When your team only has 26 varsity football players it makes it hard to compete against quality opponents outside of your weight class. The task becomes even more difficult when some of your players are not able to play because of injuries.
That’s the scenario the East Mustangs were trying to put in the review mirror fas they went up against the Craigmont Chiefs at Melrose stadium. The outcome was a 35-0 thumping, as East derailed Craigmont’s bid for a second win of the season after the chiefs upset MAHS 14-8 last week.
“We have finally got most of our guys back,” East head coach Marcus Wimberly said. “We have had some injuries the last three to four weeks. With a team of only 26 players today, you really can’t afford that.
“We are gradually getting better. We need a little more on the effort side, but as we move along we are going to be alright.”
Early on, the Mustangs just wanted to grind it out on the ground. They finished with 145 rushing yards. Junior running back Cailon McGhee led the way, gaining 89 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown.
Junior quarterback Justin Lynn mixed his passing and running skills well against the Chiefs. Lynn only rushed 5 times in the game, but scored three rushing touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He also passed for 114 yards with a touchdown.
Mustangs wide receiver Keveon Mullings and Lynn have been developing better chemistry the last few weeks. 10 of Lynn targeted Mullings on 10 of his 16 passing attempts.
On the play of Mullings and Lynn, Wimberly said, “We have to make some better decisions and not drop easy touchdowns. They have been doing really well the last three weeks.“
Craigmont had chances early to stay in the game. With three minutes left in the first half, sophomore defensive back Xavier Barnes turned what appeared to be an interception into a 61-yard touchdown. The runback was wiped out because of an illegal block in the back during the return.
On that same possession, the Chiefs drove to the Mustangs’ five-yard line. With Craigmont a yard away from a touchdown, Chiefs running back Justin Colbert was stopped short of the goal line on fourth down. Colbert led the Chiefs runners with 57 rushing yards.
Wimberly called the goal-line stand a confidence builder. “(That) is the type of stuff we need. As we start to get into our classification they are getting better. We have been stressing all week, the defense has to play better.
“We have not been playing that well the last couple of weeks. We have had some guys hurt and a lot of younger guys out there trying to feel their way through it.”
Another apparent touchdown by Craigmont also was erased by a block-in-the-back penalty. The infraction nullified Craigmont quarterback Dieundre Carter’s 48-yard pass to junior receiver Jakobie Watson, who is on the radar of many mid-major college football programs.
Craigmong head coach Cecil Vanhooks said, “We played horribly. This is the worst game I have seen us play, even though we have played some really tough teams. We just played bad, all three phases of the game. We have to go back and try to get it back together.
“We still have five games left and we have to take it one game at a time,” he said. “We put ourselves in a hole. East played a really good game, they move the ball well offensively. When we moved the ball, we seem to step on our toes. We gave a lot of penalties.”
Up next for Craigmont is homecoming. “You have got to defend your home,” Vanhooks said. “You have got to practice better and you have to play better.”
East now as a 3-4 record, a 1-0 mark in the Region 8 4A District. All of the Mustangs’ losses have been to powerhouse teams – CBHS, Central, Cordova and Whitehaven. They control their own fate for winning the district title and for making another run at a state championship.
The Mustangs travel to Somerville, Tenn. on Friday for a district game against Fayette-Ware High School at 7 p.m.
Craigmont (1-6, 0-1 Region 8 4A District) still has a shot at the playoffs. The Chiefs host Millington Central on Friday (October 6) at 7 p.m. at Raleigh Egypt Stadium in a district game.