It was a cold and damp night as Melrose-Mindoro took to the turf at home against Unity last Friday night in their second round Division 6 game, which ultimately came down to the last 30 seconds.
Unity received the kickoff in the opening drive and methodically took large chunks out of the Mustang defense, scoring on a 15-yard pass to Hunter Hermansen from quarterback Hunter Pederson. With the extra-point, Unity would go up 7-0 making it look easy as they drove down the field.
On the impending kick return, the Mustangs would get good field position which setup a 23-yard run from Mustang Jeremy Anderson to even the score at 7 points apiece after Victor Ponterio would get the extra point.
The Mustang defense would suddenly come alive during the next drive and stop Unity from scoring and get the ball back for the offense.
The speed of the Mustangs would be unveiled as Brett Gerdes would score off a 57-yard run, putting the Mustangs up 14-7 with the extra point.
Unity would again methodically traipse down the field, allowing Hunter Houde to score from 4 yards out before the end of the quarter. A missed extra point opportunity would keep the Mustangs on top 14-13.
Early in the second quarter, the Mustangs would show off their speed again as Jeremy Anderson would initially follow his blockers to the right, and then in the last moment cut back to the left and bound down the left sideline for a 41-yard touchdown. With the extra point, the Mustangs would go up 21-13.
Ponterio would add three points near the end of the half as a drive stalled to put the Mustangs up 24-13.
On the next possession, Unity would take a chance and throw the ball down the field right to the outstretched hands of a Mustang defender. The Mel-Min offense would come onto the field hoping to end the half with the ball in their possession.
Unfortunately chaos ensued as the Mustangs would fumble the ball and give it right back to Unity.
Unity would end up scoring with a 7-yard run from Hunter Houde before the end of the half and add a two-point conversion to make the score 24-21 in favor of the Mustangs.
“Earlier we didn’t play the best ball game. We turned the ball over inside our 20 before halftime and they scored just before half. We were up 24-13 and then that made it 24-21,” Mustang head coach Tory Lockington said.
The Mel-Min and Unity defenses would hold strong in the third quarter, holding both teams scoreless.
“The first half was great, but the second half we came out a little flat and didn’t get the ball moving as much as we did in the first half, but we kept grinding and the defense kept us in the game,” Lockington said.
Houde would score again for Unity in the fourth quarter from 5 yards out to put Unity up 28-24 after the extra point.
The Mustangs seemed to have one last drive to win the game. They would get down to the 27-yard line and Drew Blaken would throw the ball to Andy Antony and connect, his second completion of the night with 27 seconds left on the clock. Antony would make his way into the end zone to score the touchdown.
Everything was looking up for the Mustangs as they were now up 31-28.
To run time off the clock, Ponterio would kick it to the 8-yard line, which proved to be a costly mistake as Houde would take the ball the entire length of the field and score a 92-yard kick return.
The extra point was no good, leaving the final score at 34-31 in favor of Unity.
“Andy Antony made a big play with a catch and took it in the end zone with 27 seconds left so you have a great emotional high, and then when we kickoff and they run it back it was a huge emotional low,” Lockington said.
The Mustangs would be held to 185 yards rushing and 19 yards passing for a total of 204 yards. Mel-Min would hold Unity to 247 yards rushing and 52 yards passing for a total of 299 yards.
Houde would shred the Mustang defense for 124 yards on 32 carries, scoring four of Unity’s touchdowns including the winning kick return.
Anderson would be the leading rusher for the Mustangs with 89 yards on 12 carries. He would have two touchdowns on the night of 20 yards or more.
With all of the ups and down throughout the game, Lockington said there were several opportunities for the Mustangs to win the game.
“I am running everything through my head—if you make a different call at the end of the game, you don’t fumble, you know just different things. A lot of things could have happened that would have made a difference in the game besides that big play in the end,” Lockington said.
Even though it was a disappointing end to the season, Lockington was still proud of his team.
“I am very proud of all the kids. They worked hard and stayed in the ball game. They had some big guys and our guys went up against them and held their ground and did a nice job,” Lockington said. “In the end the offense gave us a chance to win and then the kickoff hurt it.”
Mel-Min would end the season at 9-2 and will lose 12 seniors to graduation for next year.
“They mean a great deal. They have been working hard for four years and they were great leaders this year. Three of them were captains for us and they were great leaders on and off the field. All of them are great kids,” Lockington said.