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Rebels Dominate Mustangs in Season Opener

By Jason Martin
jmartin@mckenziebanner.com
Posted 8/23/22

HUNTINGDON (August 19) — The 2022 season for the McKenzie Rebels started with a bang Friday night as the Rebels picked up a 34-12 week one win over in-county rival Huntingdon. In their 92nd meeting, McKenzie’s speed on both sides of the ball left Huntingdon in search of an answer. Just as Mustang Head Coach Eric Swenson said in pregame interviews, “Speed kills,” Huntingdon’s home opener wish died with the opening kickoff. 

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Rebels Dominate Mustangs in Season Opener

Posted
HUNTINGDON (August 19) — The 2022 season for the McKenzie Rebels started with a bang Friday night as the Rebels picked up a 34-12 week one win over in-county rival Huntingdon. In their 92nd meeting, McKenzie’s speed on both sides of the ball left Huntingdon in search of an answer. Just as Mustang Head Coach Eric Swenson said in pregame interviews, “Speed kills,” Huntingdon’s home opener wish died with the opening kickoff. 
 
Huntingdon ran 67 plays to McKenzie’s 31. The Rebels accumulated 312 offensive yards, 173 in the air and 139 on the ground. The Mustangs had 144 yards rushing and 95 yards passing. Huntingdon had 12 first-downs to McKenzie’s nine. 
 
Both teams had eight penalties with McKenzie assessed 61 yards and Huntingdon called for 42 yards.
 
Jackson Cassidy was eight for 13 passing with two touchdowns. Leading receivers for McKenzie were Zay Webber had three catches for 105 yards and one touchdown; Zach Aird had one catch for 33 yards and one touchdown; Marquez Taylor had three catches for 29 yards; Drew Chappell had one catch for six yards.
 
Leading the Rebel rushing attack was Cassidy with four carries totaling 74 yards and one touchdown. Taylor had carried the ball seven times for 35 yards and Etijay Tharpe had two carries for 30 yards.
 
Mustang Gray Eubanks was five for nine passing totaling 95 yards. The leading receiver was Easton Byars with two catches totaling 73 yards.
 
Huntingdon’s ground game was led by Meal Leavitt with 15 carries for 55 yards followed by Elijah Flowers with four carries for 25 yards and Landon Gordon with 8 carries totaling 13 yards.
 
The opening kickoff was deferred by Huntingdon to the second half, Eubanks’ kick was fielded by 2021 Mr. Football Finalist Marquez Taylor at the 15-yard line. Taylor was off to the races as he broke one tackle and remained untouched crossing the goalline. Aird tacked on the point-after-attempt putting the Rebels up 7-0 with 11:43 still on the clock to start the game.
 
Huntingdon’s opening drive started from their 36-yard line. The quick Rebel defense left the Mustangs fourth-and-short on their 45-yard line. Cassidy broke through the line of scrimmage concluding the Huntingdon drive on a turnover on downs. 
 
McKenzie needed three plays to add their second touchdown of the night. Starting at the Mustang 45-yard line, Cassidy completed a pair of passes, setting the Rebels at the 33-yard line. Aird broke free to the end zone picking up six points for McKenzie. Aird then added the PAT putting the Rebel lead at 14-0 with 8:20 to play in the first quarter.
 
The Mustangs’ second drive showed more promise as they picked up their first first-down of the night on an option keeper. A bobbled snap, fumble out of bounds and false start forced Huntingdon to punt on fourth-and-38.
 
The Rebels took over at the Mustang 46-yard line. A pass and catch from Cassidy to Taylor brought McKenzie to the 32-yard line and a fresh set of downs. Taylor and Cassidy teamed up for another first down with a pass in the flats with the ball downed at the 15-yard line. Penalties and incomplete passes left the Rebels with fourth-and-24 from the 30-yard line. 
 
McKenzie elected to kick the 47-yard field goal. Aird’s kick was no good, but intervention from the officiating crew and a personal foul moved the line of scrimmage up 15 yards. From the 15-yard line, Aird’s second attempt (32 yards) was good. McKenzie led 17-0 with 1:18 on the clock in the first quarter.
 
As the clock neared completion for the opening quarter the Mustangs had their biggest play of the night as Eubanks found an open receiver in tight-end Byars for 67 yards going out at the one-yard line. The second quarter opened with Huntingdon possessing a first-and-goal from the one; Leavitt failed to cross the goal line but Eubanks followed him up on second down with the score. The PAT was no good as Huntingdon trailed McKenzie 17-6 with 11:19 to play in the first half.
 
The Rebels were three-and-out on their next possession electing to punt on fourth down. Huntingdon worked to move the ball to mid-field as they picked up three first downs but the McKenzie defense came away with big stops forcing the Mustangs to punt.
 
McKenzie found themselves deep in Rebel territory. On second down from the 13-yard line, the Rebel snap went over the head of Cassidy, who scrambled to the end zone to retrieve the ball hoping to prevent a safety. As the Mustang defense turned their attention to the Rebel quarterback, Webber was left unguarded as Cassidy heaved a pass in his direction. The open receiver pulled down the pass and ran the remaining length of the field into the end zone. Aird’s PAT was good as McKenzie led 24-6 with 4:52 to play in the second quarter.
 
The remainder of the first half was a defensive back-and-forth for both teams leaving a halftime score in favor of the Rebels 24-6.
 
Huntingdon took the second-half kickoff to the Mustang twenty-yard line. The Mustangs were unable to move the chains and Eubanks was forced to punt. The line drive kick was downed at the Rebel 34-yard line. 
 
McKenzie moved the ball to the 42-yard line on first down, then on second down a false start pushed the Rebels back to the 37-yard line. On second-and-seven Cassidy was forced out of the pocket and scrambled across the line of scrimmage. The senior quarterback proved elusive as he went the remaining 63 yards downfield for McKenzie’s fourth touchdown of the night. Aird’s PAT was good as the Rebels increased their third-quarter lead 31-6 with 8:36 on the clock.
 
Huntington’s next drive stalled as the Mustangs were forced to punt. The Rebels took over with a seven-play drive tacking on a field goal from within the red zone. Taylor picked up the initial first down followed by Tharpe picking up the first down and went down at the nine-yard line. The Mustang defense held the Rebels at bay forcing Aird to kick a 30-yard field goal on fourth-and-goal. McKenzie led 34-6 with 1:16 to play in the third quarter.
 
The Mustangs had the ball to close the third quarter. Huntingdon worked the ball downfield for over five minutes before a turnover on downs put the ball back in the hands of the Rebel offense. McKenzie’s next drive resulted in a punt.
 
Back on offense, Huntingdon was determined to make the game look closer on paper. Eubanks, Leavitt and Brady Warbritton worked as a trio to put on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line. With just seconds to go Eubanks picked up the final points of the game on a quarterback keeper. The final score from Paul Ward Stadium was McKenzie 34 — Huntingdon 12.
 
Next Friday, August 26, the Rebels have a home field advantage over the Chester County Eagles (1-0). Huntingdon will be the visiting team against the Jackson South Side Hawks (0-1). Kickoff for both teams is 7 p.m.

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