Memorial defends Seven Lakes rally for opening win
The Memorial football team had not won a non-district game in three years, or a season opener in four entering 2018.
Both streaks are history. The Mustangs controlled the first half and held on for a 17-14 triumph against Seven Lakes on the first night of UIL high school football, Aug. 30 at Tully Stadium.
Memorial quarterback Wilson Carrell rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown and found Davis Koskie for a touchdown in an otherwise defensive game.
Seven Lakes, aiming to win its debut under coach Jimmy Hamon, was the only team to break 200 yards and struck twice on Michael Batton touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. But the Mustangs turned away the Spartans’ final drive to start the season 1-0.
“Anytime you win you’re pleased with it,” Memorial coach Gary Koch said. “The kids played hard. (Seven Lakes) played hard too. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit in the second half, but it’s a nice victory. Wilson had a really nice game under center and defensively we played pretty well.”
Memorial spent ample time in Seven Lakes’ backfield in the first half, even on special teams.
Following consecutive sacks by Jack Dragna and Jimmy Jongebloed, Nick Haas blocked the punt. The ball deflected out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 2:44 remaining in the first quarter.
“Offense wasn’t moving the ball to start the game,” Carrell said. “We got that safety and everyone knew it was time to score. We had all the momentum. We just kept going and finally got it in the end zone.”
The Spartans actually recovered the ensuing kick but their drive stopped on fourth down at the Mustangs’ 29. Jack Chenoweth and Jacob Bartley combined to make the stop.
Memorial used the momentum to score the game’s first touchdown, marching 71 yards in 11 plays including a 20-yard catch by Jax Rawlinson.
Carrell, whose scrambling ability saved Memorial from a loss on an off-target snap, closed the drive on the next play with a 10-yard run. He found Nicholas Pilegge for the two-point conversion and a 10-0 lead with 7:06 remaining in the half.
A sack by Cameron Justice helped force a Seven Lakes three-and-out, after which Memorial extended its own three-and-out by recovering a muffed punt.
Carrell rushed for two first downs, then lobbed a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Koskie for a 17-0 lead with 1:35 remaining in the half. Carrell said he saw Koskie in man coverage and trusted the senior to use his height advantage, which drew pass interference on a previous play.
Memorial led 17-0 through the third quarter, stopping Seven Lakes twice including a fourth down in Mustangs territory.
“Our D-line killed it and our offense helped us with some points in the first half,” junior safety Matthew McHenry said. “Then it was just a fight through the trenches the rest of the way.”
Seven Lakes found a rhythm on offense, breaking through with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that began in the third quarter. Junior Jaden Embra stepped up for four receptions on the drive, the first for 21 yards.
Memorial appeared to get a fourth-down sack, but a penalty gave Seven Lakes a shorter opportunity. Batton converted and, two plays later, found Rasheen Green for a 15-yard touchdown with 9:02 remaining.
Key defensive plays by Tiago Sumbo, Ethan Brooks and David Ugwoegbu, among others, kept Seven Lakes in the game. The Spartans pulled within 17-14 when Batton escaped the pass rush, rolled right and found Embra for a 30-yard touchdown with 5:28 left.
Seven Lakes started its final drive on its own 16 but got into Memorial territory with the help of first-down catches by John Harrington and Grant Bradford.
But the Mustangs held at their own 41, with McHenry breaking up one pass and a fourth-down heave falling incomplete in the end zone with Zach Reynolds in coverage.
The victory was a positive first step for Mustangs, who had five combined wins the last two years. They hope for similar results going forward, starting with a Sept. 7 trip to Pearland.
“I think a lot of people didn’t expect us to come out and win Week 1,” Carrell said. “We were just ready to finally go against someone else and show that we’re better this year. We’ve improved a lot.”