing yards, led by Tray Staten’s 118.
While the Mustangs took control of the conference race, that came as news to their coach.
“I don’t even know who we play next, and I don’t know anybody else’s record,” Middle Creek coach Mike Castellano said. “We just worry about the next team, but I don’t even know who we play next week.”
Replicate performances like Friday’s, and it won’t matter.