Running up the gut, goal line stops and jump balls propelled the Mavs to victory in their Saturday Night Lights home opener over Wayne State College.
The Mavericks gave 6,209 fans a show of pure offense as they held onto the ball for over 39 minutes — a full 18 more than the Wildcats saw. MSU’s time of possession was the tale of how they came up with their dominating victory.
The Mavs predictable run up the gut scheme tired out the Wildcat’s defense while keeping the Mavs receivers with fresh legs when they were needed the most. Their offense was easily noticeable but hard enough to stop which gave the Mavs the upper hand.
“We kept melting that clock,” Maverick head coach Todd Hoffner said. “We were run, run, pass. That is so predictable it’s not even funny but we had to keep that clock moving and everytime we kept getting a new series, Hayden kept on converting.”
The game started slow and sloppy. The Mavs started the game with a fumbled field goal attempt and soon after the Wildcats found themselves stopped to a fourth down on the goalline. Opting to kick the field goal, the Maverick pressure got to their special teams unit resulting in a shanked kick, keeping the score at 0.
The first score of the game didn’t come until the final minute of the first quarter. The Mavs were stuffed deep on their 10 yard line for the first possession of their drive. The safe play would be to run the ball up the middle, instead Hayden Ekern unloaded to freshman Mason Perich who broke past his receiver on a deep slant. Perich broke free after the catch and started a foot race to the endzone. He beat all defenders for his 90-yard receiving touchdown.
As the first quarter came to a close, Khai West gave the Mavs even more momentum as he picked off Wayne St. on their own 36 yard line. Seven plays later in the second, Ekern threw a nine-yard touchdown to Aiden Ferguson which pushed the lead to 14-0.
Answering back, WSU immediately had a 68 yard rushing touchdown to keep the game close. The last score of the half came after Shen Butler-Lawson’s 60-yard rush which brought himself close enough to be able to punch the ball in for a one-yard touchdown.
To start the second half, West came up huge with a hit stick tackle on a third down inches away from the first down marker. This was the beginning of the end for the Wildcats.
“After that tackle those boys on the sideline were turnt up,” West said. “When my teammates and the fans get going, we get going.”
That motivation carried over to another goalline stop that gave the Mavericks the biggest drive of the day. Three yards away from the endzone on fourth down. MSU’s defense had a massive stop that forced a turnover on downs voiding Wayne St. of an extra seven points to close in on the Maverick lead.
The Mavs then started on the two yard line and stomped 98 yards downfield in 15 plays taking 8:14 off the clock. Most plays were rushed up the middle but the biggest play of the drive was a 37-yard bomb downfield to a double covered TreShawn Watson who jumped over the top of both grabbing the ball and coming down with it as he fell to the ground. This was his second contested jump ball, his other came in the endzone on a fade route in which he juggled the ball back and forth until he came down with it completed for the six extra points.
West ended the game how he started it with another interception, finishing with two interceptions and three tackles.
“We don’t compare players, we compare ourselves,” West said. “If the team has a big play on us we forget about it and we are on to the next play. It’s in the past. All we look to do is just push forward to the next play and make that next step.”
On offense Ekern passed for 288 yards with three touchdowns and Watson had four receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown. The running backs had 230 yards and one touchdown.
“TreShawn and Khai West have made huge impacts on offense and defense.” Hoffner said. “They helped our team make big plays and helped in big moments. Both these men shined today and did some outstanding things.”
Header Photo: The Mavs have wasted no time revealing their secrets to success this season. Running the ball. Through two games, the Mavs have 691 rushing yards, for an average of 345.5 yards per game. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
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