MUSTANG – The Stillwater High football team found itself in an all too familiar situation – Braxton Noble on the sidelines injured.
With Marlon McDonald III behind center, the Pioneers overcame and held off the Mustang Broncos 35-26 Friday.
“Our guys persevered through a ton of adversity,” coach Tucker Barnard said. “Obviously, our quarterback wasn’t out there in the second half and he’s done a heck of a job for us. We had a couple other guys that weren’t playing in the second half. ... They found a way to come through it.”
Noble only completed one pass for five yards and rushed for 10 yards and a touchdown before he got hurt on a keeper at the end of the first half when Stillwater was running out the clock.
“He got banged up right at the end,” Barnard said. “He’ll be OK, he’ll be back. It sure made it rougher tonight.”
Barnard wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Noble’s injury. McDonald led Stillwater on two scoring drives and rushed for 45 yards and a 12-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and finished with 73 yards. The senior also threw for 51 yards.
“It was a new experience,” McDonald said. “I’ve never played quarterback in a game before. It was nice and I enjoyed it.”
Barnard said McDonald did a good job of leading the offense in the second half.
“I’m proud of Marlon and the way the offense stepped up without their leader,” Barnard said. “Marlon did a heck of a job. The offensive line did a good job. Cameron Mayberry – holy cow, what you can say about the way he ran the ball tonight. I’m extremely proud of him.”
Mayberry, who had a strong game in last week’s opener, was even better Friday. Mayberry rushed for 240 yards on 24 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 68, 22 and 69 yards.
“Cameron was a big help,” McDonald said. “I couldn’t do it by myself. Cameron is always that guy. ... I knew we would get a yard, three yards and he was going to bust his butt to get what he can on every play.”
Mayberry said running the ball was key, especially after Noble got injured.
“Once we adjusted after the first couple drives, we had a lot of big busts and we were just gashing them,” Mayberry said. “... We had a chip on our shoulder because we felt we had to play for (Noble).”
Stillwater (2-0) jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half. Noble capped off an 11-play, 56-yard drive with a 3-yard run. Mayberry scored his first touchdown after the Pioneers defense forced Mustang to turn it over on downs at the Stillwater 32.
McDonald blocked a punt that gave Stillwater the ball at the Mustang 22 and Mayberry scored on the next play.
The Broncos’ (1-1) only score of the first half was an 18-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Garrett to Parker Ochoa with 4:15 left in the first half. Mayberry said the defensive line and linebackers played great.
“Our D-line did a good job of getting pressure,” Mayberry said. “Our linebackers did good at our blitzing. We had a lot of coverage sacks as well.”
In the second half, Mustang started rallying. After a Stillwater punt, the Broncos only needed three plays to drive 51 yards. Chase Brown capped the drive with a 33-yard touchdown run. He finished with 117 yards.
The Pioneers punted again and the Broncos went on a 12-play, 66-yard drive that ended with Aaron Kinchion scoring on a 3-yard run and cut Stillwater’s lead to 21-20 with 1:36 left in the first half.
McDonald led his first scoring drive in the fourth quarter. He completed a 40-yard pass to Brandon Prather that put the Pioneers at the Broncos 21. On fourth and one, McDonald weaved in and out of the Broncos defense for Stillwater’s first points since the second quarter.
“That was my first pass in a game,” McDonald said. “I just stepped back and threw the ball like the coaches said and Brandon was there.”
Mustang got within Stillwater’s 30 but Garrett’s pass was intercepted at the two. The Pioneers had to punt but forced the Broncos to punt on their next possession. After Stillwater got the ball back, Mayberry ran for his third touchdown.
“They got an offensive stop on them and our guys started feeling a little bit better,” Barnard said. “I think the turning point, obviously was offensively, when we broke a big run and everyone got rolling.”
As far as the quarterback position is concerned, McDonald said he will be ready but hopes No. 18 is behind center against Edmond North next Friday.
“I will know that I need to pass the ball better,” McDonald said. “I know that I need to learn the plays and just play football with my boys. I hope Braxton Noble comes back healthy.”