Mac throttles Duncan
If there were any doubts about MacArthur's ability to make stops, they were firmly answered on Friday night.
The Highlanders kept Duncan at bay for most of night, leading to a 36-23 win at Cameron Stadium. The victory clinched Mac's 16th-straight playoff berth ninth under coach Brett Manning.
Mac (5-3, 4-1 District 5A-1) has experienced problems stopping the run this season, but Manning and his coaching staff made the necessary changes, and it showed against the Demons.
The Highlanders held Duncan to only 200 yards rushing on 50 carries 4 yards per carry tallying seven tackles for loss. The Demons longest run play of the night came on a 23-yard touchdown run from Jonathon Babineaux.
Babineaux finished with 90 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Manning said a change in the defensive scheme helped prevent Duncan from getting breakaway plays.
"We played really tough against the run," Manning said. "We had a safety in the middle to try to prevent some of those long runs against us."
The Demons (3-5, 2-3) drove into Mac territory several times throughout the contest thanks in part to some short punts, but the defense came up with stops whenever it mattered the most. The Highlanders even blocked a field goal attempt early in the first quarter that would've given Duncan a 3-0 lead.
Mac held the Demons to only 2-of-13 on third downs.
"I think our defense played a good game, but I thought special teams put them in some bad spots," Manning said. "I didn't like some of the points we gave up, but it wasn't necessarily the defense's fault.
"They were extremely focused today, and I'm proud of our defensive coaches and our players for going out there and playing a good game."
The defense managed to put some points on the board as well.
After a Racer Felter punt pinned Duncan at its own 3-yard line, Rylan Webb burst through the defensive line, tackling Jaivion Dangerfield in the end zone for a safety. The impressive play gave the Highlanders a 23-3 lead with 9:05 left in the third quarter.
"I saw a little hole, and I hit it pretty hard and I was right there to make the tackle," Webb said.
Webb is considered the leader of the defense, and he said the defense felt a strong sense of urgency coming into the game given the possible circumstances should Mac have lost.
"We knew if we won the game we'd have a playoff berth," Webb said. "We all just kind of rallied together, had a great team effort and came out with the win."
Of course, the Highlanders couldn't have won with the defense alone.
The offense racked up a staggering 482 yards on only 61 plays nearly 8 yards per snap.
Felter led the way, throwing for 166 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-17 passing while also rushing for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.