For the first few minutes of the game Friday, McCracken County and Daviess County had the look of a repeat performance of the Mustangs' shootout victory over Apollo, but as the night got cooler, the McCracken County offense heated up.
Mustang quarterback Elijah Wheat dished out four touchdowns en route to the 50-36 victory over the Panthers at Marquette Stadium and while the final score may not show it, McCracken County imposed its will on the Panthers for the majority of the contest.
Both teams scored two touchdowns in the first four minutes of the game with Jeremiah Hughes scoring on a 37-yard run for the Mustangs but the Panthers answered.
Daviess County's standout running back Shane Riley erupted for a 96-yard score as he'd also have a 99-yard score later in the game. After a Wheat pass to Franklin Hayes and another 70-yard run by Riley, the Mustang defense settled in and the offense ramped up.
Wheat said he only has one thing on his mind when he sees both scores going up early in the game.
"We just got to keeping scoring," he said. "As an offense we know we don't care how many points the other team puts up, we believe in our defense. But we know that as an offense, we've got to score. If we don't score, usually games not going to go in our favor. No matter how well the defense plays, if it's a 0-0 game, offense still gotta score. As an offense our goal is scorer every drive, score as many as we can and let our defense play and feel comfortable."
McCracken County coach Marc Clark said the beginning and the end of the game felt like last week against Apollo but it was how his team settled down that impressed him.
"We've got to stabilize and our kids just got to do their assignment," he said. "I felt like after that we really got of settled into our groove. It's been a long week. Kids have had seven weeks of getting after it pretty strong. We've played good teams. I think it's just mentally wrapping your head around we've got to finish this one before we get a break."
Wheat had three touchdown passes to Hayes and one to Hunter Bradley late in the first quarter. The senior leader knows he's lucky to have those guys on his team.
"It feels great," he said. "Especially with the running backs and receivers, we just have so many weapons and our o-line has been phenomenal this year. Giving me time to get the ball to those guys, giving the running backs space to run through those holes. It's just been great this year."
Clark said Wheat is a coach on the field.
"He's been playing since he was a sophomore and he understands what we're trying to do schematically, he's an extension of me," he said. "He's got a lot on his place and he makes good decisions. Couldn't be happier with his progression."
With a 43-14 lead at the break and an early score in the third quarter to institute a running clock, the game looked to be in hand for the Mustangs in the second half but someone forgot to tell the Panthers they needed to pack up and head back home.
Daviess County answered with 22-straight points to end the game and while it may not have been against the Mustang starters, it was still an area Clark wants to go over with his team.
Prior to their run, the biggest bright spot for the Panthers was the play of Riley. He finished with 271 yards and three scores with all three touchdowns coming on runs of more than 70 yards. Clark said he wanted to slow Riley down.
"Every week our emphasis is to stop the run, our primary focus but that doesn't always get accomplished," he said. "It's still our focus."
On the flip side, Hunter Bradley finished with 130 yards and a score for the Mustangs.
McCracken County now sits at 5-2 on the year with five-straight victories after starting the year 0-2. Wheat said they've still got plenty to accomplish.
"If we can go out and roll the dice with the last few games, that just builds more confidence for us in the playoffs," he said. "We're a scary team. With the offense we have and the guys we have on defense, I know it sometimes doesn't show but we've got some dudes on defense that can make some plays. We're going to be a tough team to beat."
With four non-district victories each of the past couple of seasons under Clark, the Mustangs have seemed to find a way to win when it matters.
Clark said he doesn't see that as a downside to his tenure.
"Really there hadn't been a lot of downs when you're coaching kids like this," he said. "It's a great group to coach and they're just progressing and getting better every year and that's our main objective."
McCracken County heads into its off week before hosting Dyer Count (TN) Oct. 18.
DC 14 0 0 22 - 36
MC 27 16 7 0 - 50
MC: Jeremiah Hughes 37-run (PAT good), 11:39, 1Q. 7-0 (1 play)
DC: Shane Riley 96-run (PAT good ) 10:39, 1Q. 7-7 (3 plays)
MC: Elijah Wheat 14-pass Franklin Hayes (PAT no good) 8:26, 1Q. 13-7
DC: Shane Riley 70-run (PAT good) 8:09, 1Q. 14-13
MC: Hunter Bradley 20-yard run (PAT good) 7:00, 1Q,. 20-13
MC: Elijah Wheat 23-pass Hunter Bradley (PAT good), 1:33, 1Q. 27-13
MC: Elijah Wheat 66-pass to Franklin Hayes (Two-point Good- Hayes), 8:01, 2Q. 35-13
MC: Elijah Wheat 18-run (Two-point good- Bradley), 55.8, 2Q. 43-14
MC: Elijah Wheat 37-pass Franklin Hayes (PAT good), 9:37, 3Q. 50-14
DC: Shane Riley 99-run (PAT good), 10:52, 4Q. 50-21
DC: Joe Humphreys 31-pass Carter Hamilton (PAT good), 2:26, 4Q. 50-28
DC: 29 37-run (Two-point good), 16.0, 4Q. 50-36
DC: Shane Riley 19-271-3, Joe Humpreys 2-8, DC 2-79-1; MC: Hunter Bradley 13-130-1, Jeremiah Hughes 8-88-1, Elijah Wheat 4-70-1, Zander Mayes 2-9-0, Franklin Hayes 1-5-0, Ryder Vlach 2-4-0
DC: Joe Humphreys 1-20-85-1; MC: Elijah Wheat 7-15-184-4
DC: Shane Riley 2-42-0, Carter Hamilton 1-31-1, Isaiah Tomes 2-9-0; MC: Franklin Hayes 4-124-3, Hunter Bradley 2-41-1, Zander Mayes 1-19-0
DC: 2-5; MC: 5-2