Mustangs to play for state championship Nov. 17 in Las Vegas
NEEDLES — A much-anticipated rematch with the Battle Mountain Longhorns turned into a cattle drive before the end of the first quarter Saturday as Needles High School’s varsity Mustangs football team posted a 48-27 NIAA 2A state playoff win on Branigan Field.
The Mustangs’ beef with Battle Mountain began during last season’s playoffs when the Longhorns denied Needles a championship appearance by a single score in sudden-death overtime. The Mustangs were determined not to suffer a repeat. Asked after the game if there was ever any doubt about the outcome, Coach Matt Fromelt replied there was never any doubt about his Mustangs. “These guys work hard all the time,” said the exuberant coach, prowling a field packed with families and well-wishers for players to congratulate. “I always believe in these boys.”
Marcus Turner racked up 119 yards on 18 carries; Tyler White rushed for 116 yards on five carries; Dillon Horn added 58 on seven carries and Semaj Howell 15 on five. Quarterback Nathan Parker carried eight times, picking up 51 yards on the ground, and completed nine of 15 pass attempts to add another 121 yards. Altogether the boys piled up 480 yards on offense.
Horn dragged in five pass receptions for 76 yards; Doogie Harvey caught three for 35 yards and Trevyn Diaz snagged one for 10.
The Mustangs hauled in five interceptions: Horn grabbing two, Ivan Stone, Howell and Diaz one each.
While the final score was dominating there proved plenty of battle in the Mountain, beginning on the first play when the Mustangs fumbled the kickoff. “That was a little scary,” said Fromelt. “But we got it figured out and didn’t let it happen again.”
Th mistep set up a Battle Mountain drive that Needles’ defense stopped in four, forcing a turnover on downs. The ’Horns stopped the Mustangs on the ensuing drive, setting up a 70-yard touchdown run by Cody Ostler. The point after touchdown kick was good; Battle Mountain led 7-0 less than three minutes into the first quarter.
“When something happened, we answered it,” Fromelt observed. It took three minutes and 23 seconds. White returned the kickoff, Howell carried for six, Turner and Horn moved the chains and White took off on a 40 yard ramble for the touchdown. Horn’s PAT was good, Needles led 8-7. They’d never fall behind again.
The Longhorns went to the air, Diaz broke up a pass to Marcus Jury, then Howell intercepted to set up a 25 yard touchdown run by Turner to put Needles up 14-7 with 4:25 left in the first quarter. The Longhorns turned it over on downs and Horn ran 44 yards to find the end zone again. Needles led 20-7 with 2:42 left in the first.
Asked how he felt after that first-quarter route, Fromelt said: “I wouldn’t say that. The kids came out, had a good game plan, and they played hard. I wouldn’t consider it a route at all.
“They’re a good team,” he said of Battle Mountain. “They’re well-coached and they’re good players.”
The second quarter provided a long dry spell for both teams. Needles finally broke the ice via a touchdown by Howell with 1:36 left on the clock. The PAT attempt failed, Horn intercepted the ’Horns, the Mustangs’ drive stalled and the first half ended with Needles leading 26-7.
The Mustangs once again lost the kickoff return when a determined herd of ’Horns took the field in the third. Ostler scored and the PAT whittled Needles’ lead to 11. Parker moved the chains on a 20-yard keeper then completed to Horn to score with 3:46 remaining. The PAT failed, Needles led 32-15. The Horns’ Terrance Fetterly found the end zone with 1:04 left and the quarter ended 32-21.
“Last year Battle Mountain came back on us,” Fromelt remembered. “We didn’t think we had the game until the clock read zero. That’s how it is all the time: we didn’t stop until we took a knee at the end.”
Turner scored again, Parker’s pass to Horn was good and Needles went up 40-21 just 45 seconds into the final stanza. Stone stopped the kickoff return, Diaz broke up two passes then intercepted but the Mustangs’ ensuing drive ended about a foot short of the goal line where the ball was turned over to the Longhorns. It took them a minute and a half to cover the field and score again, bringing the score to 40-27 with 4:18 left in the game. Turner punched it in once again for Needles, Horn carried the PAT, the Mustangs led 48-27 at 2:58. Stone’s interception moments later finished the Longhorns for good.
“I’m really proud of the boys coming out and playing their hearts out,” said Fromelt. “They did a great job. Thanks to the fans who came out to support us on a Saturday.
“I’m very grateful to have the group we have,” the coach concluded. “They’re a special group. They work hard and I’m very, very proud of the boys, the coaching staff and the community.”
Needles’ Mustangs face Pershing County’s Mustangs for the NIAA 2A State Championship on Saturday, Nov. 17. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Bishop Gorman High School, 5959 S. Hualapai Way in Las Vegas.