By Michael Kinney
Norman- Coming off a last-second loss to Stillwater, Mustang was looking to right its ship. And there was no better opponent to do that against than a struggling Norman High squad that has been blown out in its first two games of the season.
Back in the day, facing the Tigers would have been considered a get-right game. At least that is apparently what the Broncos envisioned.
However, what actually took place Friday at Harve Collins field was something totally different. After almost three and half hours the Broncos found themselves on the short end of another thriller that came down to the final seconds. This time it was the Tigers who played spoiler and upended the Broncos 62-58.
“We didn’t play like the team like we played last week,” MHS quarterback Tristen Russell said. “We definitely underestimated Norman. Coming off how well we played against Stillwater, we were just underestimating this team.”
Despite that, the Broncos had every opportunity to claim the victory late.
With 3:20 left in the game, Mustang had a three point advantage but was backed up near its own endzone. On 3rd down and nine, quarterback Tristen Russell hit tight end Andre Dollar for a clutch 20 yard reception. The first down gave the Broncos an opportunity to run down the clock and force the Tigers to use its remaining timeouts
However, three plays later, as tailback Jay Bedford was fighting for yards, Norman’s Xavier Mason ripped the ball from him to force a fumble which NHS recovered.
Mustang’s defense held strong after the sudden change possession and forced NHS to attempt a 39 yard field goal on 4th and 8. The kick was wide right and the Broncos thought they had won the game.
However, the Broncos were flagged for running into the kicker, which moved the ball up five yards. Norman brought its offense back onto the field and ran a play on fourth down and short. Quarterback Tias McClarty fumbled the ball on the play. However, a Norman teammate pounced on it for the first down at the six-yard line with just 49 seconds left.
Two plays later, McClarty scrambled to the right and then sprinted into the endzone for the game-winning touchdown.
“It was definitely a tough one,” Mustang’s Kaden Jones said. “It’s just hard. Real hard”
Russell finished the night completing 21-of 29 passes for 328 yards and six touchdowns. The junior now has 810 yards and 13 passing TDs on the season.
MHS wideout Keegan Bass had three touchdown catches for the second straight week. Bedford, Jacobe Johnson and Andre all reached the endzone as well.
Johnson, one of the top 2023 recruits in the state, started on both sides of the ball and played nearly every play.
One of McClarty’s few mistakes came in the first half when junior Hudson Conrad picked him off and returned it for a big gain. The interception seemed to turn the momentum toward the Broncos.
“I had been reading it like that all week in practice,” Conrad said. “Whenever it was coming my way I knew this is my time. Let’s go get it.”
That was one of the few defensive highlights on the night for the Broncos, who allowed three NHS plays to rush for more than 100 yards. McClarty matched Russell with six rushing TDs and 254 yards on 30 carries. Xavier Shackleford racked up 132 yards and two touchdowns as well. Devin Alexander added 107 yards and a TD.
“For us as a team, I think we can do better,” Conrad said. “We’re putting in the hours, we’re putting in the preparation. But coming out here and finishing it out, being a four quarter team, a second half team. If we improve on that and improve our endurance, we’ll be one of the best teams in the state.”
Photo & Story by Michael Kinney