APEX — For the second straight week, Middle Creek hosted Fuquay-Varina on a Friday, and the Mustangs made it 2-for-2 with a 37-20 victory in the opening round of the 4AA playoffs.
Middle Creek quarterback Brant Grisel threw four touchdown passes, all to senior Curtis Burston, as the No. 2 seed Mustangs broke open a close game in the third quarter.
Middle Creek (10-2) will host South View next week.
The two SWAC conference rivals were tied at 14 at halftime, and the Mustangs faced a fourth and 18 from the Fuquay-Varina 31-yard line early in the third period.
Grisel launched a pass to Burston, who was double covered. The senior wide receiver somehow came up with the ball in the end zone, putting Middle Creek up 20-14.
The Bengals (6-6), who had pounded the ball on the ground in the first half with Damarus Williams and Tyler Williams, went three-and-out on their next possession.
Grisel then fired a 59-yard strike to Jay Schuller, setting up Burston’s third TD reception two plays later to put the Mustangs up 27-14.
“Fuquay-Varina did a phenomenal job of changing things up that first half,” said Middle Creek coach Mike Castellano, whose Mustangs defeated the Bengals 28-14 in the regular season finale a week ago. “We knew we had to play better in the second half.”
Fuquay-Varina scored later in the third on a hook and lateral, a play the team has run for a decade. Tyler Williams took the lateral and ran 83 yards for the score, trimming the Mustangs’ lead to 30-20.
The Bengals would get no closer.
“We took some chances, played hard, but that fourth and 18 was such a big play for them,” said Fuquay-Varina coach Jeb Hall. “Our seniors played their hearts out.”
Damarus Williams rushed for 111 yards and scored twice in the first half for the Bengals.
Grisel scored the Mustangs’ first TD on a 5-yard run, and then fired a perfect 55-yard bomb to Curtis Burston to put Middle Creek ahead 14-7 at the 9:16 mark of the second quarter.