Top-seeded Mustangs brought down by Phillips
Aaron Clayton gave Evergreen Park a sampling of its own medicine Saturday afternoon.
And it left the Mustangs with a bitter taste, not to mention a batch of unfinished business.
What Clayton’s end-zone interception did to Evergreen was ruin a late comeback bid against Phillips in Round 2 of the Class 4A playoffs. The Mustangs’ defense had performed similar acts of last-minute thievery itself during the course of a perfect 10-game stretch, most notably versus Richards, which allowed Evergreen to grab a one-point victory in the season’s fifth week and seize control of the South Suburban Conference Red race.
The Mustangs won that battle, but were unable to win the ultimate 4A football prize. Holder of a top seed and with realistic designs on the school’s first-ever state title, Evergreen instead wound up on the short end of a 31-21 result at Gately Stadium that removed it rather abruptly from the tournament field.
The Mustangs’ postseason exit was their earliest in three years under coach Dan Hartman. By virtue of its triumph over Evergreen (10-1), Phillips not only avenged a Week 2 setback to the Mustangs, but it advanced to its first quarterfinal game against Geneseo, which shut out Plano 21-0 in the second round.
“We had a great year — we made sure we reiterated that to the players,” Hartman said. “But we talked all year about being disciplined in our play. On Saturday, they were the more disciplined team.”
Keying the Wildcats’ showing versus Evergreen was Dewayne Collins, who supplied Phillips with 260 total yards. Collins tallied twice, on runs of 19 and 35 yards, and also fired a pair of touchdown strikes to Quayvon Skanes.
Skanes, who made eight catches for 117 yards, scored on receptions covering 31 and 11 yards. Collins, meanwhile, threw for 137 yards on 13-of-19 passing and rushed for 123 more on 34 carries.
The Wildcats constructed an 18-7 halftime lead, but likely didn’t feel overly comfortable. That’s because they had gone ahead of the Mustangs 21-6 in the two teams’ regular-season meeting, but were unable to hold on.
Evergreen rallied to capture that earlier contest by a 35-32 score, but its offense only occasionally displayed the same level of potency in the rematch. One reason was Phillips’ revised defensive scheme.
“With the type of offense we run, in order to beat us, you had to pack the box with seven guys to stop [Keyshawn] Carpenter, which they did,” Hartman said. “And they had to man up all my receivers, which they were able to do. The first time, they played zone coverage against us.”
To make matters worse for the Mustangs, quarterback Sean Ryan went down with an injury during the contest. Luckily for Evergreen, Jonathan O’Brien was able to return to action.
O’Brien was the Mustangs’ No. 1 signal-caller before being hurt in the Mustangs’ win over Richards. The senior had been idled ever since, but he was able to offer his club a pick-me-up when he collaborated with Jacquet McClendon on a 22-yard completion that gave Evergreen a fourth-quarter touchdown.
That score brought the Mustangs within 24-14, but they were unable to corral an ensuing onsides kick. Failure to do so gave Phillips a shortened field with which to work, and the Wildcats took advantage as Collins raced 35 yards to give them additional breathing room.
McClendon also caught a 35-yard TD throw from O’Brien, who connected on 6-of-12 passes for 135 yards. In the final game of his three-year varsity career, McClendon had seven receptions totaling 141 yards.
“You don’t get kids like him very often,” Hartman said. “His stats were off the charts, and having him as the face of our program was good.”