Pillow Academy wanted to spoil Senior Night for the Heritage Academy football team.
It appeared the Mustangs had enough horsepower in the first quarter Friday night at C.L. Mitchell Field.
After galloping out to a 14-0 lead in the opening stanza, Heritage Academy grabbed the reins and corralled the visitors for the remainder of the game en route to a 32-14 victory to close the 2011 season.
“All year long our first quarter has been rough on us,” Heritage Academy coach Brad Butler said. “Coming in I figured the guys would do what they had to do, and they did. We finally figured out a way to stop them.”
After surrendering 14 first-quarter points, Heritage Academy slowed Pillow Academy’s running game, bolstered by freshman thoroughbred Bay Bennett. Bennett and the Mustangs tallied 128 yards in the first quarter (87 rushing thanks to Bennett’s efforts). When Bennett wasn’t chewing up the turf, senior quarterback Landon Taylor was connecting with receivers for a combination Butler and his coaching staff couldn’t seem to stop.
But that’s when the Patriots ended the Mustangs’ momentum.
“We knew we had to start making some things happen defensively,” Heritage Academy senior defensive end Blake Sharp said. “Being a senior, I felt like I needed to step up and make some things happen.”
Sharp did his part the rest of the way, recording a game-high eight tackles and applying continuous pressure on Taylor.
“I know this was my last game here,” Sharp said. “We wanted to go out on a good note and we did that. It feels good. We all stepped up and came out with the win.”
After the initial period, the Patriots allowed only 95 yards the rest of the game. Bennett finished with 110 yards on 25 carries and scored both of Pillow Academy’s touchdowns.
“We came back the first game of the year being down 21-0,” Heritage Academy senior linebacker Mark Adams said. “I’m not sure what happened tonight in the first quarter. But we figured them out a little bit and played a good defensive game. It feels good to go out with a win. But I’m definitely sad knowing it’s my last game of football.”
While the defense was keeping the Mustangs on the sidelines, the offense found its way behind the strong running of senior Brandon Bell, who had 19 carries for 202 yards and four touchdowns. He finished the season with 144 carries for 1,152 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 92 points.
But the season finale belonged to the defense. Senior Tyler Knight and juniors Taylor Fields and Wesley Swedenburg each had six tackles, but it might have been Swedenburg who created the spark.
“(Swedenburg) probably played his best game of the year,” Butler said. “He really stepped up a notch tonight. He was in there on the running game and even when they tried to throw a screen pass he was in there to break that up. Definitely was a key for our defense.”
After missing last week’s 21-3 loss to Washington, Swedenburg said he felt like he owed it to the team to contribute in the finale.
“I wasn’t there last week (sinus infection) and I felt like I needed to come out strong tonight,” Swedenburg said.
And while Swedenburg and Butler will be back next season in an effort to improve on this year’s 5-5 record, the seniors left them with something that will bring a smile to their face.
“Tonight was as much fun as I have had all year,” Butler said. “We were just talking about the Caledonia game (a 48-45 double overtime win). But that was a nail-biter the whole way. We weren’t getting a whole lot of stops. But we got in a groove tonight and (the coaches) could sort of sit back and relax a little.”
The game was the finale for 16 Pillow Academy seniors.
“This was a great group of seniors,” said Pillow Academy coach Michael Fair, whose team ended its season 2-7. “There is a special bond between a player and a coach. We have had an up and down kind of year. But there is a special relationship. I definitely had it with these guys.”
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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