MAYODAN — Aside from allowing a scoring drive on Morehead’s opening possession of the game, it was all McMichael, all night long, as the Phoenix dominated the Panthers in a 43-3 victory in Mid-State 2A Conference action versus their cross-county rival Thursday night at Macfield Stadium.
In the early going, it was shaping up as a tight game.
Thanks in large part to the rushing prowess of sophomore running back Corey Philson, Morehead mounted an eight-play scoring drive capped off with a 31-yard Will Twilla field goal for the 3-0 lead with 8:48 to go in the first quarter.
Philson was picking up large chunks of yards with virtually every touch. Unfortunately for the Panthers, his services would be short-lived as he had to leave the game due to an injury with just over five minutes to play in the opening frame.
Meanwhile, McMichael’s offense went to work led with three first half rushing touchdowns by senior running back Zack Dalton who rattled off scores from 41, 17 and 81 yards in addition to another TD by senior quarterback Matthew Wright to close out the half with a 29-3 lead at the half.
McMichael’s defense played light’s-out the rest of the way as the Panthers tried everything they could to find a way to get points on the board. They cycled through three different quarterbacks including Michael Hall, Braxton Carter and Chris Hopper over the course of the game. Though each had sporadic success, the MHS offense never really established a rhythm due to McMichael’s intense defensive pressure.
Morehead entered the game short-handed. Starting quarterback Jadan Martin and lineman Spencer Jamison are both out with season-ending right knee injuries and several other players did not dress due to illness.
McMichael kept up the pressure after the halftime break. On their opening possession of the third quarter, a 10-yard scoring strike from Wright to Brady Elrod resulted in a touchdown to increase the lead to 36-3. After a penalty-plagued series of possessions by both teams, the Phoenix got another boost from sophomore running back Jaden Moore who broke off a 30-yard jaunt for the final TD of the night as McMichael bled the clock in the fourth quarter to close out the victory.
Dalton had 170 yards rushing on 11 carries and Moore had 180 on 17 touches to lead the McMichael attack on the ground.
Phoenix head coach Tony McCants said it is rewarding to see the running game continue to produce the way they have over the last five games.
“We are really happy for our guys. Like I told you earlier in pregame, I think it is really starting to click for them — with the lineman understanding their roles are offensively," McCants said. "Jaden and Zack are seeing the field really well and making the correct reads. If you think about that long run (81 yards) that Zack had — actually what he did, he was able to put that foot in the ground and cut to go north-south and use his speed to pull away. I’m really proud of their effort and of the way they play for each other.”
Wright was 7 of 10 passing for 125 yards and picked up an additional 24 yards rushing for the Phoenix. In addition, Elrod had four receptions for 75 yards.
With the win, McMichael is currently in first place in the Mid-State 2A Conference regular season race with a 4-0 record. Reidsville is just a game behind at 3-0 in league play.
Even though the box score seems to indicate a virtually flawless performance, McCants said there is plenty his team needs to address in order to get to where they want to go at the end of the season.
“We have got a lot of things we need to clean up," McCants said. "You alluded to the penalties, so we’ll go back and watch the film and see what areas we need to improve on especially on all of the penalty calls. We had some issues with hands on the line, perimeter blocking with the receivers, and we had a couple of block in the back calls and things like that. We’ll watch this film and see where we can improve and where we can grow and try to put together a good week of practice to really address those issues.”
McMichael, which has won five consecutive games and is 5-2 overall, will travel to take on Walkertown (1-1, 3-3) and Morehead (0-2, 1-6) hits the road to face T.W. Andrews (0-3, 1-5) Oct. 15.