NEW HAMPTON – The Independence Mustang football team won a tight defensive battle last Friday night and raised its record to 4-1 and, with the win, also solidified a couple of home playoff games.
Sophomore quarterback Mitchell Johnson threw for a career-high 214 yards and a touchdown, while junior Marcus Beatty continues to have a great season, running for 184 yards on 38 carries and a touchdown. The Mustangs in total racked up 404 yards of offense, while the defense held an experienced Chickasaw team to just 159 total yards.
The Mustangs had plenty of opportunities early, but could not take advantage of them.
In the first quarter, the Mustangs had 1st and goal on the Chickasaws’ 8-yard line, but could not get in and turned the ball over on downs with 15 seconds left in the first quarter. Senior Koby Beatty had a nice interception with 7:35 to go in the half, and the Mustangs took over. But a sack and a penalty stalled out the drive, and the Mustangs punted back to New Hampton.
The Chickasaws would go 55 yards in 8 plays to score the first touchdown of the game with 1:15 left in the second. After receiving the ensuing kickoff, the Mustangs drove right down the field on the arm of Johnson all the way down to the Chickasaws’ 6-yard line, but again stalled out and turned the ball over on downs with just 6 seconds left in the half.
With 9:36 remaining in the third quarter, the Mustangs blocked a punt and Keegan Schmitt picked it up but fumbled it right back to the Chickasaws. The Mustangs had some great defense of their own when New Hampton drove all the way down to the Mustangs’ 5-yard line. After a holding call brought up 3rd and 10, two incomplete passes turned the ball back over to the Mustangs.
The Mustangs would start their drive on their own 11-yard line. Nine plays later, the Mustangs finally got on the board on a 2-yard run by Marcus Beatty. The 2-point conversion was no good, and the Mustangs trailed 7-6 with 1:46 left in the third quarter. For the life of me, I do not know why we don’t let Sawyer Wendling kick the extra point. But I’ll let the coaches coach and I’ll just be a complaining fan.
The Mustangs’ defense continued to be solid, and on we went to the fourth quarter. The Mustangs got the ball back with 11:51 left, starting another drive deep in their own territory.
From the 14-yard line, the Mustangs traveled 86 yards in 3 minutes and 34 seconds and took the lead for good on a 6-yard pass from Johnson to junior Jacob Sidles. The 2-point conversion was no good.
The Chickasaws would touch the ball only one more time when they took the kickoff at the 8:17 mark of the final frame. They ran 2 minutes off the clock and, on 4th and 12 from their own 40, New Hampton punted it away to the Mustangs, who started at their own 20-yard line with 6:01 left. Twelve runs by Beatty and a nice 21-yard pass from Johnson to Sidles put this one away, and the Mustangs ran 6:01 off the clock and win this tight battle, 12-7.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game against a good program and an experienced team,” said Head Coach Justin Putz. “We would have liked to finish a few drives in the first half, but I thought we did a good job of making some adjustments and, more importantly, the guys made some big plays in the second half to finish off some long drives.”
The Mustangs were the fresher team down the stretch, and New Hampton just could not stop them for the final quarter-and-a-half. The Mustangs’ two scoring drives were more than 85 yards.
“Defensively, we were pretty good, especially in the second half,” added Putz. “We held them to under 40 yards in that half, and they did a really nice job.”
Coach Putz acknowledged the play of a few guys who stood out.
“Jake Sidles, who had a huge second half on both sides of the ball; Mitch Johnson made some key plays as well. Marcus Beatty had a great performance again, and is a real workhorse for us. I also thought Korver Hupke did a great job up front, and he can be underappreciated. We ran his way most of the second half,” Putz said.
The Mustangs finish the regular season at 4-1, and will host Roland-Story (0-6) on Friday night in the opening round of the playoffs, beginning at 7 p.m.
Coach Putz added that Roland-Story has a lot of nice athletes. They have been playing better as the season progressed, and they can really throw the football.