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Mustangs two steps closer to state title

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Anderson routs Grant, whips Lexington Catholic in playoffs

By John Herndon

The Anderson County Middle School football team navigated the first two steps in its quest for a state championship last week when the Mustangs defeated Grant County and Lexington Catholic on the field at Anderson County High School.

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The Mustangs move on to play the winner of Johnson Central and Rowan County in the state semi-finals on Saturday night, Oct. 31 at Lexington Catholic High School. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Against Lexington Catholic last Saturday, Anderson broke a scoreless tie at halftime with a pair of second half touchdown passes by Zachary Carmichael to defeat the Knights 14-0.

Carmichael hit Sam Laytart for a 10-yard score and then connected with Brayden Russell for the conversion to put Anderson up 8-0 in the third quarter. The Mustangs put it out of reach when Carmichael hit Houston Page for an 8-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“We have great receivers and that showed in this game as we had five or six kids catch the ball in some awful field conditions,” Glass said. “I have really been on Zach to go through his progression if the first option isn’t there, instead of forcing a throw into coverage and he did a great job. Both of his touchdown throws went to the No. 3 or 4 option in his progressions and he has really grown as a quarterback this season.”

Anderson overcame a very talented Catholic team that included a quarterback who displayed a cannon of an arm and should fit in well in the long tradition of Knight signal-callers. “Their quarterback is very talented,” Glass said. “We saw him on film and knew that he could throw the ball very well. Catholic was a challenge because they do like to throw the ball so much and that is something you just don’t see a lot of in middle school. We worked really hard on our pass coverage during the week and the kids did a great job.

“We did play quite a bit of man coverage against their receivers but this group has the athletes to play man-to-man coverage and that really helped. We didn’t get a lot of sacks but I thought that up front we got enough pressure to make the quarterback uncomfortable at times and we make him throw on the run on several occasions.”

Late in the first half, Anderson drove deep into Catholic territory but came up empty. Glass, however, reassured his team that 16 minutes remained in the game. “I told the kids at halftime that the season wasn’t going to end on that day and it all came down to execution on our part. We had several chances to score in the first half and just didn’t finish drives. I challenged the offensive line and let them know we were going to win or lose this game on their performance in the second half.

“They definitely rose to the challenge because we dominated time of possession and were able to move the ball very effectively on the ground in the second half.

“The second half of that football game, our kids showed tremendous heart and played their gut out.”

Last Tuesday, the Mustangs jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead on Grant County, then cruised to a 28-8 win in the first round of the state playoffs.

Carmichael connected with Chase Sutherland and Ross Cox on scoring passes of 40 and 20 yards. Tristan Ashburn ripped the ball away from a Grant carrier and ran to pay dirt from 40 yards.  Anderson closed out the scoring when Dusty Puckett raced 35 yards for a score.

“Justin Woodworth, our starting left guard, pulled and made a wonderful block 20 yards downfield to get Puckett into the end zone,” Glass said. “It was a total team effort and a great game to start the playoffs but I did feel that we lost our focus a little in the second half and I told the players after the game that we can’t be state champions unless we play 32 minutes every time out.”

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.