Katy Taylor withstands 29 unanswered Morton Ranch points in the second half to hold on to a 40-36 win at Rhodes Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Mustangs were shut out in the third quarter and their defense was lit up by Mavericks quarterback Nic Hernandez. Hernandez was 7-11 passing with 180 yards and a touchdown, but he was most lethal on the ground.
Hernandez added 160 yards rushing on 16 carries and ran for three scores. Despite Hernandez taking over in the second half, it was not enough to beat a talented and stubborn Katy Taylor team.
The Mustangs scored 26 points in the first half using an effective mix of their gifted duo running back Ean Beek and quarter back David Perkins. Beek ran 38 times on Saturday for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Beek also caught two passes out of the backfield for 36 yards and hauled in one receiving touchdown. Perkins was 9-16 on the day with 182 yards through the air and three touchdown passes. The Mustangs got off to a fast start and it looked as though Morton Ranch would be in for a long day.
Perhaps inspired by a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem before the game, Katy Taylor called a “Statue of Liberty” play on an early third down of their their first drive. The behind-the-back-give from Perkins to Beek picked up a first down for the Mustangs. The only time Beek didn’t get the ball on the opening 6 play, 68-yard drive was on an 11-yard end around to running back Ryan McLemore. The touchdown though would belong to Beek. The versatile Mustangs running back snuck from out of the backfield as a pass catcher and snagged a 33-yard touchdown reception from Perkins with 9:00 remaining in first quarter.
Taylor stuck to the air on their second drive. Perkins found wide receiver Tquaylin Zeigler 42 yards downfield on a big pass play to the Mavericks 7-yard line. Wide receiver and quarterback alternate Brennan Lucas subbed in behind center for the Mustangs and took it the rest of the way on a seven-yard touchdown stroll. A bad snap on the extra point attempt hastened Perkins kick and led to a block, but Taylor was granted another chance after a Morton Ranch penalty.
The Mustangs took a 14-0 lead with 4:28 left in the first quarter.
Morton Ranch quarterback Nic Hernandez had a reputation for breaking monster touchdown runs against 19-6A opponents. Hernandez unleashed a 92-yard touchdown gallop in the Mavericks 26-21 win against Strake Jesuit. He also managed to find a crease against Katy for a 79-yard score in their 68-9 loss to the Tigers. Katy Taylor would not be the exception.
Hernandez remained true to form and gashed the Mustangs on a 41-yard zone read for Morton Ranch’s first points of the game. The touchdown capped a 71-yard drive and put the Mavericks within seven with 1:10 still to go in the first quarter.
Katy Taylor had been perfect on third down, going five for five to start the game. Their first failed attempt brought up a fourth and one from the Mavericks 15-yard line. The Mustangs went for it and reached the mark on a half back toss to Beek, but a personal foul penalty pushed the ball back to the 26-yard line. The next play cast an even further shadow on the officiating. On first and 12, Katy Taylor tight end Nick Terry found some space and looked to be open for an easy touchdown. Perkins threw in his receiver’s direction, but Terry was tackled before the ball could ever get there. It appeared to be an obvious pass interference, but no call was made. Beek was then swarmed in the backfield for a loss on the next play and just like that, things were beginning to unravel for the Mustangs. That was until Perkins rolled out of the pocket on third and fourteen and hit wide receiver Eddie Guerra for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
After a big fourth down stop and a couple of big plays by line backers Ben Montgomery and Nathan Saurage, Katy Taylor got the ball back at their end of the field with 2:22 remaining in the first half. Perkins executed the two-minute drill with precision, driving the Mustangs all the way down to the one-yard line by spreading the ball around to receivers Nick Terry, Cameron Horry and Brennan Lucas. With six seconds remaining in the half, Beek dove over the top of the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. Bad snaps on PAT’s for Katy Taylor cost the Mustangs two points. They entered the locker room with a 26-7 lead over Morton Ranch.
The third quarter would belong to the Morton Ranch Mavericks and their electrifying quarterback Nic Hernandez. Hernandez looked determined and capable of willing his team to victory, even if he had to do it all by himself. Just 21 seconds into the second half, Hernandez cut the Mustangs deep on a 69-yard touchdown run to trim Katy Taylor’s lead 26-14. Katy Taylor head coach Trey Herrmann talked about how one wrong move in chess match with Hernandez had the Mustangs re-strategizing.
“They did some things running the sweep, they kind of hurt us a little bit” Herrmann said. “It was one of those ‘pick your poisons’. We kind of had to mix it up towards the end of the game to try and get back in it.”
Whichever poison the Mustangs picked, its effects seemed to linger. In what looked like a tale of two halves, Katy Taylor came out sluggish following the intermission. On the Mustangs first drive of the third quarter, the previously infallible Beek mishandled a toss from Perkins and lost control of the ball. The fumble was recovered by Morton Ranch lineman Ra’Shon Clark at the Mavericks 48-yard line.
The Mavericks pieced another quick scoring drive together using a combination of quick passes to wide receiver Deonte Bradford and hardnosed Hernandez running. Hernandez throttled his way into the end zone from the one-yard line. It was Hernandez’ third rushing touchdown of the game and second of the third quarter. After a quick fourteen points to open the half, the Mavericks trailed 26-21 with 7:51 to go in third quarter.
Katy Taylor wasn’t forced to punt at all in the first half. But following the Beek fumble to start the third quarter, the Mustangs settled for back-to- back punts on their next two drives. Fortunately for the Mustangs, Perkins second punt took a friendly hop and rolled all the way to the Mavericks six-yard line. Pinned deep in their own end of the field, Morton Ranch went for it all on one play. As if his lightning legs weren’t enough, Hernandez brought the thunder and rained down a 94-yard touchdown blast to Deonte Bradford. After a Kevon Copeland reception for an extra two points, Morton Ranch took its first lead of the game 29-26 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
Morton Ranch’s success on offense was mirrored by the tightening up of their defense. The Mavericks’ defensive crusade in the second half did an excellent job of wrapping Beek up for sure tackles and shutting down running lanes. A bobbled snap to Perkins was recovered by Maverick line backer Josh Jimenez, giving the Mavericks excellent field position at the Mustangs 39-yard line just before the start of the fourth quarter.
On the first play of the final quarter, Mavericks running back Kevon Copeland scored on a 19-yard touchdown run. It was the cherry on top of 29 unanswered points put up by Morton Ranch to start the second half. The Mavericks moved ahead by 10, 36-26.
The once high-powered Katy Taylor offense had been held in check since the second quarter. Having fallen behind the Mavericks by two scores, the Mustangs were desperate to shift momentum back into their favor. An opportunity to start anew presented itself in the form of multiple Morton Ranch personal foul penalties. For reasons unknown in the press box, the Mavericks defense started to lose its composure in the most crucial of moments. Those defensive miscues jumpstarted the Mustangs just enough to resurrect their floundering offense. Running back Ryan McLemore got the Mustangs back into the red zone on a 15-yard end around to the ten-yard line. Full back Shane Williams barreled his way to the one-yard line where Beek would then extend the ball across the plain to get the Mustangs back within 3.
With 9:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs trailed 36-33.
The Katy Taylor defense came up big in the waning minutes, forcing a three-and- out to set their offense up at midfield. Ean Beek battled ahead for fifteen yards on the Mustangs first play from the 50, dragging along a defender a third of the way. Beek struck again for 20 yards on the next play, but it was erased on a holding penalty. The Mustangs took a conservative route to a comeback and stuck with the ground game. Beek plowed ahead for two more first downs on the drive, pulling the Mustangs inside the ten-yard line. On third and goal with 3:33 left in the game, Perkins connected for his third touchdown on a nine-yard pass to tight end Nick Terry. The Mustangs reclaimed the lead 40-36.
Katy Taylor had just attempted to deliver the final knockout blow. Morton Ranch would need to travel 82 yards in three minutes to have a chance. Hernandez and Bradford carried most of the Morton Ranch load in their third quarter comeback, but running back Trey Taylor was the one fresh legs. Trey Taylor pounded the ball for over 50 yards in three carries to keep their hopes alive. Just when it appeared the Mavericks had recaptured the momentum on their way to a last second victory, the Mustangs came up with the two biggest defensive plays of the game.
The first came on third and seven from the Katy Taylor 16-yard line with 1:05 left in the game as line backer Austin LeFevre made a huge stop and held the bruising Trey Taylor to a one-yard gain. That setup Mustangs defensive back Daniel Deian to make the defensive play of the game, and perhaps the season, as he stuffed the elusive Hernandez on fourth and 6 from the 15-yard line with :57 left in the game.
Katy Taylor holds on and improves to 6-2 overall, 4-1 in District 19-6A. The Mustangs will play their third Saturday game in a row against the 2-6 Tompkins Falcons on October 29 at Rhodes Stadium. Morton Ranch falls to 4-4 overall, 3-2 in District 19-6A. The Mavericks next game will be against the 5-3 Cinco Ranch Cougars on October 29 at 11 am at Rhodes Stadium.