Ben Dukes took over the game in the first half. The Memorial wide receiver came up with big catch after big catch, helping the Mustangs to a fast start and a pivotal 28-18 win over Cypress Ridge on Friday night at Tully Stadium.
It was a key District 17-6A matchup, and a huge win for the Mustangs in a game that would be extremely beneficial to the winner as both teams are battling for a coveted playoff spot.
“It was an incredible win. We fought hard, and we practiced hard for this,” said Memorial quarterback Matthew Sanders, who engineered the Mustangs’ fourth straight win.
Dukes caught first-half scoring passes of 40 and 26 yards from Sanders as the Mustangs (5-3, 4-2) kept their playoff hopes alive. Memorial was coming off three straight wins – at Jersey Village (28-14), Stratford (31-3) and at Spring Woods (35-6).
“Dukes is an athlete,” Sanders said. “I didn’t have to do much but lay it out and he did the rest. He’s a great part of our team and he came through for us.”
Dukes had four receptions for 138 yards, all in the first half. Sanders, who accounted for three touchdowns, passed for 152 yards and two touchdowns, completing 6 of 7 passes. Carson Zahn scored Memorial’s last touchdown, a 3-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Sanders got plenty of protection from offensive linemen Ben Mueller, George Eubank, Jacob Graham, Barkley Manning and Grayson Strait.
Memorial wasted little time scoring on its first possession, taking advantage of good field position. The Mustangs marched 47 yards with Dukes on the receiving end of a 26-yard scoring pass from Sanders.
In the second quarter, Dukes caught a 60-yard pass from Sanders to the Ram 10-yard line that set up the Mustangs’ second score – a 3-yard run by Sanders around right end that put the Mustangs up 14-7.
Sanders and Dukes teamed up again on a 40-yard scoring pass with 31 seconds remaining in the first half, giving the Mustangs a 21-7 advantage.
Over the first two quarters, Sanders was 5-for-5 passing for 140 yards.
For the game, Memorial outgained Cy Ridge 306-132.
Cy Ridge starting quarterback Jaelon Madden was shaken up on the Rams’ (5-3, 3-3) second possession in the opening quarter and replaced by Isaiah Phillips. Tristian Fletcher rushed for a team-high 85 yards for the Rams.
Cy Ridge took advantage of a poor Memorial punt that set up a 20-yard scoring drive that tied the game 7-all. Leslie Wellington scored from 11 yards with 6:30 remaining in the second quarter.
Linebackers Parker Sinkiewicz and Nick Haas and defensive lineman Jack Dragna played superbly for the Mustangs, coming up with big sacks. Sinkiewicz had a 12-yard sack in the first quarter. Dragna, who collected two sacks, had a 12-yard sack in the final minute of the half and a key fourth-quarter takedown.
“We just had a great game plan,” Dragna said. “We had guys open up things to get to the quarterback and it happened to be me.
“I had a game plan that I was going to attack the tackles the best I could be and I just did my job. We’re very proud of our defense and take pride in our effort.”
Haas’ third-quarter sack limited the Rams to a 42-yard field goal by Miguel Moreno that cut Memorial’s lead to 21-10.
Moreno’s field goal was set up by a fumble recovery by Vernon Broughton, a University of Texas commit.
Cy Ridge, which outscored Memorial 11-0 in the third quarter, got within 21-18 with 3:52 left in the third quarter. Le’juene Patterson scored from a yard out on fourth-and-goal and Phillips ran in for the 2-point conversion.
“We made mistakes, but we were able to bounce back,” Sanders said.