EDMOND – Waleed Gaines made a point not to let anyone offer up praise to a single player from his unit on Friday night.
“First of all, I don’t want anyone to thank anybody on the defense,” the coordinator said, surrounded by the entire Mustang squad at Antler Stadium. “Go find someone on special teams and thank them. Go find someone on the offense and thank them.
“Thank everybody. Because this was a team win.”
The Broncos pulled off a thrilling 26-23 victory over the Deer Creek Antlers, executing clutch plays offensively, defensively, and on special teams.
Big pass completions? Timely execution from the “special forces’ unit? Crucial third and fourth-down stops? Check, check, and check.
Mustang (2-0) stuck to the game plan on offense, rushing 43 times for 210 yards and two touchdowns, none bigger than a three-yard punch-in touchdown by quarterback Trajan Williamson (Sr.) to give the team its final lead with 1:56 remaining.
And although Williamson passed just 13 times, his trust in receivers L.B. Hayes (Sr.) and Jaden Johnson (So.) still showed in the end as he completed a 23-yard pass to Hayes and a 15-yarder to Johnson to set up the game-winning score.
L.B. Hayes (Sr.) eludes a Deer Creek defensive player during Mustang’s 26-23 win over the Antlers on Friday, September 12, 2023, at Antler Stadium in Edmond. Hayes finished with two catches for 26 yards, including a big reception on Mustang’s final drive of the game. (Photo by Ron Lane / Lane Images)
“It’s amazing,” Williamson said of the trust factor already developing early in the season. “Knowing that you have those guys behind you is a great feeling. Knowing that you don’t have to be perfect every play.
“If you don’t trust your teammates, you’re not going to be a very good team.”
Williamson, who rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns, also passed for 86 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown strike to Johnson for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Johnson finished with three grabs for 66 yards.
Mustang’s defense and special teams showed it was ready to play true, complementary football early in the game.
After their first touchdown, the Broncos forced a three-and-out and not only scored, but also regained possession after a big play by the ‘special forces’.
Multiple players broke through the Deer Creek offensive line on fourth down, including senior Taveon Penn, and blocked the Antlers’ first punt through the end zone for a safety and a 9-0 lead. It was the first of many impact plays by the unit, which helped fuel the victory.
Kicker Aiden Jordan (Jr.) extended Mustang’s advantage to 12-0 with a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter before Deer Creek’s first, but not last, answer of the game.
Antler quarterback Grady Adamson hit receiver Jalen Davis for an 81-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 12-7 with seven minutes remaining in the half.
Mustang’s Zach Warren (left) and Charles Rangel-Lucio (right) help bring down a Deer Creek running back during the Broncos’ 26-23 win over the Antlers on Friday, September 8, 2023, at Antler Stadium in Edmond. Mustang held Deer Creek to just 94 yards rushing on 33 carries. (Photo by Ron Lane / Lane Images)
Adamson, who has offers from Pittsburgh, Tulsa, and UNLV, went 24-for-39 for 320 yards in the game, including five passes to Davis for 111 yards, and proved to be a terror for Mustang in the scramble drill. He also rushed for 39 yards and a score.
The Antlers (1-2) crept closer after halftime as kicker Adrian Arambula drilled a 27-yard field goal early in the third quarter, cutting Mustang’s advantage to 12-10. However, the Broncos had an answer themselves on the ensuing drive.
Williamson capped a 52-yard scoring drive by leaping over the offensive and defensive line for a one-yard touchdown run and a 19-10 lead with 8:41 left in the third. Waleed Gaines Jr. (Jr.), who agreed with his dad’s postgame sentiments, helped set up the score with yet another big play on special teams.
“He’s right,” said the junior defensive back, who burst downfield for a momentum-swinging 39-yard punt return leading Williamson’s TD. “It was a whole team effort. Without the offense, special teams, and defense as a unit, we wouldn’t have been able to get this win tonight.”
Mustang’s defense forced a three-and-out once again on the ensuing Deer Creek possession, however, the Antlers scooped up a Bronco fumble and turned it into seven points. Adamson cut his way downfield for a nine-yard touchdown run, trimming the lead to 19-17.
After going three-and-out, the Broncos fell into a deficit for the first and only time early in the fourth quarter.
Adamson capped a 69-yard drive with a one-yard punch-in touchdown with 10:48 remaining, giving Deer Creek a 23-19 lead after a failed two-point conversion try. Adamson completed four passes during the sequence, including a 27-yarder to running back Mason Miller which helped set up the score.
The Broncos were again forced to punt on their ensuing possession, however, the team’s defense stiffened when they needed it most, pitching a three-and-out to get the ball back with just over seven minutes left.
Williamson and the offense executed arguably the biggest play of the contest on the game-winning drive – a 15-yard completion to Johnson on fourth-and-4, down to the 10 yard-line with 6:54 remaining. Three runs later, Mustang regained the lead and ultimately sealed the victory.
“I think it was a good game all around,” said defensive lineman Louie Jones (Jr.), who finished with one sack and, along with Michael Johnson (Sr.) and Russell Zolicoffer (Sr.), was in Adamson’s face, forcing him to scramble all game. “We just wanted to win and come out and execute every play.”
Louie Jones (91), Michael Johnson (8), and Josiah Stevens (10) look to the sidelines for a play call during Mustang’s 26-23 win over Deer Creek on Friday, September 8, 2023, at Antler Stadium in Edmond. The trio helped fluster Deer Creek quarterback Grady Adamson all game. (Photo by Ron Lane / Lane Images)
Mustang’s quarterback admitted penalties were a major factor throughout the game. The Broncos racked up 11 flags for 85 yards while the Antlers were penalized eight times.
“We just have to cut out the mental mistakes,” Williamson said. “This week we got off to a pretty good start, but the third quarter was a little rough. If we cut out the mental mistakes, that’s when we get rolling.”
Both teams combined to punt nine times and altogether went just 10-for-27 on third down. Mustang finished with 302 total yards while Deer Creek tallied 414. Bryance Sanders (Sr.) rushed 12 times for the Broncos, totaling 65 yards.
Mustang now turns its attention to the Har-Ber Wildcats from Springdale, Ark for its final non-district game. The two teams squared off last season at Bronco Stadium with Mustang pulling out a 20-7 win.
This time coach Lee Blankenship’s squad makes the trip east and will take on the Wildcats at 7 p.m. on Friday. Watch the action live from Har-Ber Wildcat Stadium at www.MHSBroncoSports.TV.